Getting into dog agility – top tips from Anthony Clarke
Ever considered giving dog agility a go? It’s a great activity for both you and your dog and can be incredibly rewarding! World-renowned agility trainer and Autarky brand ambassador, Anthony Clarke, shares his three top tips to help you prepare for that first agility training session.
- It takes two! Agility is all about having fun, learning new skills and having a strong working relationship with your dog. Spending time playing and interacting with your dog in different environments will help your overall working relationship in the ring. Practicing tricks or basic obedience skills while out on a walk and exposing your dog to different environments with loud noises and lots of distractions will help prepare you both when stepping into the agility ring. Work on getting your dog to focus on you and not getting side-tracked by what is happening around them so that they are used to focusing on your and your commands – agility is all about a successful partnership.
- Treat time! Does your dog like rewards? Either food or toys, maybe even both? No matter what level you eventually reach, your dog will need to be rewarded for completing new tasks, skills or tricks. A good reward structure includes building desire to earn the reward; for example, when asking your dog to take a jump or complete a piece of equipment like the seesaw, they receive a reward if they have met all the correct criteria. This helps your dog associate good behaviour with getting something that they really like and will make it easier for them to understand what is required and continue repeating it. Rewarding will be a huge part of the development process.
- Ready, steady, go! Teaching your dog to maintain a good ‘Sit’ or ‘Down stay’ is important. Teaching a ‘Sit’ or ‘Down’ is the easy part – building the distance and focus on you is the harder part. You want to build on your movement and position slowly, so start with asking your dog to ‘Sit’ or ‘Lie down’; once they do this, you need to take a tiny step away from them. If your dog doesn’t move, they get a reward by you returning to them to present them with the food or toy. Slowly start taking more and more steps away, building each time with one more step – you can add a command like ‘Wait’ or ‘Stay’. This is a good trick to practise somewhere with lots of distractions as you want your dog to be looking at you the whole time. We all know our dogs are likely to outrun us, so gaining a head start around the course is a must-have for all handlers!
Anthony Clarke fuels his dogs on Autarky. He says: “Since I’ve been feeding the Autarky grain-free range my dogs have gained stamina and condition, which has helped with their performance. Their agility results speak for themselves.” Anthony is an International Dog Agility Handler and organiser of British Agility Championships and the Open Junior Agility Championships
Autarky’s Tantalising Turkey & Potato and Tasty White Fish and Potato are high-protein, grain-free dog foods offering joint support and fatty acids, making them a great option for the most active of dogs.