Agility has been the fastest-rising dog sport for a number of years. The dog must follow the handler's directions to negotiate a series of obstacles. Obstacles include a variety of jumps, tunnels, an elevated dog walk, a teeter-totter, an A-frame, and weave poles. Each run is timed, and the fastest clean run (with no points off for knocked bars or other miscues) wins.
Training for Agility
Be cautious about doing too much agility training too early. Yorkie puppies should not practice weave poles or do a lot of jumping before they are physically mature at one year of age. But that need not keep you from training. You can use poles lying on the ground between uprights as jumps and work on lowered versions of the teeter-totter and dog walk. Tunnels are no problem.
Before you get too involved with obstacles, you should concentrate on groundwork. This means teaching your Yorkie other skills she will need on the agility course, such as directional cues (go, out, left, right, close). You can also teach a foot target to be used in working on contact zones (the last few feet of an obstacle such as the dog walk, which the dog must touch to avoid a penalty).
Find a trainer who uses positive methods and understands that it doesn't pay to rush into competition training before laying down the basics. Private lessons may be safer and less stressful for your Yorkie. Many group agility trainers do not screen class members effectively, and both handlers and dogs may cause problems, particularly for toy dogs.
Are smaller obstacles used for toy dogs?
No. Jump heights are adjusted, but nothing else. But while the A-frame may be a harder climb for a Yorkshire terrier than a Border collie, think how difficult a tunnel is for really big dogs. Each breed has different advantages and disadvantages, and the weaknesses can be overcome with plenty of practice.
Competing in Agility
This is one sport that definitely tests the skills of both handler and dog. Before a class starts, handlers are given a few minutes to walk the course without their dogs. In this time, you will have to memorize the course of seventeen to twenty obstacles, and plan how you are going to handle your dog through it. You may then have to wait some time before it's your turn to run. You can watch others run the course, but you need to keep your own plansfirmlyin mind.
Warm up both your dog and yourself before a run. Do some stretching to limber up those muscles. You can have your Yorkie spin in circles or weave between your legs to do bending exercises. Some dogs like a long walk around, while others get too excited and need to be kept away from the hubbub until it's almost time to go.
Photograph by Pamela Shelby
Competing in agility is a great way to keep your Yorkie in shape.
On the course, never forget that this is a partnership. Always keep your dog's safety in mind — don't turn so tight to the A-frame that your Yorkie won't have enough momentum to scramble up it easily. Don't pull her off the teeter-totter before the end has touched down by moving away too soon. Most of all, don't rush into competition. This is a sport that definitely takes time to master.