Beating the Heat While Enjoying Dog Agility

dog agility water obstaclesFor many of us, winter is far too long and spring is far too short. Now we find ourselves in the heat of summer and unwilling to relent to the demands of the heat. Summer is fun playing outside, hiking, eating ice cream and watermelon, all of which we can share with our dog.

But that doesn’t stop the fact that it is just plain hot and not much fun to work on dog agility, unless you have ways to keep practice cool. You can try to find air conditioned practice groups, practice in your house with weaves or jumps in the hallways. Or, you can try the ultimate in summer agility fun with these amazing water jumps!  There are plenty of cool options to try, from the challenging hydro hoop to the refreshing doggie drencher!

Here is where you get to continue with you agility training by taching your dog to perform and enjoy the water obstacles. It really is easy! Start out with the obstacle dry and teach your dog to navigate it. Then turn the water on very low so your dog can see it – encourage them to investigate the slow flow of water. When they are comfortable with the water, ask your dog to perform the obstacle again. Slowly increase the flow of the water as your dog gains confidence rewarding interaction and performance. Then get ready for a summer of fun with your dog all summer while keeping cool with water jumps.

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Dog Agility Works the Mind and the Body

Dog agility is one of those activities that yields many different rewards and each team reaps different ones. But one reward that every team reaps is that of mental as well as physical exercise. Don’t underestimate the value of mental work for your dog either. Sometimes it can tire them out better than the physical aspect. You may ask how that is. Here are some ways:

  • Problem solving  Your dog is constantly using problem solving when working on their dog agility with you. And you are working even harder helping your dog find the correct answers to their dilemmas. For example, when your dog is not responding to some part of your training, you have to problem solve to find the root of the problem then find the solution to make the training work. All this while your dog is trying to solve the problem as well, case in point, weave poles!
  • Memory tricks  You may not think of your agility training as “trick” training, but for the dog there really is no difference. We are teaching them how to negotiate on, around, over and through a collection of obstacles and we expect them to remember how to do so each time they are asked. Weaves, tunnel, table, teeter, tire, weaves, a-frame are all prime examples. It can be a memory trick for you to remember lines and courses. It keeps both dog and handler thinking.
  • Positive Thinking  This can prove to be too much work some days, but the dividends are huge. Your dog wakes up everyday positive. It is up to us to keep the training and trialing upbeat and positive as well. After all, we are in this sport to have fun and it’s hard to find anyone having fun while being negative. By keeping positive, you make agility a great time for your dog, and more relaxing for you.
  • Yes, I said relaxing Like positive thinking, some days are not as relaxing as others. Just keep in mind that even though agility is a challenge, and can be competitive, it is also soothing. It is all about you and your dog working as a team like a well-oiled machine. It is a great time to let the stress of your day melt away as you and your dog move around a course having fun with dog agility.

We admit that we originally aimed this at our dogs, however, agility is a great way to work out your body and mind as well. And it is all done while building a stronger bond with your dog.  Run fast, everybody!

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When Injury Interferes with Your Dog Agility Team

One of the lovely aspects of dog agility is that it is all about you and your dog. You don’t have to be the fastest or most talented team on the field, you just have to be the best team you can be. Sometimes life throws a curve ball that may distract you from that simple truth. Injury or surgery can limit a handler, which is fine if you have a slower dog, however it can cause issues with a fast dog. One of our viewers asked for help on such a situation.

I’ve had replacement surgery in both my knees (not recently though, thank God!), and I want to know how realistic an idea it is for me to compete.  I just can’t run so fast! My trainer says my dog and I can do it since we’re good in practice, but I’m concerned I just won’t be able to run fast enough.  I love agility, and so does Maggie, but I don’t want to disappoint her.

First, you need to talk to your doctor to find out if there are any restrictions or precautions you need to take. There is a lot of twisting and turning in running a course with your dog, you may need special footwear or braces to protect your knees.

Beyond that, if you want to compete, being slow is not a reason to stay away from competition. There are plenty of handlers that have handicaps and issues they overcome with  training and smart handling. Trying venues that run courses with a slower course time and not as challenging courses will help  you be able to stay with your dog.

As a handler, you need to minimize your weakness while accentuating your dog’s strengths. One way you can do this is with distance handling. The better your dog is at taking direction and the better your cuing, the less you have to move. Practicing lines at home and studying your course maps looking for the shortest lines for you will help you run smarter. Try watching Paragility and NADAC runs to give you an idea of what you can accomplish with your team.

And last of all, don’t worry about disappointing your dog! They are there to run with you, be with you, enjoy the time with you. In dog agility, every completed run is a winning run. Each one is brings us one step closer to our goal of building us into the best team we can be.

We got a couple comments from others who have walked this path before.

Daphne Wilcox says:

I am not very mobile, myself. My dog worked very well at a distance and just started to “compete”, when he lost an eye. We still did agility for another year until he lost his second eye. Now, we do a low-key fun on obstacles course and he does everything but the table. I am determined to get his poles back up to speed. He is a real inspiration!

rocketdog shared:

My knees are both shot and I am recovery from left knee surgery. My doctor and therapist both have said you cannot run after a knee replacement. The best thing is to limit all impact to your knees like walking and running and cycle more to help with creating fluid in your knees. I have been advised to cycle more before and after training and competing. That being said, I am following the advise to try and keep from having a knee replacement any time soon. I plan on training my rocket dog to distance. A fellow competitor has a bad back and cannot run. He is consistent with double q’s handling from a distance, and makes time barely, but he is doing what he loves, working with his dog and I believe that is what agility is all about. A side note, there is also a local competitor that runs on crutches with her sheltie. She directs her dog around the course pointing with her crutch. She inspires me.

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