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Get Going with Agility – Karen Phillips

Karen with Riot at Agility

Karen with Riot at Agility

The beginning of the year sees a new start to the agility season and there are a lot of fresh new faces, both human and dog, at my agility club which is so great to see.  Agility is my passion and has been since my first two wonderful border collies Murphy and Soda-Pop came into my life in 1997.  They have since passed to the rainbow bridge but I have many, many amazing memories of the years we spent doing agility and I have no doubt that both mine and their lives were the richer because of it.

It is a rare week that I don’t have a post on the Better Pets and Gardens Facebook page about what to do when dogs are destroying an owner’s garden or pulling clothes off the line and generally misbehaving.  Owners write to me in despair asking what they can do to stop it.  There are lots of very natural doggy behaviours that we see our dogs engage in such as digging however getting destructive and doing things like destroying plants it is a good indication that they are not receiving enough mental stimulation or exercise and need something else to supplement their day to day lives.  For some dogs going for a walk just isn’t enough, especially the working breeds.  My border collies used to get bored if I walked the same route two days in a row!  That’s when something really fun like agility comes in.

The official description of agility courtesy of Wikipedia is, “Dog agility is a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. Dogs run off-leash with no food or toys as incentives, and the handler can touch neither dog nor obstacles. Consequently the handler’s controls are limited to voice, movement, and various body signals, requiring exceptional training of the animal and coordination of the handler.”

An agility course has a surface of grass, dirt, rubber or special matting.  The obstacle course is laid out by a judge and, depending on the type of competition, the obstacles may be marked with numbers indicating the order that they are to be completed.

Agility to our dog is the joy of getting to jump things, go through tunnels (which for some reason they seem to love), climb over things and go in and out of things.  They get to run and play and socialise with other dogs.  The bonus for us is that our dogs will learn a lot of new things including to come when called, stay with us off lead as well as to sit and stay when asked.  These are all very valuable day to day skills that we need our dogs to have but unfortunately many don’t.

Dog owners tend to underestimate how important it is that our dogs get the chance to learn and experience new things, even as adult dogs.  Often the only emphasis is on exercising our dogs.  A dog whose mental and physical needs are both met always be less likely to get up to mischief.

Any breed or height of dog can do agility since there are jump heights to suit all dogs from the very small to the very tall.  There are many different obedience and agility clubs around Perth and they all have different requirements as to what age a dog can start and if they need to have any training prerequisites.  My current club, The Agility Club of WA, allows dogs as young as 12 weeks of age to join and they have a Puppy Foundation Class with special puppy sized equipment to play on.  A dog can start at any age and don’t for a second believe that old dogs can’t learn new tricks!  To that end, there is an Adult Foundation course also available for dogs over 12 months.

There is absolutely no expectation that you go on to compete with your dog, although many do.  Simply start by joining your local dog club and get ready to have some fun with your best mate.

Perth Royal Show Agility Comp 2013

Perth Royal Show Agility Comp 2013

To find your local obedience or agility club go to visit the Dogs West website which has a comprehensive list.






Karen and Riot

Karen and Riot

Karen Phillips is the owner and trainer of Riot, the beautiful Border Collie that is the Better Pets and Gardens mascot.  Karen has had immense experience and success with her dogs, all border collies except for Cassie, the very fast papillon, and is currently involved as a trainer with the Agility Club of WA.  Karen is also a regular expert on our Facebook page every Monday night.

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