There are many types of activities a person can do with their pet. During the next few months, we’re going to look at the numerous and varied sports you can do with your pet. Although primarily geared for canines, cats can also engage in different activities, as we'll learn in future posts through this series I’m calling “What Activities Can I Do with My Pet?”
Dogs love activities. In fact, most dog breeds originated for some type of purpose, whether hunting, herding, or digging. Therefore, different breeds are high energy; they need activity to burn off that energy. These days, there are a wide variety of sporting events you and your dog can do together, from agility to skiing. This week, we’ll look at canine agility.
What is Canine Agility?
Agility is a team sport, an activity between a dog and its handler. It’s often a competition and is endorsed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and other canine organizations. However, you and pup do not have to compete; you can just enjoy the sport for the fun.
To participate in agility, dogs go through a series of obstacles, including weave poles, tunnels, and see-saws; the idea of the competition is to complete the course as quickly as possible, with the best time produced being the winner. The competitions are held for dogs of different sizes; therefore, your collie and your Westie can both complete. Even if you choose to not participate in competitions, you and your dog can enjoy the benefits of agility in your own back yard. Equipment can be purchased online and sometimes in big box pet supply stores like PetCo. You can also make agility equipment yourself or have someone make the course items for you.
What Breeds Do Best in Agility?
Although any type of dog can participate in agility, the breeds most adept at this sport seem to be Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs (“Shelties”), and some terriers. Surprisingly, you can also find Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Standard Poodles and German Shepherd Dogs on the list. If a dog has energy, listens well, and knows basic obedience commands, s/he will likely enjoy and do well in agility.
Where to Find Competitions in the U.S.
One of the best ways to discover if agility is a good sport for you and your dog is to visit some agility competitions and observe how things are done. Here are three websites to find out where competitions are being held:
If you think agility would be fun for you and your pup, learn more about this sport and how to get started (whether for fun or competition) by visiting these websites:
According to the calendar, spring arrives today. Many of us, however, may doubt what we see on that wall ornament as we look outside. No matter if the season has changed where you live or if you still see piles of snow in the yard, knowing that the sun will shine, the temperature will rise, and travel will commence. Taking your furry friend on the road with you can be a wonderful experience and can also help you maintain your exercise routine. This week I welcome fitness expert and dog lover Paige Johnson -- she shares with us ideas and insights about how you and your dog can stay fit while traveling.
Guest Post by Paige Johnson
Staying fit while you’re on the road can be a real challenge, but if you decide to bring your dog along in lieu of leaving him with a kennel, friend, or loved one, you’re more apt to maintain your routine. Studies show that dog owners have a better chance of attaining their fitness goals than those who forgo having a furry friend. Why? You’re forced to move more (by an impressive 69 percent), dogs can increase your walking endurance, and mental health is improved while blood pressure is decreased.
If you have yet to choose a destination for your trip, consider checking out resources that help connect dog owners to pet-friendly establishments around the world. Along with hotels and restaurants, you’ll find tips for the best dog beaches, parks, and even walking tours you can bring your dog to.
Standard activities that may come to mind may include running (consider signing up for a canine charity race), walking, cycling, and hiking. Consider these alternatives:
Maintain a Healthy Routine for Your Pooch
Just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean you should forgo your dog’s regular, healthy routine. This includes a healthy diet to avoid stomach problems, access to fresh water at all times, clean food and water dishes, and regular walks.
When packing your fitness gear, consider what additional items your dog may need based on the activities you have in mind. Some suggestions include:
Not only does traveling with your dog help you stay on top of your fitness game, it’s also a bonding experience. Do your research in advance to make the most of your experience. Don’t forget to get your dog vaccinated if traveling overseas and ask your vet for any tips for car and airplane travel prior to departure.
Paige Johnson is a fitness nerd and animal lover. She shares her insights on LearnFit. She loves offering advice on a variety of topics. As a personal trainer, she has a passion for fitness training and enjoys sharing her knowledge with those seeking to live a healthier lifestyle. She's also mom to three dogs, all rescues, and volunteers at her local animal shelter. Through her time with her own pups and working at the shelter, she's picked up some great tips on pet care and training.
Credit for Photos: Pixabay
Imagine a dog or any of its wild canine cousins weaving through trees in a forest, jumping over logs and rocks, and ambling through piles of brush in pursuit of a rabbit for dinner. These are the same type of activities that dogs who participate in agility undertake.
As Casper gears up for the annual AKC Central Wyoming Kennel Club Dog Show the end of this month, I wanted to take a look at agility competitions and what they mean to dogs, their owners, and the show spectators.
Benefits of Agility
There are several benefits for a dog and its owner to participate in agility. First, agility fulfills a dog's natural instincts. As mentioned above, wild canines traverse obstacles such as trees, logs, rocks, and brush in pursuit of prey. They also do these things to avoid being prey. Therefore, agility courses set up with weave poles, tunnels, jumps, and other obstacles offer a dog the opportunity to mimic the natural type of scenarios it would experience in the wild. Secondly, agility provides great exercise for a dog … as well as its owner. Running through the course, weaving in and out of poles as well as through tunnels and upon seesaws provides a great cardiovascular workout for a dog; the owner/handler runs alongside providing the commands needed to complete the course – that running gives the handler a great workout as well! Additionally, the interaction between dog and owner during the course-running creates a deeper, stronger bond between the two. An agility dog relies on the verbal and hand signals of the handler, and as the two work in tandem to complete the course, their dependence upon each other during the competition instills a deeper dog-owner bond.
