Agility 101:

What Should I Know Before Using the Heartwood Agility Field

Adjacent to the parking lot of our hospital in Youngsville is a full fenced in agility field, approximately 1 acre in size, for the use of all clients of Heartwood Animal Hospital. Inside of this field, there are several pieces of agility equipment that are meant to be used to introduce or further train your dog in the sport of agility. This blog is meant to serve as an introduction to all of the pieces of equipment as well as a couple tips on using them.

  • The Tunnels:
  • There is currently one tunnel in the field, with more on the way in the near future. Tunnels can be challenging for dogs and owners because this is the only obstacle where the dog completely loses sight of the owner. Try introducing your dog by placing treats inside of the tunnel, and stand on the other side of the tunnel with a treat as well. I cheated by buying my own small tunnel for my dog Minnie and placing it in the hallway of my house, where there was no room for her to run around either side of the tunnel.
  • The Hurdles or Jumps:
  • Hurdles are one of the easier and more intuitive agility obstacles. A successful hurdle is done when the dog jumps over the bar and does not knock it off onto the ground. Start with the hurdle on its lower setting, and gradually increase the height once your pet is comfortable with this obstacle. It is very important that you keep the hurdle on a lower height if you have a puppy that is still growing to help keep the joints from being over exerted on impact at landing.
  • The A-frame, Dog Walk, and See-Saw:
  • These are the 3 contact obstacles in agility. The A-frame is the tallest obstacle, whereas the dog walk is the skinniest and longest. Successful completion involves entering the obstacle from the front, walking over to the other side, and having the pet have one paw touch the contact zone (bottom area where the paint is a different color than the middle). Try introducing your pet while on a leash walking over these obstacles. Your pet should be very comfortable with the A-frame and dog walk before introducing the see-saw.
  • Weave Poles:
  • Often the most difficult obstacle to teach as it is the least intuitive obstacle. Weave poles are performed in either a set of 6 or 12 poles for most competitions. Successful completion requires that the dog enters the poles with the first pole being on the left side of your dog, and then weaving back and forth in each pole until reaching the last one. I am a big fan of the 2×2 method in teaching dogs how to perform this obstacle, and here is a good link on in-depth instructions for this training method
  • The Tire Jump:
  • This obstacle is where a tire, or tire look-alike is suspended from a frame and your dog must jump through the center of it. This is usually a pretty easy obstacle to teach once your pet has learned the hurdles. You may need to start with keeping the tire touching the ground and then gradually elevate it as your dog gets used to going through.
Hopefully this has provided a useful explanation for the agility field. We will be having our introduction to agility free class to anyone interested this upcoming Wednesday, October 12th at 5:30pm. Please feel free to use the field at any time during daylight and feel free to stop inside and say hi to us while you are here.