There are more dog sports and activities than ever to choose from, so whatever you and your dog enjoy, you can find an activity to suit you both. Julie Hill reports.
“Agility is all about teamwork between the dog and handler, as they negotiate an obstacle course,” explained Lee Gibson, who’s based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and competes, trains, judges, and lectures internationally.
Lee helps students build their bond with their dog, as they tackle different pieces of equipment.
Lee Gibson competes, trains, judges, and lectures in agility.
“They develop both verbal and physical cues to be able to communicate at high speed, involving different manoeuvres, and different route choices. It’s a physical and mental workout for dog and owner,” said Lee.
“It’s a sport for everybody, and the cool thing about agility is it’s also for people of all ages. I started as an 11-year-old boy.
“It’s a very accessible sport and everybody is on an even playing field. People with mobility issues and those in wheelchairs can compete really well, working on distance control.”
Lucy Creek, from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, recently started competing in agility with her dogs. “I’ve found it relatively easy to do, but almost impossible to do well!” she confessed.
Lucy Creek competes with Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla Maple, Beagle Echo, and Border Collie Jingle.
“You have to teach the dog to take jumps from various angles, and to minimise the time they spend turning, as fractions of a second can mean the difference between winning and losing. Learning how to hold your body to indicate direction and speed to the dog is hard. It gets quite technical.
“When competing, you walk the course, work out the best line for the dog and then remember what you prepared, all while running and cueing the dog! There have been courses where I’ve had to ask my dog to wait while I remember where I am going!”
Despite this, Lucy and her dogs are relishing the challenge, and progressing through the grades.
Dog parkour also involves obstacles but is non-competitive. “Almost any object can be used as long as it’s safe. Dogs enjoy climbing, balancing, crawling, and jumping as they navigate their way through the surrounding environment,” explained Jan Martin, from Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, who founded Dog Parkour UK.
“A huge advantage of parkour is that because owners have the freedom to choose the objects for their dogs to interact with, it can be accessible for dogs and owners with mobility issues. All breeds of dog, regardless of their age or fitness level, can enjoy parkour.”
Jan Martin and Amber demonstrating the ‘two paws on’ behaviour.
Sue Taylor, from Liverpool, Merseyside, had always encouraged her Miniature Schnauzer, Archie, to interact with his environment for enrichment, and was delighted to discover parkour. “You can literally do it anywhere, using any type of obstacle — a log, a molehill, a seat in a park, a bike stand. It could be an obstacle that you built yourself out of a box at home or in the garden. I love the flexibility — you don’t have to go to a particular place at a particular time, and that really works for me and my lifestyle.”
Sue always encouraged Archie to interact with the environment so parkour is perfect!
Read the rest of the feature in the February 2022 issue. Buy the latest digital edition and read instantly on your computer, mobile or tablet device.
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