Frequently Asked Questions
Agility and Sports such as Rally, Obedience, Scent work etc. are great for dogs and handlers. It is a wonderful way to work as a team with your dog, provide them physical and mental outlets, and make many life-long connections. Although some breeds are more common in sports, it is open to all breeds and types. There are some considerations to make before enrolling your dog in sports-based classes.
1) How fit does my dog have to be? How fit do I have to be?To participate in dog sports, dogs must be physically sound (for example, have good vision, no injuries, is not overweight). Some disabilities can be accommodated in some sports (e.g., tripod, deafness, disc disease), and sometimes the dog's disability cannot be accommodated in that particular sport. If a dog is overweight, for example, this can significantly impact their ability, joy and significantly increase their risk of injury in some dog sports. While sports accommodate different sizes of dogs, giant breeds may not be the best fit for agility as it can be physically uncomfortable for them to complete some of the equipment such as tunnels (which are 24" in diameter and up to 20' long). This does not mean you should not try dog sports with your giant breed or a physically limited dog, but rather look for signs of discomfort or reluctance as a sign that it may not be enjoyable for your dog to perform. We encourage you to take our Foundations course and explore sports with your dog regardless of their breed, or physical limitations, but be mindful of their physical comfort. It is also a good idea to get a basic vet check before taking part in physically demanding training to ensure your dog is in good health and comfort. Handler fitness is not a requirement for dog sports, although dog sports do promote handler fitness. Accommodations can be made for handler disability or lack of mobility through slightly different dog training standards. Dog sports, without accommodations or different training techniques, can put physical demands on the handler (e.g., running or moving quickly, bending, playing with the dog). For example, in agility many competitions provide a senior or disability accommodation in the runs to provide more time to complete the course. There are many individuals around the world who compete at very young and very old ages, of different weights and sizes, mobility and fitness levels. The key point is it is a team sport and if the dog is trained to work more independently, the human does not have to keep pace with the dog.
2) How old does my dog have to be to participate in dog sports?Different breeds mature at different rates both mentally and physically. It is of utmost importance to ensure the dog's growth plates are closed and the dog is fully developed physically before training the dog over full height jumps, weaves and other physically demanding obstacles. You can find more information pertaining to breed specific growth plates here: https://www.fourleg.com/media/SportTraining%20for%20Puppies%20and%20Concerns%20about%20Growth.pdf It is also important to consider the dog's emotional maturity when joining sports. Dogs, like humans, have developmentally appropriate skills when it comes to emotional regulation. Dog sports require our dogs to be emotionally mature in many ways as we ask them to work off leash around many distractions, wait their turn, watch and hear other dogs’ work in a state of high-arousal. All of this requires the dog to be of an age where they are able to learn how to self-regulate. Much like we can’t expect young children to problem solve like adults, we can’t expect young dogs to cope under stress without emotional maturity and training. You can find more information here: https://www.woofliketomeet.com/2022/04/emotional-regulation-in-dogs Physical and mental maturity are both considerations to make before registering your dog for a Sports class. This is why we do not allow dogs under the age of 6 months to take part in our classes. We would highly encourage you to find basic puppy classes that utilize positive reinforcement training methods for puppies under 6 months old.
3) What is the ideal weight for my dog to participate in dog sports?It is very important that if we are asking our dogs to perform physically demanding things such as run fast, turn with speed, multiple jumps one after the other, slalom through weaves, scale walls, etc., that they are in optimal physical shape. A large portion of pet dogs are overweight. This is typically caused from over feeding and lack of exercise. It is important to make sure your dog is not over weight, and rather lean and fit. We would recommend that you dog have a health check by a veterinary and be cleared to train in sports before enrolling in our upper level classes. If your dog is overweight, they may start to refuse to continue in the sport, and/or they be at a higher risk of significant injury (for example, should injury, ruptured knee, hip injury). You can find more information here: https://dpfleadingagility.wordpress.com/2018/03/25/fat-and-the-sport-of-agility https://vcacanada.com/know-your-pet/obesity-in-dogs http://www.mcrehabilitation.com/blog/is-your-dog-wearing-a-tank-top-or-a-parka-part-1
4) What if my dog is reactive? Has a bite history (dog or human)?If your dog's response to certain stimuli in their environment results in observable behaviors such as growling, excessive barking, lunging, cowering, shaking and /or biting then dog sports and classes would not be a safe place emotionally for them or others. Dogs with a known bite history pose a threat to safety in class settings for other teams. At NADA, Inc., dogs with a history of biting others (humans or dogs) are not permitted to attend our classes or events. That said, just because your dog has been reactive does not mean that they cannot be successful in sports after working with a certified positive reinforcement-based trainer. We would highly encourage you to reach out to a certified positive reinforcement-based trainer with a specialty in behaviour, if your dog is suffering from reactivity issues. You can find more information here about living with a reactive dog: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/advice/dog-sports-challenging-dog