Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Teaching "Old" Dogs New Tricks

Agility -- Great for Dogs and Their Humans

When I tell friends about my new hobby, I often get confused looks – the equivalent of the way your dog cocks her head and perks up her ears when she has no idea why you just made some kind of nonsensical noise.
“Daisy and I are getting into Dog Agility,” I tell my friends, with excitement.

 “WTF is Dog Agility?” my friends’ eyes say in response.

 “Sorry, you might not know what dog agility is,” I explain, “but I promise you’d know it if you saw it – you’ve probably seen videos of dogs running through a series of jumps, tunnels, hoops and obstacles, almost like horses doing a steeplechase.”

This usually creates the visual and some understanding, but I’m pretty sure people still have no idea how fun it can be to work with your four-legged best friend to run an obstacle course.

So let me tell you.

It’s really, really, really fun.

And you really, really, really need professional help and instruction.

I’ve been taking dog agility classes at a local training facility – Woofs Dog Training Center – with my Australian Shepherd mix, Daisy Sue, for the last six months. Our instructors required that Daisy first pass a basic obedience class, which was also quite fun.

 Getting started in agility can feel slow – feeding your dog a million treats just for sniffing an obstacle or touching it with her paw. But even early on, the communication with your dog starts to deepen. My husband noticed, within a few weeks, that Daisy was looking at me and following me around the house in a new way – we looked more like a “team” than ever before (and I’ve had her for more than six years!).

 Three series of classes later (each course lasts seven weeks and meets for one hour each week), Daisy and I are able to complete a course like this:

Daisy is also running through tunnels, jumping through ‘tires’ and scrambling over A-frames. In our next class, we’ll tackle the super-cool category of weave polls!

Daisy is one of the older dogs in our classes – she’ll probably never become an agility champion, because she simply won’t be as fast as the younger dogs.
But, you know what? I don’t care one bit. For one hour each week, Daisy and I are learning together, bonding, and I am grinning from ear to ear – while also getting a decent workout of my own! For us, the rewards of agility training are immediate, lasting and don’t require a ribbon or trophy.

Daisy likes agility so much -- she has her own outdoor course!!

Jean Card is a writer and dog lover living in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband Noel Card, their dog Daisy Sue, foster dog Savannah and their two cats, Ricky and Lucy.