Although Crufts might only come around once a year, agility is something dogs can do all year round - especially if they're unable to get as many walks as they usually would or need to burn off some excess energy.
Agility not only is a great exercise for your pet, but it's a great bonding tool, too. It helps to fulfil your dog's natural instincts of chasing and running, challenges their mind and body and reinforces trust between dog and owner. Before you know it, your dog will be collapsed on its bed and you will be exhausted from all the learning you've done.
While certain breeds are more suited to agility, most energetic dogs will enjoy it as it gives them a chance to channel their excess energy.
What equipment do I need to train my dog?
It's easy to get overwhelmed, overthinking if you need a tunnel, cones or what. It's unlikely your dog will be ready for Crufts straight away, so start simple and build up from there.
We recommend starting with an easier and lighter dog training product, like cones or a hurdle jump kit. As you grow confident and your dog learns more, then you can move onto more experienced equipment, like a tunnel or even a seesaw.
Remember to keep your pet cool with lots of water and even specialised cooling mats so they don't overheat in training.
Be patient with your training and trust your dog. The more training you do and the more flexible you are, the more you and your dog are going to learn.
How much should I spend on dog training?
You don't have to spend ridiculous amounts of money each month to get your dog involved. There are plenty of dog agility kits available online, as well as a whole host of YouTube tutorials and books to get you started.
This agility equipment below is affordable and easy to set up, perfect for any dog owner or trainer. You can grab the dog agility kit to get it all in one or start simple with training cones, depending on where you are.
Start out with basic navigation and once you've mastered that, you can improve your dog's speed and accuracy. Always ensure the jumps are tailored to your dog's height and if in doubt, speak to a local dog trainer or your vet.
The best dog agility equipment UK
This agility book is easy to understand breaks everything down into bite-sized pieces. There's plenty of information to wrap your head around, so you'll be an expert in no time.
How to use it: Simply read all the best tips in this beginner book!
Review: "An excellent book, I have done agility with my boys for almost ten years, just for fun and exercise not to compete, but still wish I had found this book years ago. It is easy to understand and breaks everything down into bite-sized pieces."
Want your training kit all in one? This starter kit has everything you need to begin your agility career with your dog including a tunnel, weave poles, jumping ring and hurdle bar. Perfect for any pooch.
How to use it: Easy clip-in installation as well as a carrying bag so you can put it up in a garden, park or anywhere with space
Review: "It's a good kit, ring is a decent size for bigger dogs. My two Springers get plenty of fun out of it, definitely beats just throwing the ball about! It seems well enough made for the price and the dogs are enjoying zooming about it, all good!"
Once your dog is ready to tackle something more advanced, he or she can begin jumping over these small crossbars. You can adjust their spacing to make it more difficult or easy as well as adjust the height depending on your dog.
How to use it: Place the bars through the cones in your choice of height and space them out across the garden
Review: "We have never tried anything like this before but are very pleased with our purchase. Our toy poodle loves it. It is quite robust but lightweight enough so that she can't hurt herself on it. A heavier dog could also knock it over without hurting itself. We have it on the middle hole at present but hope to graduate to the top one eventually. We would recommend."
Every dog in training needs a simple set of cones. Starting out with the basics is key to successful training. These simple cones allow you to teach your dog directions, as well as moving around objects. Easy to transport and also suitable for indoor use.
How to use it: Simply place around your garden or training space
Review: "Very pretty set, which my dogs love! I bought them as easier to transport for dog trick competitions than weave poles. The dogs like using them as paw targets as well and the puppy runs around with them in his mouth. I am wondering if I can teach him to stack them!"
One of the more challenging aspects of agility is the tunnel, but many dogs love it. Made of tear-resistant, easy-to-clean material, this dog tunnel is fun and keeps your dog busy with training - also working great as a toy! Always ensure you get the right-sized tunnel for your dog.
Dimensions: 200 x 40 cm (S), 300 x 50 cm (M) or 500 x 60 cm (L)
How to use it: Expand and lay out to get the full tunnel, also including mountain pegs for extra security
Review: " Brilliant tunnel. Very easy to put up. It's even large enough for a retriever size dog. Has pegs to secure it if needed."
Once your dog is more experienced, you can look into getting something a little more permanent set up. This wooden dog walk has a non-slip rubber coating for a secure grip and includes a booklet for tips and tricks. Suitable for any dog up to 80kg.
Dimensions: 456 x 64 x 30 cm
How to use it: Assemble at home and adjust to your preferred training height
Review: "This is a great little product. Sturdy and well made. Great fun for pet training and small/medium dog agility training."
A slightly scarier aspect for beginners, the see-saw requires bravery, concentration and balance. Once your dog masters this, give yourself a pat on the back!
Dimensions: 300 x 54 x 34 cm
How to use it: Assemble and allow your dog to master walking up and down
Review: "I am delighted with the seesaw. I have a large labradoodle and wondered if it would be robust enough for him and it is. There is a bit of assembly to do but worth the effort (I would recommend a cordless screwdriver). This is perfect for practising at home and worth the money. I have already recommended the product to others in my agility class."
Agility for Starters: From Zero to Hero in 101 Exercises
Best dog agility training book for beginners
Inside this book, you'll find 101 exercises that take you through all aspects of the sport, including; weaves, contacts, handling points, start line waits, wing wraps and much more. It also features top training tips and advice from a host of world famous trainers to inspire you.
How to use it: Simply read and then test out the agility tips on your dog
Review: "If you only buy one book on agility make sure it's this one. I am so glad it came out just as I was starting out on my agility journey, I have bought others but this is the one I always come back to."
Puppy training tips with Tails.com: The importance of sleep
Research by dog subscription service, Tails.com, shows that 6/10 of us think that puppies need less than 18-20 hours of sleep a day. We spoke to Carolyn Menteith, a behaviourist at Tails.com, to find out why this is wrong.
Carolyn says, “Most puppies leave their mum and go to their new home at around eight weeks old. At this age, they are still babies, and like all babies, they need sleep. A lot of sleep! An eight-week-old puppy should be getting 18-20 hours of good quality sleep every single day. In other words, more than 80% of their day should be spent sleeping in their beds. Sounds like heaven to me!
“Think about how a lack of sleep affects you. You become tired and cranky, little things frustrate you, your loved ones get on your nerves, and you might well find people touching you really annoying too.
"There are many reasons for puppy biting but the one most people seem to be forgetting is that with everyone in the family at home all day every day, puppies have often just not been getting enough sleep. Everyone wants to play with the puppy, train them and take them for walks, plus the house is far noisier with far more activity than normal.”
Puppies love attention and this means playing even on a lack of sleep. In reality, this lack of sleep leads to an irritable puppy who will struggle with learning and training, meaning expressing their over-tiredness with their teeth.
Top tips from Carolyn on how to ensure your puppy is getting the best sleep:
Make sure you factor in puppy sleep time in the same way you do mealtimes and walk times.
Ensure that you make a hard and fast rule that no one disturbs the puppy while they are asleep.
It’s not just the amount of sleep that is important either - it’s the quality of sleep too. Make sure your puppy has somewhere comfortable and warm to sleep that is close to you but away from distractions, noise and movement that might disturb them.
What to read next
Jade Moscrop is a Deputy Commercial Content Editor for WhatsTheBest, specialising in lifestyle topics. She also writes for Closer, Heat, and Mother&Baby.
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