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Agility Training for Chihuahuas

Agility Training for Chihuahuas

What is Agility Training?

Agility training is a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy.

Many of you will have seen these types of competitions live or on television where dogs are directed over jumps, through tunnels, over seesaws and through weave poles.

Unlike dog racing where there is a “rabbit” for the dogs to chase, agility uses no food or toy rewards and the handlers are not allowed to touch either the dog or the obstacles.

The level of training required for a dog to excel at agility is considerable.

Many owners use agility simply as a means of training and exercise for their dogs and are not interested in the high level competition that the sport can entail.

Agility and Chihuahuas

Many of us think of dogs like Border collies being the typical agility dog.

This is simply not true.

Any dog of any size can take part in agility and intelligent little dogs like Chihuahuas are often excited by the mental stimulation involved in the sport.

Obviously your Chihuahua can’t compete on the same size obstacles as a Great Dane.

Your little one would end up running under any hurdle set up for a large dog, so small dog courses are part of the sport.

The UK Kennel Club has three measurement standards for competition: 

large, medium and small.  

Small dogs are defined as those measuring 35cm or less at the withers (the ridge between the shoulder blades).  

If your Chi is particularly small then some of the obstacles will pose a bigger challenge than others, but with practice and training they can soon get the hang of things.

In the United States there is a Teacup Dog Agility Association which only allows dogs 17 inches or less in height to compete.  In this association there are no restrictions according to age or breed, but meets run by most kennel clubs worldwide have restrictions on allowing member animals only for competition.

Obstacles and Training

A high level of training is required for your Chi to complete an agility course.  Some owners “handle” their own dogs, and some hire “handlers” who take the dog through obstacle training.  Most Chihuahua owners interested in recreational agility training handle their own dogs and use the time to create a deeper bond with their dog and to reinforce positive behaviours.

Your Chi must be fully attentive to you during training and competition because you can only use voice commands and body language and movements to instruct the dog how to complete the course.  You run through the course beside your dog guiding them through the various obstacles.  If your Chi is the pack leader in your house, it is unlikely that they will listen well enough to follow your commands. 

Your Chihuahua must be able to climb and jump, weave through a series of poles, enter and exit tunnels, traverse seesaws, and pause on a specific spot on command.  Each agility course is set up differently so your Chi must follow your directions exactly in order to complete the course on time and without penalties for doing an obstacle incorrectly or in the wrong order.

Benefits of Agility Training

Small dogs like Chihuahuas receive the same benefits as their larger counterparts as far as exercise and stimulation are concerned.  Where agility really helps Chis is in the training aspect.  Many of these little dogs are doted on by their owners and as such believe themselves to be the leader of the pack.

Establishing the human being (that’s you!) as the leader helps your Chi to be well-adjusted and happier and leads to a deeper bond between you and your pet.  The stress of being pack leader causes many dogs to display aggressive tendencies, and Chihuahuas are certainly in this category.

If you are looking for something new to try with your Chihuahua, look up your local chapter of the kennel club and give agility a try.  You may just find a sport that both of you love.

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