Most dog owners are bitten by the “training bug” when they take their first basic obedience course.
The moment when you and your dog become a team and work together to solve a problem is an amazing bonding experience that can quickly become an addictive high.
Once you and your dog have built a solid foundation in basic obedience, the sky’s the limit on what you can do with your best friend. The sport of dog agility is a great way to continue training with your dog in a fun and competitive environment with other dogs.
Dog agility combines team work with challenging problem-solving exercises set in a timed course. Teams must navigate the course as quickly as possible with points deducted for mistakes along the way. The competitor with the fewest total penalties is the winner. In the event of a tie, the competitor with the fastest time is the winner.
History of Dog Agility Training
Dog agility is a relatively new sport in the dog world. The sport started in England in the early 1970’s and remained unheard of in the States until the early 90’s when dog ownership surged, and organizations like the United States Dog Agility Association developed their program and began sponsoring events.
The popularity of border collies as top competitors in the sport spurred a dog training revolution that has filtered throughout the dog world. Many of the old school training techniques that used negative reinforcement weren’t effective with border collie’s sensitive temperaments.
So, agility trainers needed to look outside traditional dog training methodologies for new training techniques to gain an edge on the competition. The result was a rapid development of new, wholesome and highly effective dog training theories and techniques.
The concept of ‘operant conditioning’ which became the backbone of “positive reinforcement dog training” was perfected in the agility ring and now is considered a foundational component of modern dog obedience training.
My Visit with The Doggie Academy in Brooklyn
I was super excited when I saw that Sarah Westcott was hosting an introductory seminar on dog agility and I signed right up.
Sarah’s reputation as an accomplished competitor, trainer, and teacher of dog agility is well known among Brooklyn locals soI had been looking forward to checking out her training facility and learning more about her approach to the sport of dog agility.
Sarah’s school, The Doggie Academy is located in Park Slope on 21st street between 4th and 5th avenues. From the moment I walked in, it was clear that whether you’re a beginner in the sport or a seasoned competitor, this is where you need to be training.
For an indoor dog training facility, the Doggie Academy is huge! The training area is large enough to set up a tunnel, weave poles and a double jump and still have plenty of space between obstacles to make it a realistic course. The Doggie Academy is also clean, well-lit and packed with the latest training equipment. I was very impressed with the facility and would love to train there.
The seminar began as a general overview tof the sport and covered topics ranging from the importance of teaching correct techniques for safety purposes to the different types of training methodologies, courses, and agility organizations.
The second part (and the highlight) was watching Sarah and Fever, Sarah’s 2 ½-year-old border collie demonstrate how they approach some of the problems presented in a typical agility course.
Sarah set up a small course and had Fever run through a few obstacles as she explained the strategies she uses to get Fever through as quickly as possible. It’s always amazing to watch a seasoned team like Sarah and Fever work together. That’s the teamwork, that , in my opinion, that makes participating in dog sports so gratifying.
Visit The Doggie Academy for Dog Agility Training
My experiences in Mondioring (another fun dog sport) and training with top competitors and mentors like John Soares and Michael Ellis taught me how to properly communicate with my dog which made me a better handler and took my relationship with my dogs to a whole new level.
So, if you just finished a basic obedience course and are wondering what’s next? I highly recommend heading over to the Doggie Academy in Brooklyn and trying out dog agility, it’s a great sport that’s worth checking out.