Foot Placement in Dog Agility is Critical

dog agility ladderThere is a reason our sport is titled Agility, it’s because our dogs need to possess a level of agility to get around a course fast, accurate, and safe. Our dogs need to know where their feet and bodies are at all times while running, jumping, and climbing the equipment. Sliding off the side of a narrow dog-walk or tumbling down an a-frame is something we never want to witness first hand, but know they are very real possibilities. We have all seen, in person or on video, accidents when fast dogs take a mis-step and cringe at the though of our dogs doing the same thing.

So what is to be done to keep your dog as safe as possible without losing drive and speed on course? Foundation work! Teaching your dog body awareness is paramount to keeping them safe on course. Agility ladders are wonderful training tools used to teach your dog foot placement and help them stay on the straight and narrow, so to speak!

If you are just starting out, you want to lay your ladder flat on the ground and start by shaping your dog to walk through it. Our ladder allows you to start your dog with a few steps and build them up to the full length. When your dog can trot through the ladder without stepping out you are ready to add some height. If it has legs you can flip it up onto its legs. If you are using a human ladder you can prop it up on bricks or 2x4s. Just be sure your dog will not hurt their feet on the edges as they go through the ladder. You don’t want to raise it above your dog’s knees or they will not be able to go through with proper cadence.

As a side note, not only does ladder work teach foot placement and hind-end awareness, it also builds muscle. Keep this in mind as you raise your ladder as you can sore your dog by doing too many repetitions at a new height and never drill your dog on the ladder or any piece of training equipment. Several short sessions over the day are far more productive than one long session.

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Helpful Tips for Dog Agility Weave Poles

Weave poles are one of the only obstacles you find in dog agility that have no element to them that uses natural instincts of the dog. They have to be taught and practiced until they become second nature to your dog, muscle and mind memory. We would like to share with you some tips for making your dog’s weave performance speedy and accurate.

  • Don’t drill your dog; be vigilant for that moment when your dog is having sequence of correct answers and stop on that positive note. As with any obstacle, short sessions at different obstacles keeps your dog’s mind fresh and gives them some think time. For example: do a few sets of correct weaves then move on to some jumps. You can come back and do a few more sets of weaves and then move to another game. Don’t get greedy, when your dog is performing correctly it’s time to stop.
  • Train one step a session Weave poles are not mastered in one session, in fact, your dog may only be able to get one part of the lesson correct in a day. Only ask your dog for improvements if they are having a difficult time and always go back to a point in your training where your dog can give a correct answer when they seem confused. Accurate, fast weaves often take weeks of five minute sessions to train.  They also take lots of yummy treats, fun toys, and puppy parties.
  • Give it up  treat your dog like it’s their last meal with you, and make sure you give them only the best rewards. Keep them small so your dog doesn’t fill up before you finish a lesson. This is also why they need to be tasty, smelly treats.
  • Keep your criteria clear Don’t reward less than perfect weaves once your dog has picked up the concept.  Rewarding poorly performed weaves is encouraging a problem. Simply ask for another try and have a puppy party with jackpot rewards when they understand and comply.
  • Make fast festive Once your dog learns to weave, reward enthusiastically for improvements such as in speed or difficult entries. Praise, play or treat for any correct weaves, but throw a treat fest, puppy party for a fast run. Give your dog a reason to try harder.

With patience and practice, you and your dog can succeed on the weave poles. What method you use doesn’t matter as much as the way you approach the training itself – positively and carefully!

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What Size Dog Agility Tunnel to Use

If you have just gotten started in dog agility or are just started shopping for equipment, you have no doubt seen a variety of tunnels that are available and have asked, “What size tunnel should I get?”

This is due in part to all the different needs, both financially and aesthetically, of the many dog agility teams out there. From lightweight and portable to competition size and durability, there is a wide variety to suit all your tunneling needs. We would like to be of some help by sharing some of the pluses and minuses of individual tunnels, as well as, suggestions on which might your best option.

Our practice line is a super choice for backyard use with a few dogs. The tunnels are a lighter weight than other competition lines that you would see at competition. However, they are still made from heavy-duty canvas type material. As with all fabric obstacles, storing it somewhere dry and out of the sun when not in use prolongs the life and beauty of the tunnels!

Our competition line is heavy duty, super strong, and complies to competition standards. Due to the heavier construction and materials, these tunnels cost more than the practice line. It is a worthy investment for clubs, trainers, and some individuals who put their equipment to high use.

Now for the dimensions:

Length: In order to shape your tunnel into a nice S curves, a 15-20’ tunnel is best. For those just looking for a simple C curve option, the 9’ works nicely! We do offer a 6’ tunnel for small dogs if wanted, just keep in mind that though they can be coaxed into a C shape, it makes for a sharp curve. It is great for young and new agility dogs to get a feel for a shorter tunnel before hitting competition length or for smaller areas where a shorter tunnel is needed.

Diameter: We offer 19”, 22”, 24” and 28” diameter tunnels. But which is the right height for your dog? If you plan on competing and only want to make one purchase, we suggest going with the competition diameter for most organizations which is 24 inches. If you have no intentions of competing and have a smaller dog, will be competing in TDAA, or want a smaller tunnel for puppies, you can go with the 19″ diameter tunnel. Just keep your dog’s wither height in mind. You want them to be under 18″ to run in the 19″ tunnel. On the flip side, if you have a large to giant breed and have no intentions of competing in classes that use the tunnel, you can use the 28″ tunnel at home.

We want to reiterate that if you plan on competing with your dog and you want a practice tunnel at home, buy the diameter tunnel your organization uses. Your dog needs to have continuity so they don’t misjudge the tunnel height at competition and get hurt by slamming into the top of the tunnel.

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