Agility is a fun activity that you and your dog can do together, and it gets you both out in the fresh air and gives you plenty of exercise. Teach your dog basic obedience such as come, sit and stay before you try to teach her agility.
Set up a simple agility course for your dog to begin with, using jumps or wooden struts raised on blocks. Make the jumps low enough for the dog to go over without making her nervous or stressed. Leave the more complicated apparatus such as the weaves and tunnel for later.
Take your dog around the course on leash, walking or running alongside her to encourage her. Step over the jumps at the same time as she does, and say “over” each time, using your hand nearest the dog to indicate the movement. By doing this, you teach her to associate your hand movement with her jumping so that later you won't need to say the commands.
Praise the dog and reward her with a treat or a quick game with her favorite ball or toy for every jump she clears successfully. Do this four or five times each day for a week, until she knows exactly what you expect from her and keep the whole process fun so that you both enjoy it.
Position the dog a few paces from the first jump and give her the command to sit and stay. Remove the leash and walk around to the other side of the jump, standing far enough away to give her space to clear the jump. Call her to come to you, giving her the command to go over the jump as she approaches.
Stand two jumps away from your dog and call her to come to you. Give her the command to go over each jump as she approaches it, until she is able to clear two consecutive jumps without difficulty. Generate lots of excitement with your tone of voice, to keep the exercise fun for her.
Ask a family member your dog knows well to copy you and stand a couple of jumps away and call the dog. Run alongside the dog as she goes over the jumps, giving her the command and indicating with your hand. Practice this until she is able to go over several consecutive jumps without faltering and make a huge fuss of her once she gets it right.
Raise the jumps one notch at a time until she is able to clear jumps at the regular height for her size, as indicated on the American Kennel Club’s website. Practice her jumping daily while running alongside her, giving the command to go over and indicating with your hand.
Teach your dog to go through the weave poles by positioning the poles in two rows, so she first moves through the channel between the poles. Get her to follow you by holding a treat in your hand and walking backwards between the poles. Give her the command to “weave” as you do so and reward her with lots of love and cuddles when she gets it right.
Take your dog to the start of the weaves and tell her to stay. Walk backwards keeping your eye on her until you reach the halfway point in the weaves. Call her to come to you and give her the weave command as she moves through the channel.
Move backwards for the remainder of the weaves, holding her attention with a treat in your hand. Gradually move your starting point further back among the weaves until you are at the far end of the poles before you call her to start.
Move the poles closer together gradually so she is forced to start weaving as she moves through the channel. By the time the poles are almost in a straight line, she will be weaving between them to get to the treat.
Set up a tunnel using a single metal drums on its side. Position your dog at the mouth of the tunnel and tell her to sit and stay. Stand beside her to reassure her that she doesn't need to be afraid.
Get the dog’s attention with a treat, then throw it into the drum and release her. Give her the command “tunnel” as she goes to fetch it. As always, give her lots of praise and attention when she gets it right.
Make the tunnel longer by adding a second drum and repeat the process. When she is comfortable fetching the treat from well inside the tunnel, ask a family member to stand at the other end of the tunnel with a treat and encourage her through the tunnel. Give her the command as she enters the tunnel and reward her once she comes through it without hesitation.
Extend the tunnel and add curves as she gets more confident, until you can direct her to go through it by giving her the command. Reward her at the other end every time she completes the tunnel successfully.
- Avoid practicing each activity more than four or five times in each training session, or your dog may become bored and lose interest.
Tracey Sandilands has written professionally since 1990, covering business, home ownership and pets. She holds a professional business management qualification, a bachelor's degree in communications and a diploma in public relations and journalism. Sandilands is the former editor of an international property news portal and an experienced dog breeder and trainer.