PG 62 TO­GETHER TIME

Pets (Singapore) - - Contents - BY CHRISTIANN PRIYANKA

Any pooch can ben­e­fit from dog agility. Find out how.

Dog agility is no longer just a com­pet­i­tive sport for se­lected breeds. Even your pint-sized pooch can ben­e­fit from it! Here are some rea­sons why you and your pup should take the leap.

if dog agility evokes im­ages of a Border Col­lie leap­ing through hoops and speed­ing up ramps un­der the watch­ful eyes of an au­di­ence, it’s time to turn that no­tion on its head. While it’s true that dog agility orig­i­nated as a timed com­pet­i­tive sport where dogs and han­dlers nav­i­gated an ob­sta­cle course that re­quired well-trained ca­nine com­peti­tors to jump, sprint and weave, an in­creas­ing num­ber of paw-rents are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the sport as a recre­ational ac­tiv­ity. Here are some rea­sons why you should hop on board the dog agility band­wagon.

BUILD A BOND

Dog agility re­lies on the trust and com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween paw-rent and furkid. Urg­ing a dog from one end of the course to the other with­out the use of treats or re­wards, dog agility deep­ens the con­nec­tion be­tween han­dler and pooch. The dog has to learn to lis­ten to its han­dler’s ver­bal cues or ob­serve hand ges­tures, and act upon it. “The owner must trust his dog and the dog must learn to read its owner’s sig­nals and body lan­guage,” says Jazz Ng, chief trainer at APawz Dogsports Academy. At the same time, paw-rents can learn their pup’s strengths and weak­nesses. Work­ing to­gether to over­come ob­sta­cles will nat­u­rally foster a closer bond.

ALL DOG BREEDS CAN PAR­TIC­I­PATE

The sport doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate against any dog breed. While Border Col­lies and Shet­land Sheep­dogs are some of the more com­mon breeds that par­tic­i­pate in dog agility, Ween Sze Teoh—a mem­ber of the Sin­ga­pore Ken­nel Club’s dog sports com­mit­tee, sec­re­tary of the Clean Run Agility Club in Sin­ga­pore, and trainer with SU­PER­NOVA Dog Sports Academy— says that she has seen Poo­dles, Toy Poo­dles, Minia­ture Sch­nauzers, Mauzers, Cavoo­dles, Labradoo­dles and Sin­ga­pore Spe­cials in agility tri­als. Of course, it is im­por­tant that your pup isn’t pushed to its limit as it may get in­jured. “The na­ture of a dog’s phys­i­cal body must be taken into

ac­count. For ex­am­ple, heights of ob­sta­cles may be low­ered for breeds like Pugs, or dogs that have hip dys­pla­sia,” says Ween Sze. An ob­sta­cle course can be tai­lored to suit the needs of each dog.

AGE IS JUST A NUM­BER

There are no lim­i­ta­tions on the age of the dogs, but Jazz rec­om­mends that the min­i­mum age of the pup be be­tween 10 and 12 months old so that their growth plates are al­ready fused. Ob­sta­cles can be re­moved to suit the dog ac­cord­ing to age and needs. Ween Sze adds that old dogs can par­tic­i­pate too. Jump­ing ob­sta­cles can be low­ered for them so that they can hop over eas­ily with­out hurt­ing them­selves. With age comes a plethora of ail­ments, so it’s best to bring Fido to the vet for a check-up be­fore pro­ceed­ing. Older dogs also tend to have some dif­fi­culty hear­ing, hence, han­dlers might have to work more on us­ing their body lan­guage to sig­nal their dogs in­stead of us­ing ver­bal cues.

EX­ER­CISE BUD­DIES

Dog agility pro­vides an ex­cel­lent work­out for both paw-rent and pooch. Run­ning to each ob­sta­cle and jump­ing through tyres and over hur­dles help Fido to build mus­cle tone and core muscles. Mean­while, walk­ing up the A-Frame, dog­walk (bal­ance beam) and teeter (see­saw) boost en­durance and bal­ance. Ob­sta­cles like the tun­nel and chute build a dog’s con­fi­dence as it has to go through a con­fined space quickly. Psy­cho­log­i­cally, dog agility trains ca­nines to lis­ten to their han­dlers and fo­cus on their body lan­guage when nav­i­gat­ing the course. Paw-rents also ben­e­fit phys­i­cally and men­tally, as han­dlers need to un­der­stand the course, map out the best route for their pups, and run with and do twists and turns along­side their pooches.

UN­DER­STAND THE COURSE

Here are three key ob­sta­cles in an agility course and how they ben­e­fit your pooch:

1.THE WEAVE

What it is: Com­prises six to 12 poles that are placed in a straight line 0.5 to 0.6m apart. The dog has to weave through the poles with­out knock­ing down any. Phys­i­cal ben­e­fit: Strength­ens the heart and lungs of the ca­nine.

Men­tal ben­e­fit: Im­proves Fido’s co­or­di­na­tion and alert­ness, as it has to run be­tween the poles at a great speed.

2.THE HUR­DLE

What it is: A bar is placed be­tween two up­right fix­tures and the dog has to jump over it. Rang­ing from 1.2 to 8m in height, the bar can be ad­justed to suit the size of the dog. The dog has to be able to jump over the bar with­out knock­ing it over. Phys­i­cal ben­e­fit: Strength­ens leg and core muscles. The stronger Fido’s muscles, the eas­ier it is for him to leap over the bar and land safely.

Men­tal ben­e­fit: Increases con­cen­tra­tion and builds con­fi­dence in pups that are ap­pre­hen­sive of cross­ing over ob­jects.

3.THE DOG­WALK

What it is: Also known as the bal­ance beam, a dog­walk is made up of three 0.2 to 0.3m-wide planks (con­nected end to end) sup­ported by two 1.2m raised sup­ports. The dog has to go up one plank, cross a thin plat­form, and then de­scend. The dog has to touch the tip of the de­scend­ing plank in or­der to pass the ob­sta­cle. Phys­i­cal ben­e­fit: Im­proves the bal­ance and nim­ble­ness of the pooch.

Men­tal ben­e­fit: Builds con­fi­dence, trust, brav­ery and alert­ness in your furkid, as he has to ma­noeu­vre a thin, el­e­vated plat­form with only your com­mands as en­cour­age­ment.

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