Fun dog agility: what it is and why it’s great for your dog

September 17, 2021

In recent years, dog agility has become an increasingly popular activity for owners to do with their dogs, either as a competitive sport or just for fun. Fun agility focuses on building a great bond between a dog and owner. Caroline Walmsley, a qualified Fun Dog Agility Coach, explains more about this activity and how you can get involved. 

What is fun dog agility and which dogs does it suit? 

To put it simply, dog agility involves running with and guiding a dog around a course with a variety of obstacles, such as tunnels, weave poles, see-saws, tyres and jumps. The handler must direct the dog to tackle these obstacles in the right order and in the fastest time possible. 

Unlike competition-grade dog agility, fun agility is suitable for all dogs, whatever size, breed or background, and showcases a huge spectrum of ages. The focus is on the owner and dog having fun and learning together, rather than being a results-based activity. By doing this in a fun way, the mental and physical capabilities of the dog are built up and developed.

All-round fitness

Agility for dogs is the equivalent of going to the gym for humans. Their bodies get stretched and they use muscle groups that aren’t otherwise used on a daily basis. They also learn how to twist and bend, and use up lots of excess energy. 

It is a fantastic way to strengthen a dog’s body and tire them out. It is also a great way to keep the pounds off too – both for dogs and humans!  Agility can be taxing on the body, so care needs to be taken to ensure there are appropriate warm-ups and cool-downs before and after sessions for the dog.

Impulse control and focus

There are so many amazing smells in a training environment, including other dogs, food crumbs and barking or excited dogs who are waiting on the sidelines. 

Imagine for a second that you are sitting at a table with a tutor. They want you to learn something brand new, but your phone is pinging every few seconds and there are people coming in and out of the room. There’s also the distraction of a tasty cake that other people are tucking into. 

This is the same for dogs at fun agility classes. Dogs can struggle to control their impulses; fun agility teaches them how to follow the directions of their owner, despite the exhilarating environment around them. 

The classes also teach focus training, where the owner becomes the sole attention of the dog. When the dog is focussed, not only will their agility improve, but their recall will become better, their general behaviour will improve and they will be more inclined to control their impulses and not chase rabbits on dog walks. 

Confidence building

Dogs build up their confidence at fun agility classes. They discover what they might be hesitant about, what they enjoy, and through guidance and encouragement, they learn to have confidence in themselves and their owner. 

This is especially important for younger dogs or rescued dogs. Confidence in their owner means dogs become more connected to them. They are more likely to respond positively, not just in the agility field, but in their everyday lives. 

Agility training may involve just a one hour lesson a week, but the confidence the dogs gain from doing fun agility can last a lifetime. 

Bonding time

Doing fun agility with your dog creates a beautiful bond. When you share in a fun and exhilarating experience time and time again, it develops great human-canine communication. 

Dogs associate the feeling of warmth and enjoyment with their owner while they are at agility classes. It also strengthens the trust between dogs and their owners and it’s a great way to enjoy spending time together. 

Equally important, fun agility creates a fantastic experience for owners to have fun with their dogs and meet other people. Going to an agility club or agility class is a fantastic way to socialise and make new friends, human or canine, with the same interests, in an enjoyable environment. 

Mentally enriching

Dog agility is not only tiring in a physical way, it’s mentally challenging too. Dogs need to be kept mentally stimulated to tire themselves out. It also enriches their lives and prevents boredom from setting in.

Boredom in dogs can lead to behavioural problems. As agility combines both mental and physical stimulation it will decrease the likelihood of behavioural issues such as barking, separation anxiety or destructive chewing. Agility balances both physical and mental stimulation, which results in a happier and calmer dog.

Where can I find the right agility class for me?

If you are interested in reaping the benefits of getting active, bonding with your dog and working on your training, then fun agility classes could be just the thing for you and your dog. 

You can find your local agility club by searching for dog trainers who specialise in fun agility – look for a reward-based dog trainer. They will have introductory or beginners courses, as well as more advanced courses, so go along and give it a try in a fun and rewarding environment. 

There is usually a minimum age requirement before dogs are allowed to participate. This is because dog agility is a high-impact sport, which isn’t suitable for dogs under the age of 12 months. However, some foundations can be taught earlier. Find a trainer whose class sizes are small. This will allow your dog to go at their own pace – and your’s too. 

Caroline Walmsley, a qualified Fun Dog Agility Coach and runs Waggy Canine Services in Lincolnshire, specialising in agility training, dog walking and pet care. She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs – Trojan, a yellow Labrador Retriever and Apollo, a Golden Retriever who is a Registered Education Dog.