Prior to being operational for work all dogs must be agile in their own right. The agility phase of training in these fundamental obedience exercises is calculated to ensure the maximum use of his natural agility. It is therefore necessary to emphasise that all the exercises shown below are essentially a development of obedience training.
The object of agility training is to ensure that the Dog learns how to surmount all obstacles within his physical capabilities on command, and under control.
It is important that this training should be limited to the known capabilities of the breed. Any attempt to over-reach in this direction may well be disastrous to the dog's physical well being and to its mental approach.
The dog should be introduced to this phase of training by being required to jump a low hurdle which can be surmounted without difficulty to the dog. Initially, the training should be carried out with the dog on the lead but the handler should exercise care that the lead does not check or impede the dog's natural Jumping movement. Care must also be taken to ensure the dog approaches the middle of the obstacle to avoid any tendency to try to circumvent it. There is no hard and fast rule as to the distance from the obstacle at which the dog should make his jump, but the handler by observation should time the word of command to coincide with the take-off. Praise should be given after success but this should not be confused with encouragement.
Training over comparatively low obstacles should be continued until the dog is proficient in controlled jumping of this nature. The use of the lead should be dispensed with as soon as the dog fully understands the training. The hurdle may be increased in height as and when the dog shows the necessary aptitude. It is essential that the dog clear the hurdle and achieve success. As soon as the dog understands the purpose of the exercise and the word of command, he must be required to take up a stationary position on landing. Ability to do this is a fundamental element of control.
The object of this training is to teach the dog to negotiate obstacles which are too high for him to jump and which may only be overcome by the dog leaping.
The solution is to go back a stage, by removing a board or two and then adding the boards until successful. The dog must be watched and the point of boredom avoided as well as injury. This can be accomplished by leaving the jump and going onto some light relief or play.
Agility training should be started early in the dog's life to make sure greatest chance of success. Dog agility training is often conducted by a handler rather than the owner. Unless the owner of the dog is trained for agility, it is best left in the hands of professionals.