Among the wide range of dog sports, Agility - or agility course - is undoubtedly one of the best known and most spectacular. Agility is the activity of choice to reinforce the complicity between a master and his faithful companion, and it is the dream of many dog owners... But you still need to be able to train properly!
To do so, you can find different Agility kits to install at home and to test again and again with your dog. If you are a novice, it is not necessarily obvious to know where to start and how to choose the accessories that will compose your future Agility course.
In this article, we propose you some advices to direct your research and help you to find the accessories which correspond to you and to your canine partner.
Agility kit : what is it ?
The Agility kits are sets of accessories allowing to create different obstacles that a dog usually crosses in an official Agility course. The rules of Agility allow only three types of obstacles: jumps (hurdles, walls, long jumps...), zones (walkways, swings and fences) and a category "others" including tunnels and slaloms.
The objective of this sport is for the dog to succeed in crossing all the obstacles as quickly as possible and without making mistakes (refusals, obstacle falls, etc.). To train his dog to succeed in an Agility course, the master has not much choice but to have access to obstacles similar to those proposed in competition.
If you have a large enough field to install a removable course, it is the opportunity to acquire a kit to train your companion and share beautiful moments of complicity!
The different elements of an Agility kit
If the rules of Agility admit only three categories of obstacles, each of these categories includes, it, several quite distinct elements that your dog will have to be able to apprehend.
Jumps are obstacles that require your dog to be relaxed and have the ability to control his power and appreciate distance correctly. There are four types of jumps proposed in Agility courses: hurdles, walls, tires and long jumps.
Hurdles are the simplest obstacles visually, very similar to those seen in equestrian competition. They can measure from 25 cm to 60 cm high depending on the category in which your dog competes, which is relative to his height at the withers and/or his breed. Some courses have double hurdles, spaced from 30 cm to 50 cm apart depending on the category.
Walls are solid obstacles, which may or may not have openings in the form of tunnels. They can measure 25 cm to 60 cm in height depending on the category in which your dog competes, with a depth of at least 10 cm at the top. Removable elements, quite similar to tiles, are placed on the upper part of the wall.
The tires are hoops that can be placed in frames with a diameter of 45 cm to 60 cm.
Finally, the long jumps are composed of 2 to 14 elements of a depth of 15 cm.
The zones are platforms on which your dog must progress more or less in balance. There are three kinds of zones in an Agility course: walkways, swings and fences.
Walkways are small, narrow bridges on which the dog must progress without falling.
Swings are very similar to catwalks, except that they have only one central leg that allows them to tip over when the dog passes by. Finally, the palisades are composed of two inclined ramps that your dog will have to climb up and down with agility.
Slaloms are designed to test your dog's agility and speed, but also his obedience and intelligence, as he must have a perfect understanding of the exercise in order to complete it without mistakes.
The soft tunnel
The soft tunnel is composed of a part supported by hoops and an exit folded on itself, in which the dog must make its way.
The rigid tunnel
The rigid tunnel is entirely supported by hoops, allowing the animal to move forward without having to search for its way.
Choose your Agility kit
There are two kinds of Agility kits : the approved ones, generally intended for professionals, and the non-approved ones, less expensive and preferred by amateurs.
Whatever your choice, make sure to choose a kit made of secured obstacles which must fall easily in case of contact with your dog to avoid him to fall and hurt him.
Agility accessories must indeed absolutely guarantee the safety of your dog during training, as well as in competition!
Most of the Agility accessories are fully adjustable, so it is not always necessary to choose the obstacles according to the height at the withers of your dog. However, it is important to take into account the category in which your dog is supposed to compete in order to make a course adapted to his size and skills.
The level of your dog
Depending on your dog's level, you can choose to buy kits that are more or less complete to begin with or to test his attraction for this activity. To begin with, the best thing to do is to train your dog to do the slalom and the tunnel, the simplest exercises, which will also teach him to listen to you. Then, you can start teaching him to go over hurdles, fences and bridges.
Your pet's progress will not be immediate, so you can start by purchasing kits that include only a tunnel, slalom posts or stakes, or even a hedge and a fence. Once your pet is more experienced, it will be the opportunity to add to your Agility course a swing, a wall and a ramp.
Of course, these are general guidelines, as some dogs find expert exercises easy, and have more difficulty with slaloms or tunnels. This depends largely on their character and their trust in their master, but also on what they enjoy the most. After all, Agility is first and foremost an activity designed to entertain and amuse your four-legged friend.
If you intend to take your dog to Agility competitions, buying a kit is almost a must for training. If you are simply looking for accessories to make a fun activity with your pet, then you can turn to DIY, that is to say the design of "home-made" obstacles. Be careful not to build obstacles that could be dangerous for your pet!
All obstacles should be easy to fall over if your dog bumps into them, and should not have any blunt or slippery parts.
Install an Agility kit for your dog
To install an Agility kit in the rules of art, you need a large enough ground to be able to space correctly the obstacles. All the elements should be spaced about five to seven meters apart when they are arranged in a straight line, and about four meters apart when the path is S-shaped.
Obstacles should be properly secured so that the poles do not topple over when the dog passes, but the removable bars will fall down if they do. Vary as much as possible the type of obstacles present on your course, and think of regularly changing the sequence of obstacles once your dog masters them all.
The design of the Agility courses is indeed up to the judges' imagination, and your dog will discover the one he has to pass in competition only on the D-day. He must be used to link different obstacles to be ready for any situation.
If Agility can seem to be an ideal activity to reinforce your links with your dog, I strongly advise you to wait that your companion has reached his adult size before starting to train him.
It is indeed a very strenuous sport, which can cause serious and long-lasting injuries in growing animals.
However, you can start to get your puppy used to Agility courses by letting him walk around the obstacles, or discover the tunnels and slaloms in moderation.