Thursday, November 18, 2010

What the Heck is Dog Agility? (I didn't have a clue...)

I don't actually know when I saw my first Agility run, I just know that for years I dreamed of having the time (and energy) to have what appeared to be a strong bond with a dog. Agility, Flyball, Obedience, Rally-O...they all looked like such fun activities!

Within days of adopting Gilda, we were very aware of her speed and her intensity. (We honestly thought that we'd be able to outrun her for at least a month or two... wrong-O!) She was faster as a little pup than Bruno ever was!

{Runs like a Border Collie!}

Although I knew Agility was of interest to me, I honestly didn't do much research on it. I thought, "you go to class, the dog learns the obstacles, and then you tell the dog which obstacle to take" Simple, right? Oh how very wrong!
Here is A basic definition from Wikipedia: (Note how this differs from my preconceived notions of Agility!) 

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.[1][2][3][4][5] 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.
In its simplest form, an agility course consists of a set of standard obstacles, laid out by an agility judge in a design of his or her own choosing on a roughly 100 by 100-foot (30 by 30 m) area, with numbers indicating the order in which the dog must complete the obstacles.
*Courses are complicated enough that a dog could not complete them correctly without human direction. In competition, *the handler must assess the course, decide on handling strategies, and direct the dog through the course, with precision and speed equally important. *Many strategies exist to compensate for the inherent difference in human and dog speeds and the strengths and weaknesses of the various dogs and handlers.

*the stuff I didn't realize!

I quickly learned that there is a whole lot more to agility than meets the average spectator's eye! Both the dog and handler have very important roles in the Agility Team. The dog must learn how to perform each obstacle independently. This means that when the handler gives the cue, the dog must know how to approach the obstacle, how to perform the obstacle, and what to do after the obstacle. The handler must learn a variety of techniques to communicate with the dog between each obstacle and must perform these maneuvers with great consistency and accuracy. Obviously this also means that the handler must learn each course prior to guiding the dog through it. How could I not have realized this?? More importantly, how are Gilda and I going to learn all of this...

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