If you are a dog owner, then you understand the special bond between a person and their dog. If you are looking to strengthen that bond even further, then dog Agility might be for you. Dog Agility is a sport where dogs run through an obstacle race course with assistance from their handler. The handler or owner of the dog is barred from using any incentives or forms of touch. They are limited to using verbal commands, hand movements, and body signals.
One of the most prominent obstacles in the sport is the dog Agility tunnel.
What is a dog Agility tunnel? A tunnel (or pipe) is one of the more challenging obstacles on the course for a dog to master. These flexible tunnels range from 10ft to 20ft in length, are usually 24 inches in diameter, and are made from heavy-duty vinyl. The goal with the tunnel is to get the dog to fly in one opening and out the other, safely, so they can hit the next obstacle on the course.
In most cases, the tunnels have a wire frame between the vinyl material (think of it as a slinky!). This give is rigidity and allows it to retain its shape as the dog runs through it. Sometimes to make it a little more interesting, the tunnel may be fitted with a loose material called a chute. It is now up to the handler to get the dog safely over to the other side. Dog Agility tunnels are either straight or curved. If you intend on getting into Agility, it is crucial that you get your dog accustomed to different types of tunnels so they can practice.
During a competition, the tunnels are laid out in a straight line or in an S-shape. Some are connected to make elaborate shapes making the course more difficult. This requires the use of a flap to ensure that there is an entryway from one dog tunnel to the other. Others are wound on other obstacles to make two in one obstacle. This may seem like a lot, but the course is not designed to make your dog fail. It is created to challenge your dog while ensuring that you both get to enjoy yourselves.
How To Train Your Dog To Use The Dog Agility Tunnel
Dogs are like human beings. Running into a dark, narrow space is not something they do instinctively. Training your dog to go through the tunnel starts with trust. Use the bond you have with your dog to make them feel safe. This way, they know that someone is waiting for them at the end of the tunnel. Just like any sport, it requires patience and resilience. With some practice and support, your dog will get the hang of it. It is also helpful to have another partner helping you through the process.
First things first, you need to get a dog Agility tunnel to start training. Do your research and find out what is in the market. You can start by using simple tunnels then work your way into getting more complicated tunnels over time. Always keep in mind the size and shape of your dog when buying a tunnel. Something your dog can fit into comfortably. Alternatively, you can start with child’s play tunnels to test the waters. Here are some techniques you can employ to help you through the process.
Ways To Train Your Dog With The Tunnel
- Use Toys and Treats — If your dog is a fan of fetch then this will be a great option to try. Start by rolling a ball through the tunnel and asking your dog to get it for you. This will encourage your dog to go into the tunnel and bring you the ball. Once they get the hang of it, move on to getting them to get out on the other side of the tunnel. Ask your partner to stand on one side of the tunnel while you stand on the other.
Once he/she throws the ball into the tunnel, call out to your dog and ask them to bring the ball to you. Most dogs will walk through the tunnel as long as they see you on the other end. However, if they need a little push, you can always use treats to reward your dog every time they come towards you. Keep practicing until your dog gets the process. This method is best for straight tunnels since the dog can see you at the end of the tunnel.
- Use The Agility Command Method –Once your dog gets the hang of straight tunnels, you can move on to curved tunnels. This can be tougher because the dog cannot see you at the other end of the tunnel. They also do not know if there is a way out once they enter. So you have to show your dog the way. Start by crawling into the tunnel yourself, then using a specific command to ask your dog to follow you. Do this until your dog feels safe enough to get into the tunnel by themselves.
Ask your partner to hold the dog on one side of the tunnel, then from the other end call out to your dog using the same command you had been using all along. Since the dog is no longer afraid of the tunnel, they will react to the command as they had been doing before and come towards you. Repeat this as many times as you need to.
Basic Agility Rules and Obstacles
Dog Agility tunnels are only a section of the sport. There is a lot more that goes it. There are different levels to compete in all dependent on the prowess of the dog and size. If you were serious about it, you can end up competing in top-level international competitions. The rules of engagement differ in various countries and levels of competition, but the basic rules are also pretty simple.
- The handler is not allowed to touch their dog or the obstacles while running the track
- Points are awarded to the dog who completes the obstacle course fastest with the least faults. Some competitions may look at the personality of the dog.
- Every dog has one opportunity to complete the obstacle course.
Agility Course Obstacles
Agility courses vary with each competition. The course designer determines what obstacles will be used and how to arrange them. Here are two of the obstacles courses would include:
- Dog Walk – This is like a runway show for dogs. They usually are 3 planks between 8-12 feet. Sometimes they can be upright, other times they can be slanted.
- See-saw – These are constructed off-balance just like normal see-saws, so the same end falls to the ground. The balance point and the weight should be in a way that the smallest dog can cause the high end to descend to the ground.
Is Agility good for dogs?
You may be wondering whether dog Agility is something that you should try out. Apart from strengthening the bond with its owner, Agility is a great sport for dogs. Some dogs often have excess energy, and this is the perfect activity to help them get rid of all that pent up energy. Additionally, Agility will help a dog stay fit and healthy. Running a whole course involves both the body and mind and this will improve the dog’s sharpness, stamina, communication skills, and efficiency. The dog will learn to think on their feet, and this not only helps in Agility but in another aspect of life too.
Can you compete in dog agility?
Anyone can compete in dog Agility competitions. Although there are specific breeds which are given more preference when it comes to professional competition because of their size and gene makeup, you can practice with any breed. The good news is, there are no restrictions on age when it comes to the handlers. Anyone can be a dog handler. However, keeping up with the dog on the course might not be the easiest thing to do especially if you are not an active person. It is advised that for such cases, it is best to train your dog to listen to your commands as opposed to body signals and movements.
That’s All Folks!
Ultimately, dog Agility is a great sport to test with your dog. Since dog Agility tunnels are simple, they make a great introductory obstacle and perfect starting point for a dog that’s new to Agility. Things can be slow-going to start, so make sure you’re patient with your pup and allow them the time they need to get used to the sport. Even if you don’t make it to the competitive levels of Agility, you’ll enjoy this new activity with your dog and benefit from a strengthened bond.