A long time ago we acquired a Chow because someone had abandoned her and her sister near our place as puppies. My wife found her whimpering in the barn, hiding from a storm we were having. We called her Inka because she was completely black, including her tongue. We had several other dogs at the time so while we made sure she got her shots and spayed her when the time came, we allowed her to stay semi-wild. She was house broken but preferred to stay outside in the evening. Of course, if there was a storm, she wanted in immediately.
Fast forward about six years, my wife was thinking about taking a break from showing horses and trying dog agility. Poor Inka was selected, mainly because she was about the right size. Those of you familiar with a Chow’s personality are already thinking that this was a bad idea and you’re almost right.
Inka was willing to play stupid games for treats and because my wife asked her but she had her dignity. If my wife wanted her to run through a tunnel or go over an obstacle, she would do it but at her own pace. She certainly wasn’t going to win any ribbons. About the third lesson though, something changed. Inka went from a very standoffish dog that had to be picked up and put into my wife’s truck, to a dog that tried to jump into the truck when ever my wife went anywhere. Even more amazing, she wanted to be a part of the family. If we did something, she wanted to be part of it. Agility lessons gave Inka confidence and helped her develop from a very shy dog into a member of the family.
In addition to a thorough vet exam, shots, spaying or neutering as necessary, every dog we have now goes through Agility training. They might not become a star but they learn that life is more than eating and sleeping. They learn confidence and how to rely on their human companion.
Agility has a wide variety of challenges and course types to accommodate as many sizes and shapes as possible. Not all breeds or dogs are suited to Agility. If your goal is only to win then you may have to really evaluate your dog’s capability as well as your own capabilities. Don’t forget, Agility is a team sport where you represent half of the team. Size or temperament may present some limiting factors to taking home ribbons ever weekend. If, on the other hand, you want to enjoy some time bonding with your dog and maybe enjoy a weekend or two with other very friendly people that also enjoy spending time with their dogs, then Agility might very well be worth checking out.
ACSA, USDAA, NADAC and AKC are a few of the organizations that offer agility. Each of them has slightly different rules, events and event calendars, so take your time and attend a few events in your area. Talk to a few trainers to find one that will match the goals you are looking to attain. Your dog will thank you for the effort.
To be fair about it, I can’t say that Agility is the only way to bond with your dog. I can only say Agility has been a very positive experience for every one of our dogs. There’s also herding, obedience, search and rescue, and fly ball to name a few I’m aware about. If you have any favorites please feel free to post them as comments.