I get a lot of people contacting me saying their dog loves jumping on/over things, or climbing on things, or running really fast, or chasing other dogs around, so they think they’ll love agility.
Although this might be true, and those are useful things for a dog to enjoy doing in order to enjoy agility, I’d say that this doesn’t necessarily mean for sure that your dog will love agility.
I’d say that Lu loves most of those things, but she doesn’t love agility.
So how can you tell if your dog will love agility?!
I actually think that most dogs, if trained well, will enjoy agility – it means playing with their favourite person, getting rewards, learning, eating and interacting with YOU! For most dogs, these are all awesome things to be doing, so they’re going to enjoy it. For some dogs, it means doing a job – for these dogs, they’re going to enjoy doing agility even more because they need to be doing that job. Loki is a perfect example of this kind of dog, and he feels personally responsible if he has trouble with something or isn’t doing what I’m asking of him. Dogs who love to work for something (some kind of reward) will probably love agility.
When I say “if trained well” above, what I mean is that they don’t have too much pressure put on them when training. I think this was a mistake I made with Lu early on and is something I’m still working on fixing. I expected too much of her, and for her to do things she didn’t enjoy doing. Because she ran around the backyard and loved chasing us, I expected her to love agility, and when she didn’t, I put more pressure on myself, and on her, to do it how I expected her to.
What will really help a dog enjoy agility? If they chase balls and tug on toys- these aren’t necessary, but they sure are helpful! Life is made easier by a dog who has passions, whatever that may be. For Lu, it’s playing with the water coming out of the hose. For Loki, it’s anything, but I know that balls are #1, then tugs, then food. For Mal, food was always king!
I think any breed can play agility. There are some great pugs competing, some whippets, an Afghan hound, a Greyhound, some toy dogs, Wheaten Terriers, and of course a plethora of working dogs.
What dogs might not enjoy agility so much?
Dogs who are reactive or find being around other dogs stressful might not enjoy agility. This isn’t to say they can’t do it, or it’s impossible, but it would take some clever thinking and additional management to make sure that they, and the other dogs in the class are safe.
Dogs who are unfit and overweight would find agility hard. Again, this isn’t to say they can’t do it and won’t eventually enjoy it, but try running your fastest when you’re not feeling your best. It’s unfair of us to ask them to sprint, jump and turn when they’re carrying extra weight.
Old dogs probably won’t enjoy agility. Teach them tricks to use their brains, but maybe asking them to run fast, jump and turn isn’t good for their old bones.
Dogs who have low passions (or drive) present us with an interesting challenge, and although they may come to enjoy agility and may even love running competitions, they will require some clever thinking about how to make them find the game fun and interesting.
If you think your dog might enjoy agility, check out my blog-post on some ways to get started without even going to a class, or drop me a line to sign up for our Foundations class.