What equipment do I need to get started in agility? Agility courses have several different types of equipment or obstacles. The most common are jumps, tunnels, tire, chute, dog walk, teeter, A-frame, pause table and weave poles. The teeter and weave poles are usually considered more difficult to learn. Some agility trials (CPE) do not use these in a beginner level. The easiest to get started are the jumps. Start with the height low. Depending on how “tall” your dog is at the shoulders and which competition venue you are in, will determine their jump height.
Dogs are usually fearful of the tunnel and chute at first. If possible get someone to help you by holding your dog and you go to the other end. Bend down so your dog can see you through the tunnel and call their name with lots of enthusiasm! Be sure to give a treat and lots of praise when your dog makes it through. After a few times your dog will love the tunnel.
The dog walk, A-frame and the teeter are called contact obstacles. On each end there is a contact zone (usually painted yellow) that your dog will have to touch (some only use the paw on requirement on the down side of a contact obstacle). This is for safety reasons. These obstacles require more patience to teach. It is best to go slow at first. Place treats along the dog walk or contact obstacle and gently lead your dog across. When your dog reaches the bottom on the opposite side, use the stay (or bottom) command and have the front paws off the obstacle. You want them to stop at the end with 2 paws on the contact zone, and 2 paws off the contact zone. This is called 2 on 2 off. Teaching your dog this position will ensure not only safety but will also keep you from getting disqualified at a trial. Always start out training contact obstacles at a low height. When teaching the teeter (see-saw) hold on to the bottom and lower slowly until your dog gets used to the motion and the noise. This is best done with two people starting out, so you can hold on to your dog while someone else holds the teeter.
There are so many different ways and theories on how to teach weave poles. Begin with just two poles to learn the entry. The dog will always enter with the left shoulder into the weaves. You can use something like chicken wire on the poles to make it easier. It takes lots of practice, but once your dog figures it out it will be easy. Most competitions with weave poles will either be 6 or 12 poles in length.
The pause table is used in some competitions in the middle of the course and the dog will either have to sit or lie down while the judge counts for 5 seconds. If the dog moves out of position, you will have to start over. Once your dog can sit or lie down on the table, work on the stay part of it. It is important that your dog immediately gets into the sit or down position – if he doesn’t, take him off the table and do it again. Remember to treat as soon as they hit the position you are asking for! In some competitions the table is used to stop the clock in the games. In these circumstances the dog only needs to touch with one paw, but it’s best to teach table/down and table/sit.