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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.
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:
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.
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.
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.