Over The Top Fun: At Home Agility Training For Your Dog
Would your dog dominate the A-frame or weave like a pro? Get step-by-step exercises to get started with agility training at home!
It’s so fun to watch dogs run through tunnels, move through weave poles, leap over jumps, and climb equipment! You can imagine your own dog moving through the course as well. If your goal is to run a full course or even compete, you will need to train on official equipment eventually. While there are agility classes all over the country, there is a lot you can do at home to prepare your dog.
Teaching Your Dog To Focus
Most dogs find the equipment to be the easy part! Paying attention and staying focused off-leash is much more challenging. You can start this training at home by finding rewards your dog loves.
To start working on focus and attention, hang out with your dog in a quiet room. Wait for your dog to look at you. Say “Yes” when they look up at you, and then give them a treat. This teaches your dog to look at you to earn rewards - and this activity doesn’t involve bribing with treats. See it in action here!
Set out a few props in your living room. It could be a blanket folded into a few layers, a couch cushion on the floor, a flattened cardboard box, and a piece of wood. Get creative - we want items that are mostly stable and not slippery.
Encourage your dog to approach and step onto an object. Give treats as your dog approaches and if he steps up. If your dog is unsure, then move on to another object. Some dogs need rewards for just being close, and after a few days, they will then step up onto the object. Feed any tiny steps in the right direction.
For now, front paws up is appropriate, but you can also reward for all four paws going onto the object. This activity prepares your dog for all the obstacles he may have to step on in the future, such as the A-frame, teeter, table, and tunnel.
Jump Over an Object
Set out an item such as a broom, mop, or wrapping paper tube. This can be at floor height to start. Use treats to encourage your dog over and then drop the treat to the ground. Move back and forth over the object, rewarding your dog each time. After a few repetitions, you can prop up one end of the object using something low like a brick or cereal box. As they build confidence, you can raise the other side too! This activity is an excellent start for jump training. Agility has many different types of jumps.
Practice this on a non-slippery floor such as a carpet, rug, or grass. If your puppy is under 6 months, keep the object on the ground, and if your puppy is under a year old, keep the prop below his elbow height. Growing puppies should not jump too much - even though they think they can!
For adult dogs, we will most likely only go as high as the shoulders. Jumping should be limited, and there are additional steps for teaching proper jumping techniques as dogs advance.
For this challenge, set out two props, such as two chairs. Start with them about 3 feet apart. Encourage your dog to move between the chairs. Then reward with a dropped treat. Repeat a few times.
Then try moving the chairs a few inches closer together. Ask your dog to pass in between. Repeat a few times.
Continue this until your dog will squeeze through a gap slightly wider than his body. This helps to prepare your dog for the tunnel, weave poles, and jumps.
After your dog is a professional with the chair game, you can then put a blanket across the chairs to create a miniature tunnel. Encourage your dog through and reward him.
If he’s too scared, fold up the blanket so it’s only covering a 6” gap to start - this is easier than a longer tunnel.
For some dogs, we can teach a dog to go under a chair or coffee table instead. Training advice will vary depending on if your dog is a chihuahua or a Great Dane!
Choose a prop that’s at least your dog’s height or taller. This might be a chair in the house, a box, or a stick in the ground fence post.
Start with your dog at your side. Approach the object, encourage your dog to pass on the other side, and then circle back to you—reward throughout as needed. As your dog improves, you can ask him to go faster or send him further.
We hope you’re inspired to start some agility training at home! Instructors love students with dogs who pay attention, eagerly step on props, go between, go over, and go around. In fact, these are the very training activities many high-level competitors use when starting a new dog or puppy!
If you’d like additional at-home inspiration, feel welcome to contact our team and set up a training session with us. We can help take your training to the next level, whether you just want to play in the backyard or work up to participating in an agility trial or event. We’re here to help you!