Best Breeds for Agility
All dog breeds are welcome in agility competition. Even though all breeds are welcome, certain dog breeds do best in agility. Those are the working breeds, the ones with energy and who are most genetically-gifted in running with purpose. Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Jack Russell (now called Parson Russell) Terriers, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and Shetland Sheepdogs perform well in agility competitions. According to the AKC, the most popular dog breeds in agility these days are Shetland Sheepdogs, Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Welsh Corgis, and Papillons.
Certain breeds may not perform as well in agility due to their personalities or their body composition. For example, Dachshunds have very short legs and may not jump hurdles very well; pugs with their flattened noses may experience breathing problems from running the course; and giant breeds, such as St. Bernards, may not navigate the course very rapidly, particularly weave poles.
AKC events allow varying jump heights, adjusting to the type of dog competing. The classes are divided by those jump heights to make the competition more fair between the different dog sizes. The dogs run the same course, though, with adjustments in expected time and jump height.
Dogs between the ages of one and eight seem to do the best in agility. Young dogs and puppies can be trained, however, AKC competition rules state a dog must be at least a year old to compete in agility events. Dogs trained in basic obedience perform the best because they follow their owners' commands and instructions. A person can start basic obedience with puppies and young dogs and work up to agility training in the backyard or with a local group in preparation for agility competition when the dog is closer to one year of age, and therefore, allowed to compete in an AKC-sanctioned agility event.
History of Agility
Dog agility began in England in 1978 when the Crufts Dog Show featured a jump-style course as entertainment between competitions. Dog agility came to America during the 1980s. The first AKC event was held in 1994. According to the organization, agility is one the fastest-growing dog sports in America and the fastest growing event in the organization. In the first year of AKC agility trails there were 23 competitions; in 2003 there were 1,379 and in 2007 the number increased to 2,014.
Dog agility is a sport recognized around the world. A world agility championship is held annually as is the Agility European Open and the AKC's National Agility Championship. Learn more at http://images.akc.org/pdf/Dog_Shows.pdf.
Catch a Show, Casper!
The Central Wyoming Kennel Club Dog Show is scheduled at the Fairgrounds in Casper July 29 – 31, and the AKC Agility Trials for Central Wyoming begin in September. Stop by and cheer on your favorite breed! Learn more at http://www.centralwyomingkennelclub.org/events.html and https://www.apps.akc.org/apps/club_search/index_master.cfm?action=refresh_index&active_tab_row_A=1&active_tab_col_A=2&Fixed_ID=2.
Playtime – something children and pets enjoy and adult humans should do more of. Activity and play are good for people and for our pets.
Consider the wild cousins of our cats and dogs, those cougars, tigers, wolves and coyotes that wander the immense outdoors – searching, tracking, stalking, and chasing prey, and rolling, wrestling, and pouncing on their siblings and packmates. The wild ones engage in great amounts of activity; the furry companions living in our homes, more often than not, participate in the activity of... couch potato.
Most dogs were originally bred for some type of job such as herding, hunting, hauling, and guarding. These tasks required strong bodies and alert minds, and many breeds today still yearn for the work for which they were bred – you see that when your Corgi or Aussie Shepherd herds your kids! Cats also had jobs during the agricultural and early industrial age: keeping vermin, like mice and rats, at bay. Yet, today, most dogs and cats enjoy the lap of luxury – laying on the couch, floor, or pet bed. And sometimes that lack of activity leads to boredom and gets them into trouble.
There are many benefits for our pets to engage in play and other activities. In addition to being more physically healthy, exercise often alleviates unruly behaviors such as chewing, digging or scratching, hyperactivity, jumping on people, barking, whining, and meowing. These behaviors can not only be annoying but also destructive.
Mental stimulation is also important, particularly for those dogs bred for active jobs such as herding and hauling. Therefore, participating in more rigorous exercise like hiking and jogging or joining agility or tracking events not only exercises a dog physically but mentally as well. Playing with the cat using feather and laser toys engages kitty's prey and pounce instincts, again stimulating the cat's physical as well as mental abilities. Playing with your pet in the afternoon and evening helps tire it before bedtime, keeping it from being restless at night when you want to sleep – a great benefit for you!
So whether playing fetch with Fido, hiking with Holly, running the agility course with Ruger, or feather swirling and yarn twirling with Simba the cat, providing your pet with playtime reaps positive benefits for both you and your furry friend. And keep in mind that our pets want us to engage in activities with them – we are their special person, their pack, their clan. Think of how young wolves and lions wrestle with and stalk one another – they play together and hunt together. So spend time with your special canine or feline today engaging in some fun activities – your bond will grow even stronger … and the exercise will do you both good!
For more information on the benefits of playful activities with your dog, visit http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/exercise-dogs.
For further information on agility, tracking, and other dog events and activities, visit http://www.akc.org/dog_shows_trials/.
For more information on enriching your cat's life with play and other activities, visit http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/cat-behavior/enriching-your-cats-life.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.