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By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Canine Agility has become an increasingly popular sport as recognized by the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club. Agility training started in England in 1978. Competitions are now held worldwide. It seems to be an enjoyable activity for the dogs as well as their trainers. Through agility training, the dog is able to negotiate obstacles as the trainer provides direction through hand and voice signals, speed and body motion.

The course is made up of various obstacles including jumps, open and closed tunnels and weave poles. Dogs of all sizes and breeds, including large breeds and mixed breeds, may participate. There are certain breeds, however, that are more conducive to the sport by nature such as Border Collies, Austrailian Shepherds, Puli’s and Golden and Labrador Retrievers.

The dogs must be healthy, as checked by a veterinarian and properly trained and conditioned so as to avoid injuries. It’s critical that the dog be trained gradually over time so that the pace is comfortable for the dog. Always keep in mind that a dog should never ever be forced to compete. It should always remain a pleasant and positive experience. Agility training can be great exercise for both trainer and dog alike.

But canine agility doesn’t have to be for certain dogs or for competition only anymore. It can be used as a helpful training tool.

As a trainer and canine behavior specialist, I have found that even a smaller agility training course fashioned in the backyard can greatly help a dog of any size or breed to expend excess energy. It also is greatly beneficial to help them to ultimately relax and feel more balanced as it challenges their mental capacities while at the same time having fun.

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