Learning about Agility Training
It’s always been on our bucket list to do agility training with our dogs. For those who haven’t heard of it, agility is a competitive sport where you work with your dog to go through a series of obstacles – tunnel, jumps, walkways and more. Having seen many videos and pictures of other dogs participating in agility sessions, I’ve always thought they look like a lot of fun. However, it didn’t seem like something that my goofy and chubby Polar would enjoy. Therefore, we’ve repeatedly put it off – until we won a free agility training course with Wee Boon for Polar at the Positive Academy’s opening event. *lucky*
No escape this time, Polar!
Get yourself ready Mr. Chubbs!
Our journey so far
Agility can help build a healthy and engaging relationship between owner and dog. A well-trained agility dog will become more observant of the owner’s body language. At the same time, it also trains the dog’s focus when in an outdoor or distracting environment. This point particularly interests me because Polar’s focus on me outdoors is typically non-existent. To Polar, I’m usually less interesting than a random patch of grass. Case in point?
Here’s a video of our most recent session with Wee Boon, It looks easy but in actual fact, it was hard work before we could accomplish what you see in this video.
When we first started our journey, it was pretty tough for Polar and myself; it felt like turtles trying to breakdance. However, I found that training regularly with Polar helped to hone his focus significantly. Furthermore, sessions with a professional like Wee Boon gave me more insight on how to better direct Polar. I realised that most of the time, the dog isn’t the issue but the owner – which means I was not only more boring than a patch of grass, but I was also giving confusing instructions to my dog. *cries*
Training sessions are to build up the trust between dog and owner, and also for your dog to learn how to read body actions. Two of the many exercises that we did with Polar are “touch” and “turn”.
Touch is a simple game to play with your dog. Essentially, it is a game of choice. The idea is to get them to choose to touch your hand to access the reward. You start off by putting two hands out, one enclosed with a treat, while the other with an open palm facing your dog. You then step by step encourage your dog to touch the open palm to unlock the other. Eventually you move on to leaving the treat on the floor in front of your dog while you step away. The ideal outcome is that they will follow you to touch your hand before going for the treat. I do this sometimes when I play fetch with Polar, which gets him very excited.
Turn is training your dog to be able to do a u-turn around any object. When we first started doing this training, Polar couldn’t understand what was happening. He would focus on my hand instead of following what I was trying to direct him to do. When he finally started turning, his turns were quite a distance away from the pivot point. Whenever we changed the object representing the pivot point, we also had to restart the training all over again. The ideal outcome here is for Polar to u-turn around any object on my cue, quickly and excitedly. This training will also help with the eventual weaving trick.
Benefits of agility training in our opinion
After 3 sessions with Wee Boon, I feel that Polar is much more responsive and focused on me whether we are home or outdoors. I’m finally more interesting that a patch of grass. *yay* I’ve also developed a new habit of carrying a variety of treats with me, ready to engage with him at any point of time to keep his interest level high. I feel that this experience has deepened my relationship with my dog, and made it more fun. It’s also interesting for me to realise that my body language can affect Polar’s behaviour. Every little movement; even a small hand sign – Polar responds. It’s really like dancing, where one partner leads and the other responds. Looking back at the videos we took of our training, it feels almost magical to see the chemistry between us growing. I look forward to the day we can attend a competition together!
How much does Agility Training cost?
At Positive Academy, their agility class is $600 for 6 small private sessions of up to 3 dogs, but this excludes booking fees of the agility grounds. Smaller groups are ideal because it is not only less distracting for your dog but also better that the trainer can give more time to correct your methods. Training with a trainer is recommended once a week or once every other week. The most important thing is to keep it consistent with your own daily training so that you or your dog don’t forget the skills!
How about location?
Depending on who you do your training with, the training grounds differ. Most schools have their private arena. We’ve been doing our sessions at the Indoor Agility Dog Agility Arena which is very spacious, and is covered which means rain or shine, we are protected. It’s located at Punggol (11 North Shore Drive) and is also available for private booking or with a trainer. They also provide agility classes and you can check out their trial classes here.
Image Source: Singapore Indoor Agility Arena
This brings us to an end, we hope to make more friends who are doing agility and one day join some competitions. Until next time, stay curious!
*Note: This post isn’t sponsored