If having fun with your dog without getting involved in serious competitive sports sound like fun, meet Patches. Dog agility is the name of his game.
Patches is a Cocker Spaniel (and half brother to our PR – Puppy Relations – Manager, Dexter_ who shares his life with dog mom, Nancy Height, of Connecticut. Nancy wanted to do some fun sporting activities with her dog without engaging in serious competition. She got started with agility and continued doing other fun activities with Patches and her other dogs. Here’s what Nancy had to share and her advice for how other dog moms and dads can follow in her paw-steps:
Fidose of Reality: Hey Nancy, so fun to have you join us! How did you get started in agility and why?
Nancy Height: I went to Paws ‘N Effects Canine Training Center for a Family Dog Training class with my dogs, Maximillion and Patches. They also had classes in Agility, Rally Obedience, K9 Nose Work, Competition Obedience and Therapy Dog training, plus other classes.
It was recommended that I do a Beginners Class, which is where you learn how to train your dog to use the equipment correctly. So I decided to give it a try and signed up Maximillion and Patches for a beginning Agility class.
Fidose of Reality: Do you do agility for fun or for competition?
Nancy: I started Agility with my dogs for fun. I had no plans to compete. I have really enjoyed working with each of them and seeing the fun we are having working together as a team. Most people do not realize that Agility is a team sport with the dog being able to follow directions from the trainer. You and your dog both have to enjoy it or it will not be fun.
As for competition, I did not think I cared about it until I started doing Agility Trials—but that changed. It is not the competing against the other dogs that is important to me but what Patches and I can accomplish as a team to complete the course and get a Q (Qualifying Run). In each level you have to get so many Q’s to be able to move up to the next level. Of course, each level is more challenging for both the trainer and the dog.
Fidose of Reality: How far do you plan to take it to compete in agility with your dogs? Do you want to go regional and national or is it for fun?
Nancy: Right now I am just enjoying going out there and competing in the trials that are in my area. Maybe someday I might think about going on but not now.
Fidose of Reality: How many of your dogs are involved in agility?
Nancy: I am working on training both Maximillion and Patches. I have already done an AKC and CPE Trial with Patches and have signed up for 3 or 4 more with him. I am going to be signing Maximillion up for a CPE Trial in July. I cannot wait to see how he does with all the people and other dogs around.
Fidose of Reality: What advice would you other dog moms and dads who might want to do agility but not for serious competition but just to have fun?
Nancy: You dog needs to have some basic training like being able to sit, stay and come on command. They do not have to be perfect at this but it helps, and the more you work with them the better they will get at it. Your dog needs these commands so that you and your dog can succeed at agility.
Once your dog knows these commands, I suggest looking into training classes for Agility in your area. Start with a beginners Agility class so that you understand what to do; dogs can be hurt on the equipment if you do not have the confidence or knowledge when using it. Your dog should be in good health, so check with your pet’s veterinarian first. You don’t want the dog to get injured during running, jumping or balancing.
Fidose of Reality: What other things do your dogs do besides agility?
Nancy: I am training in K9 Nose Work (National Association of Canine Scent Work) with my dog, Patches. K9 Nose Work is where a dog is trained to find a 3 different scents: birch, clove and anise. These scents are hidden and on command they are told to find the scent. You start out with hiding a high value treat like chicken, steak etc, in a small cloth bag which you place in a cardboard box. You use three or four boxes to start out. Hide the treat in one box without the dog seeing you do this. Then ask the dog to find it. Once they find it you give them the treat right in the box. Once they have mastered this, you move on to food and one of the scents.
This sport can be done inside and outside. It is fun to watch your dog try to find the scent especially outside. The NACSW holds trials in Nose Work. This is a great sport for any dog. My guy Patches loves doing this.
I have also taken a tricks training class with Patches. I am working with him on riding a skateboard. He knows how to get on it and is pushing it now. I need to work some more with him on this but have been doing agility with him more lately. Tricks are a great way to keep you dogs stimulated and happy. Dogs like to be kept busy.
For more information on doing agility with your dog, visit: AKC Agility