Rocco and I have just started taking agility, and we’ve learned a lot over the last three lessons. Agility is a competition based on the training skills of the dog handler. The dog has to complete several obstacles at top speed without ever once being touched by the handler.

A good researcher can find out all the rules of dog agility, but what can’t be found by a quick google search? Well, here’s a list:

1. The little dogs can tip the teeter-totter. It doesn’t seem like they’d be able to, but Rocco is only 5 pounds and it goes down quite quickly for him.

2. Most dogs like the shoot, the weave poles, and the teeter-totter the least, but every dog is different. The hardest thing for the dog to learn is the weave poles.

3. Dogs learn way faster than you can possibly give them credit for. After only 3 lessons and 1 practice session, Rocco can already do all of the course, and he’s basically just waiting on me to catch up. Once again, every dog is different though. He has two friends who started at the same time, and they are both progressing slower.

4. Prep work is critical to success. Rocco took to the shoot like a pro because he’s already used to rooting around under the covers at home, and he’s had blankets placed over him as a game since birth. His obedience is also solid, and he’s used to a lot of ground work and playing around. This is probably why he handles agility so much better.

5. People need more lessons than dogs. While Rocco could probably show and even win right now with a professional handler, I’m still way behind. There are things for the handler to learn such as “cross-overs” where you switch which hand you handle with. These take a long time to learn.

6. Training words can be anything, but common words are: “Frame” for the A-frame, “Walk-it” for the cat walk, “over” or “jump” for any jump, “tunnel” for the tunnel, “Weave” for the weaves, “Out” to go for a piece of equipment farther away than the one you’re next to, and “Table” to get on the pause table.

Agility is great for everyone, I see kids and little old ladies doing it, and everywhere in between. Last week I saw an old lady and a bichon competing in teacup agility. The possibilities are just endless!

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