Because we have found it by far the best way to exercise dogs in a relatively short time.
We could have gone with the common agility course, but instead of adding more plastic to the environment, we prefer the natural feel of wood. Also, why do what everyone else does - why not try something new?
The best exercise challenges both the physical and mental abilities of a dog. Just as children like to climb on trees - dogs love to get up and over obstacles. The right obstacle challenges their strength, fitness level, concentration, skill of balance and last, but not least - their bravery.
What is Agility?
For those who don’t know the canine sport that is known today as Agility, it began with the objective of entertaining the public during the intervals of dog shows, and has become popular and turned out to be the most practiced canine sport in the world.
The objective is that your dog passes all the obstacles on the correct order without any faults (not going out of the correct sequence or overthrowing obstacles). If there are two dogs without any faults, the tiebreaker will be the time each took to run the course.
As a loyal proponent to the importance of canine exercise for both obedience and health, the team of DogTraining4Humans decided to build a full scale, professional-grade K-9 obstacle course on the Isle, built on the specifications of the USPCA (U.S. Police Canine Association).
Even if you are not training your dog for police or guard work, courses built to these specifications teach professional agility and obedience. Successfully completing a hard-core obstacle course with your dog improves your confidence in both your dog and yourself.
Participating dogs are divided into three categories: SMALL – for dogs that measure 35cm on withers, MEDIUM – for dogs that measure between 35 cm and 43 cm on withers and LARGE – for dogs that measure more than 43 cm on withers.
IS IT SAFE?
This is probably the most common question we are asked about our obstacle course.
The answer is a resounding YES - as long as you abide to a few simple guidelines. To put all at ease, there is always an experienced instructor in the field, supervising training exercises.
We have been testing the course for over six months, with 50+ dogs, large and small, all kinds of breeds from Chihuahua to Husky, and never had a single accident (knock-knock) - except for that one time when Suzy sat on the board wet from fresh paint.
1. The most important rule we implemented from the very beginning is to do with speed.
If you go to any agility competition, you will see dogs running through the course like their butt was on fire. Speed is a key feature in the agility sports. Usually the faster your dog completes the field, the better. But not with our course! At our school, we always focus on technique and safety rather than speed, and we train our dogs to "take it slow", and pick a speed they are comfortable with.
2. The second vital factor at our school is choosing the right gradient (level of difficulty) for each dog. The correct way to teach a dog to work with the obstacle course is to start "low & slow", and build up skills over time. We have constructed our hurdles so the level of difficulty can be adjusted for the size and condition of the dog.
3. Most injuries in dog sports occur from the same reason as man doing sports: lack of warm up. We make a big deal of having a proper warm up of muscles and joints before getting on to our obstacle course. (And that is valid for both master/handler and dog.)
4. And then there is one more vital factor: it is even more important to teach a dog's human companion how to use the course, as dog and handler must always work together. We do not just "send off the dog" to complete an obstacle, and then return to the handler for a treat. This is a team work between man and his dog. The human is always in control - even when the dog is climbing up a six-feet-high cat walk.
Of course, there will always be some naysayers, who will croak that such a heavy-duty obstacle course is dangerous, and that "timber can hurt more than plastic", and jumping up and down is a high impact exercise that is not good for some breeds... yepp, yepp, yepp.
We have heard it all.
Can we give you an advice? Don't listen to the naysayers, and for that matter, don't listen to us either. Come to the field, bring your pooch, and check it out for yourself - for free of charge!
In ten minutes you will see if your dog likes this type of exercise, or it is not his/her cup of tea.
As simple as that.
So what is an obstacle course?
To give you an idea what a professional obstacle field consist of, let us give you a tour of the main elements of our course.
The hurdles consist of four (3-by-4 foot) obstacles standing in a straight line 16 feet apart. The USPCA rulebook lists six possible obstacles for this portion of the course:
a picket fence,
a chain link fence,
a simulated brick wall,
a 30-by-30 inch open window the dog must jump through,
a wall or board jump
and a shrub jump.
The catwalk portion of the course evaluates the dog's ability to climb a ladder and stay at a mid-point of a raised platform on command before dismounting. USPCA rules specify the ladder consists of five steps placed 12 inches apart, with the first 12 inches off the ground. The ladder sits at a 25-to-30 degree angle leading up to a 24-inch wide platform 6 feet off the ground. (Instead of a ladder, we use a 10-foot long ramp to make the obstacle less daunting for smaller sized dogs.) A 10-foot long dismount ramp on the opposite end of the raised platform completes the obstacle.
THE BROAD JUMP
The broad jump obstacle tests the dog's ability to leap a distance of 6 feet over a set of progressively taller boards.
