National Train Your Dog Month: Enrichment Tuesday and Dog Activities Week

National Train Your Dog month is coming to a close, and in the final week I am dedicating the blog to enrichment of a different kind.  I’m talking about sports and recreational activities you can participate in with your dog–something the majority of dog owners never consider as a way to enrich their dogs’ (and their own) lives.  I’m going to start with my favorite activity, and each day this week I will cover a different one.

If you know me you know what my favorite dog sport is–in fact you know what my favorite THING is, period.  It’s Dog Agility.  I spend countless dollars and hours on Agility, and happily so.  The first time I saw it on television as a little girl I was hooked, and was certain I would play this great dog game as soon as I could–and I did.  I’ve been consumed by Agility for the past eleven years of my life and I don’t see that changing any time soon.  So you have been warned!  I have seen a lot of people get into Agility “just for fun” and before they know it they have a backyard full of equipment, they bought a car specifically for the purpose of traveling to and from Agility trials, and the number of dogs in their household has doubled or tripled.  Their weekends are dedicated to Agility only–no more ski trips, weekend getaways (except for the Agility kind), or non-dog-related sporting events.  Do they feel deprived?  Only on weekends that don’t include Agility.

So what is this magical thing that causes people to abandon their normal lives and become Agility-addicts?  Well, to put it simply, it’s a timed obstacle course for dogs.  But that description really doesn’t do it justice.  To put it better, it’s an exciting, fast-paced sport where dogs and their handlers navigate a complicated course consisting of jumps, tunnels, contact obstacles, and weave poles.

I spent entirely too long deciding what video to link, and finally decided on this one, because it gives me chills every time I watch it (nerd alert!).  It’s Susan Garrett and her brilliant dog Feature willing the $10,000 USDAA National Steeplechase Champion title.  I especially love the victory lap, how cute is Feature with her floppy frizzer?

Ok, back to reality.  Why is Agility so great?  I think it’s a combination of a few things, but for me the number one thing is the joy the dogs have.  Most dogs LOVE agility, and to see a dog doing something they love to do is a kind of bliss I can’t describe.  For my baby dog Idgie, there is nothing more fun than Agility.  The only thing that comes close is hiking in the Rockies, and even then, she doesn’t get the same look on her face.  In Agility, positive dog training rules, because you are not going to get the smokin’-fast performances desired if you are using corrections.  For that reason, the sport has brought out some of the world’s best dog trainers.  Susan Garrett, in the above video, is one of them, and Silvia Trkman is another.  These women would not be known the world over for their skills were it not for their amazing success in the Agility arena.  Because they are known the world over, more dogs are getting better training, and I just can’t argue with that.

If you need more convinving, go to an Agility trial and watch.  I dare you.  Every trial I go to I like to pause, look around, and watch all of the dogs joyously and willingly interacting with their humans, and can’t tell you how happy that makes me as an advocate for good dog training and ownership.  To see a dog not enjoying himself at Agility is the exception, not the rule, and for me that says it all.  The dogs are bouncing, their eyes are shining, and they just can’t wait to get on the course and play.  It really is incredible.

Still don’t get it? I guess you’ll have to try it yourself.  If you’re in the Northern Colorado area and want to give Agility a shot, check out www.thecognitivecanine.com for more information.