A while back we talked about Agility Dog, introducing you to this world-famous sport. It’s a great sports activity where a human-canine team faces an obstacle course and tries to cover the entire course with the least amount of errors and in the least amount of time.
The most important aspect of Agility is having a well-disciplined dog, something we often find hard to achieve by ourselves. To learn more about this, we went to have a chat with Genny Rigon, the president of the WolfSpirit canine training centre in Gambugliano (VI), to understand why.
Ms Rigon, at the WolfSpirit canine training centre one can take part in educational classes, Obedience Rally and Agility activities. Could you please explain the differences between them?
Education classes are very important in terms of getting a better understanding of your dog’s behaviour. It creates the trust that is at the basis of canine disciplines, it teaches them to face different types of situations in a controlled environment.
Obedience Rally consists of exercises for all dogs and all the owners over a prescribed course, not unlike Agility, but with a softer approach.
Agility, compared to Obedience Rally, is based on encouraging your dog to play, run and compete-collaborate with the handler who runs alongside the dog as he or she yells out instructions along the entire course.
When is the best time to start this education? Is it suitable for already mature dogs?
The best time to start educating your dog is when the pup is still from 2½ to 6 months old, whereas proper training can start at the age of 6 months and older.
Dogs that have already been with us for long periods of time and need re-education are not a problem at all. On the contrary! If the dog is healthy, he can take part in Agility up until 8 years of age.
What’s the difference between education and training?
Education classes teach dogs to obey, to manage their resources and to “be a dog.”
At the centre we focus a lot on an approach that strives to undo some of the over-humanisation of our four-legged friends.
During training, on the other hand, we teach our 4-legged friends competence in various disciplines, like Agility.
Do you need a special breed of dog to get good results with Agility and Obedience Rally?
Not at all! My 9 year-old Pepita, for example, is the 6th level regional champion in Obedience Rally and she’s a mutt!
Pepita loves it when we compete together, she wags her tail with excitement and nothing gives me greater satisfaction. It is important to let them know that we can do anything by showing them patience, understanding and consistency. We do not use coercive methods here because we consider our dogs to be play-friends, not a means to achieve a goal.
What advice can you give us to better educate our dog?
The first advice is not to think of food as the main means with which to create a rapport with our dog. Use it in the beginning to convince the dog to do something, but then make it into a game to play to imbed positive behaviour patterns that would otherwise fade away.
Another piece of advice I can offer is to use the carrier. In nature, dogs like to dig caves for themselves, but now that they live in our homes this has changed. What hasn’t changed is their need for a “safe place” to which to repair. The carrier becomes that safe place, a refuge, if you will.
Who would you advise to take part in Obedience Rally and Agility?
I would recommend Agility to younger dogs, up to about 9 years of age, and to anyone who wants to be out of doors and active with their dog. Obedience Rally can be done with dogs of any age, it’s great for building a good rapport between the dog and the owner.
We thank Genny kindly for her advice and the time she took to talk with us. If you are in the area, go visit her in Gambugliano, you’ll be amazed at the wide open space, the expanse of green and the surrounding hills where so many wonderful dogs spend quality time with their equally wonderful owners.