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Tired of playing the same old game of fetch with your dog? Do you find yourself acting as matchmaker each time you visit the dog park so that your pooch has a friend to romp with? If your dog's exercise routine feels stale, consider experimenting with dog agility training. In addition to the numerous benefits it can bring to your dog, it can also strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend.
Here, Shandy Blake, a certified professional dog trainer interviewed for this article, shares what you can expect your dog to gain from dog agility training.
Benefits of Dog Agility Training
1. Physical and Mental Stimulation
It's great if you already have an exercise routine in place for your dog, but if you sense they're getting restless, you might want to mix things up and broaden your dog's experience. It can be boring for your dog (and for you!) to follow the same routine day after day. By training them on new equipment, like a dog obstacle course, you can stimulate them both mentally and physically.
2. Better Listening Skills
Agility training is also a helpful way to practice commands learned in basic dog training classes and is a smart first step if you're interested in entering your dog in professional competitions in the future.
"Even if you don't think you would want to compete in agility," says Blake, "you'll notice your dog is paying more attention to you ... This results in a dog that listens better in your day-to-day life, from coming when called to doing what you ask the first time you ask them."
3. Increased Confidence
Dogs who learn, practice and excel at agility training develop into confident pets, too. Blake says, "You're showing the dog they have the ability to run, jump, climb things and go through things. This can really help shy dogs overcome some of their nervous tendencies."
4. Body Awareness
Agility exercises also help your dog develop body awareness, which Blake describes as "knowing where each paw is" and improving their balance. And, according to Blake, dogs with good body awareness and balance "are far less likely to injure themselves while playing other activities, like fetch or Frisbee."
Things to Consider
If you're interested in dog agility training with a young puppy, Blake suggests first attending basic obedience classes. She says, "A dog that knows to sit, stay and come on cue will be much easier to control on and around agility equipment."
In addition, it's smart to ease into training your dog — especially if they're a puppy or a senior dog. If your dog is under a year old, keep the equipment low to the ground and keep repetitions to a minimum.
Finally, encourage your dog throughout their training! Rewards may be the best way to do so. Depending on what they prefer, you can give them a healthy treat, verbal praise or a gentle pat after they complete a task.
Once you and your pooch get started and you see how fun and effective it is to use dog agility equipment, you'll feel grateful you took the leap to try something new. Plus, agility training can be great exercise for both you and your dog , as well as great bonding exercise.
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.