Dog Agility: A Sport For You And Your Sheltie

by Deb Pitzer

I'm here to get you hooked on agility.

So, you love spending time with your Sheltie, and you know s/he is smart! You go for walks, runs in the park, and you both love a hard fast game of fetch.

Of course, your companion knows its basic manners since these activities are in public areas.

But have you ever investigated the game of dog agility? It's the most fun you could ever have with your furry friend!! You're not limited to a certain breed (They can all compete, even mixed breeds), or size (there are different height and jump levels)and how they look doesn't matter.

I stumbled onto this challenging game of dog agility when I went to a fundraising event for our less fortunate homeless companions. There were a number of displays showing some activities that were available, some of which anyone could participate that day. That was the first time I and my then 12-week-old Sheltie, Lance tried our first agility course.

It was set up for rookies, with a foot high dogwalk, a cute little tunnel, and jumps made of 4" PVC. Both Lance and I had such fun trying it! Alas, the hook was set! Here was something we could do together, have fun, and really be a challenge for the both of us!

dog agility
dog agility weave poles

So let's begin with a few basics:

The sport of agility has grown tremendously in the past 20 years. There are a variety of organizations such as: NADAC, CPE, AKC, ASCA, UKC and more. And there are a number of even 2 World Championships.

The great thing about this sport is that you can participate at numerous levels. Some just love to set up some obstacles in the yard, others would like to take classes, and maybe work up to competing.

Then of course there are those of us who like to go to trials and compete. We get a joy out of seeing our companion (or partner as they call it) run that challenging course, and earn that Q (qualification).

In the process of training, practicing, and competing, you and your Shetland Sheepdog develop a true partnership. You grow to depend on your partner to exchange info and understanding as you both work your way around the course.

The obstacles on the course are numerous, and can include jumps, tunnels, a-frames, dogwalks, tires, teeter-totters, hoops, and etc. 

There are basic skill levels, that build to successively more challenging levels. From novice or starter level, to intermediate, and on to advanced level. The novice level usually has 12 to 15 obstacles, working up to 18 to 20, or more in the intermediate and advanced levels.

The thing to remember most about agility is that every dog is different. Some will do anything for a treat, some prefer a favorite toy, or a good pat on the head, and some love a turn on a favorite obstacle as a reward.

Each partner will respond differently, and the challenge is incredibly rewarding as you figure your buddy out (and vice versa).

All three of my Shelties require variations in handling.

I have Lance that likes me to run closely with him, we’re always working on distance. While my girl, Emma has a mind of her own, and would run a course without me if I don’t keep up.

Then there’s my baby boy Brody that’s my ‘whoopee’ guy! He’s new to the game, but learning fast. They’re all great partners, and bring me a great deal of joy and pride.

So, take some time to check out a class or a competition in your area, you’ll be glad you did!

But beware, agility can be very addictive!

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