The four boards that make up this stage of a K-9 agility course are 6 inches wide and 5 feet long. The lowest of the boards is 6 inches off the ground, with height gradually increasing to a final height of 12 inches off the ground.
To succeed in this portion of the course, the dog must jump over the boards on a single voice command without stepping on or knocking over any of the boards.
It must be noted - dogs do not necessarily have to follow the 6-feet jump rule - we adjust the boards to make it comfortable, but still challenging, according to the breed.
We also use these boards as part of the warm up exercise.
The A-frame is another obstacle designed to challenge the dog's agility and enable him to more confidently handle circumstances in the field.
The apparatus consists of two 4-foot wide boards spread 4 feet apart at their base. Their top edges come together at a 6-foot high peak. On a single voice command, the dog jumps to the top of the obstacle, then dismounts and returns to his handler's side. The dismount side includes a platform 3 feet off the ground to prevent the dog from being injured as he leaps from the top of the a-frame.
The final piece of the K-9 agility course evaluates the dog's ability to crawl through a tight tunnel on command.
The obstacle consists of pipes wrapped with chain-link fencing that leaves an opening 4 feet wide and 16 inches high at the base. The tunnel is covered with a 4-by-8 foot sheet of plywood. Upon a single voice command, the dog must lower to the ground and crawl into the tunnel for a distance of 8 feet, exit and return to his handler's side.
This is our main course, but we added a few additional challenges to complete our canine "theme park":
PROJECTS IN THE MAKING
And for those who think we went "overboard" by building a military grade obstacle course for pet dogs, and that "no one will use such a course", here's some more good news: this is just the beginning!!!
WE ARE BUILDING AN AWESOME DOG PARK!
EVEN BETTER & BIGGER!
We truly set out to build THE BEST AND BIGGEST DOG HAVEN you have ever seen. If you had thought our obstacle course is big, just watch and see what's coming...
We are adding a 28-feet long tunnel to our existing course - built partly underground.
There is almost nothing more fun for a dog than crawling through a real tunnel. It is the equivalent to a slide for a child. Don't believe us? Ask your dog. He will tell you!
THE SAND SCHOOL
Why only horses can have sand schools? No way! We want one for our students too - where at last, they can dig as much as they want, without being grounded for ruining granny's vegetable garden.
And it does not end there - we are to promote Spartan mud events for dogs, or as better known - The MuckFest!
BTW, where do you think the idea for the Chocolate Labs comes from... :)
THE SWIMMING POOL
And what is a dog-amusement-park without a swimming pool?
Think about it for a second: where could you take your dog for a good splash?
To the beach? Nah, it is closed down for most of the summer season, and the salt is not good for dogs anyway. There are no rivers, no lakes.
Well, FYI, we are building a swimming pool... from sand bags!
That's right! There is a reason why people use sandbags to stop floods...
All right, all right, some ground work might have to be done - hey, anyone who knows a builder with a CAT Mini Excavator, who is also a dog lover?...
This is how it will look once construction is completed:
With the Lord's (and some patrons...) help, we will soon invite your dog for a summer pool party!
THE SCENT DETECTION WALL
Dogs have fantastic nose - but how can we train them to use it even better?
Enter the SDW - or Scent Detection Wall, that the police dog trainers use to train dogs for finding drugs, explosives or money.
We plan to build one, so we can do scent work right in our school - without the need to go and find a free field. This is not such a big deal - check out the photos to see how it works.
THE FAKE RABBIT RACE TRACK
Dogs love to run. Faster and longer than humans. Hence the idea for a new race track for dogs - equipped with a remote controlled fake-rabbit-device.
This has been used for exercising greyhounds and teaching cheetahs raised in capture to hunt.
So the idea is not new. But do you know of such a track nearby that your dog can use to run like the wind? Exactly.
Enter our Dog Fitness Centre!
THE WALL CLIMB
Dogs love to climb trees. Or walls. Or anything. So we decided to build a wall for them. You may never heard of such a thing, but be assured, it is a great exercise for certain breeds.
In fact, there are regular wall climbing competitions all over the world.
In fact, we already got some quotes, and figured out the budget we need for this equipment: it's £384 for the structure, £241 for the timber + nuts&bolts, £94 for the rubber matts, £58 for the rope and carabiners. Plus £23 for the "prey" . In total: a mere £777 investment.
Are you still here?
Well, if you read through this loooong post, we presume that you like the idea of our grand Dog Park project. Thank you for your interest, and we hope to welcome you soon in our Dog Fitness Centre.
The team of Dog Training For Humans