Over the years, I have heard more than just a few myths regarding dog agility — myths that could keep great dogs from doing great things.
Maybe you have been considering exploring all that agility can offer you and your dog and just maybe a myth has blocked your way. Here is a list of Dog Agility Myth Busters.
“Only Border Collies and really fast dogs are good at agility.” Not true! Most people have only seen the super-fast dogs that end up on TV. Many average-speed dogs do very well in and out of competitions.
“The equipment is not designed for tiny or giant breed dogs.” Chihuahuas and Great Danes do agility, and they can excel. Dogs need to only weigh 3 pounds to tip the teeter. Giant breeds need extra help negotiating the long and high dog walk, because it is narrow, but any good school can help with that training.
“Dogs have to start learning agility when they are young.” You can, indeed, teach an “older” dog new tricks. Many wonderful agility journeys start with middle-aged dogs.
“I’m not fit enough! All that running!” Agility handlers come in all shapes and sizes and ages, too. You do not have to be an athlete or even fit to enjoy training your dog in agility.
“My dog will be great at agility because he loves to jump high and run fast.” Well, that depends. Is your dog jumping on the counters and running fast away from you? To pursue agility, you do need to have control over your dog in a stimulating environment. Agility classes are very stimulating. Training the control needed to pursue agility will benefit you and your dog for a lifetime.
“I would love to try agility, but I don’t think my dog will like agility.” If you love training your dog, it is likely that your dog loves learning. Dogs that love learning will love agility, because it is about learning. At Ace Dog Sports we call it “the ultimate in quality time.”
“My dog tried it once and seemed worried; he did not seem to like it.” Dogs can be worried in new places for lots of different reasons. Some of the best agility dogs were not sure they wanted to be there in the beginning. Helping dogs overcome their concerns is one of the most rewarding journeys you can take. Many dogs that did not seem to have any potential in the beginning eventually blossom and thrive.
“Agility is a great way to help aggressive dogs, because they need exercise.” All dogs need exercise, and getting dogs with low coping skills to exercise can be a challenge. However, the agility classroom is a highly charged environment. It actually can make reactive dogs worse. Dogs that are reactive or out of control around other dogs should get more training addressing their behavioral issues before pursuing agility.
“Agility training is expensive.” You will be hard pressed to have a hobby be less expensive. At under $40 a class, it’s less than dinner and a movie and your dog gets entertained, too.The in-between class training time costs nothing and is as much fun as it is rewarding.
“There isn’t any agility training near me.” Don’t be so sure. Most agility schools are small and independent, so there is not a lot of advertising. There are schools in the East Bay, South Bay, and in San Francisco. Check out The Bay Team, the bay area agility club, to find training near you.
“All dogs can do agility.” Mostly a true statement. So many different types of dogs thrive in agility that it is much easier for me to list the ones that should not pursue it. Some breeds should not be asked to do all of the more strenuous obstacles. Breeds like English Bull Dogs simply were not bred to be agile; some obstacles might task their bodies too much. Canine seniors may be better off staying fit with hiking than agility, especially if their bodies are not used to the sport from a younger age. Dogs with weight issues need to lose a few pounds before doing full height equipment but there is plenty they can participate in as they get into shape.
If you have a reason to not pursue agility maybe that reason is just another myth! I encourage you to get in touch with an agility training school near you and get your myths busted!
Sandy Rogers it the founder and owner of the agility training school Ace Dog Sports, which she began in 1999. She has been a writer for Clean Run magazine since 2009 and has created videos and a workbook teaching aspects of agility. She teaches and lectures on a national level for trainers’ conferences and agility clubs. Learn more at AceDogSports.com.
Top photo: The ACE Dog Sports indoor SF facility.
Main article photo by: Photo courtesy Ace Dog Sports