Agility training reinforces obedience, improves confidence in your dog, strengthens your communication and helps your dog burn energy and improve mood.
Agility requires both mental and physical effort from your dog. This makes it the perfect exercises to practice at home to exercise your dog on those days that are impossible to get out of the house.
I am going to show you 5 basic agility exercises you can do with things you can usually find in your garage.
There are a few ways to create a tunnel with household items. Do you have lightweight corridors that your kids have recently outgrown? If not you can place a few chairs in a row. The chairs will have to be big enough for your dog to fit under. Remember, safety first. Set enough room for your dog to practice and take it slowly to make sure your dog is going to enjoy this experience as well.
If you are using a small corridor start by making it short enough for your dog to feel safe going through it. If you are using chairs, start with one chair and have a wall or objects on the sides so your dog doesn’t go around it.
Start by throwing the treat under and a little bit past the chair or the tunnel, when your dog gets to the other side praise him and repeat a few times. Then, slowly make your tunnel bigger and add a word to your trick. If your dog gets scared make your tunnel smaller or take one chair out. A lot of dogs need to get adjusted to the idea of going through a narrow opening and it takes time to feel safe in new environments.
When your dog is consistently going through his tunnel start adding a sit or a down before sending him. This will teach him patience and add more challenge to the mix.
For this trick we are going to use orange cones, buckets or cups. Preferably tape them to the floor so is safe for your dog.
Place 3-4 cones on the floor in a zigzag pattern. Lure your dog in and out of the obstacles starting from the left side by holding treats or toys that your dog really likes. When he is consistently going through the motion start saying your “weave” command word and add more obstacles. Lure less and less. Make the space between the cones smaller when your dog is successfully going through the sequence. The goal is for your dog to do this trick with the cones set up in a straight line. If you are using light objects consider taping them to the floor.
Reward every success and keep your sessions short.
Jumping is a great way to burn off extra energy. I do not recommend puppies less than 10 months old to jump, since their hips are still getting strong and they might get injured.
For this trick you can use a hoop or two chairs with a broomstick on top. Start by placing the stick or the hoop on the floor. Lure your dog from one side to the other. Reward him every time he walks passed the obstacle. Then, reward him every time he walks over the jump two times, and so on.
Make the jump higher and go up progressively. Add a word to it. Make your dog stay before sending him through the obstacle. Add a tunnel or weave poles to the mix.
If you work with the hoop and your dog is jumping above your waist, you can try transition to a cool trick. You can slowly use continue training and over time start to wrap your arms around the hoop until your dog is jumping through a hoop of just your hands.
Place is a dog obedience command that is also used in agility. This trick is often done using a platform bed, blanket or dog bed, and it is used to hold long stays or do timeouts.
You can use a wood board or your dog’s bed to do this exercise. First toss a treat on your dogs bed, all the way to the back. Once he gets the treat praise him and say free tossing a treat outside of the mat. Repeat this exercise for a few days doing short sessions. Work on pointing and then rewarding or wait for your dog to offer the behavior and then reward him. Add a word to the command like “place” or “bed”. Then, start adding distance slowly.
Work on stays by adding time and distance between your rewards. Your dog should leave the bed unless you say his release command. If he breaks the command before you release him please put him back and do not reward him. Wait another shorter time period and then reward, slowly building the time.