I really need to get down to work, but just one more thought (the whole purpose of this blog is for me to empty my brain of all these nagging thoughts so I can get on with thinking about other things!).
I was just looking quickly at a few other dog blogs before settling into work, and I noticed some really fancy agility set-ups designed to increase a dog’s ability to twist and turn and react quickly to a course. Is it just me, or is agility is getting more and more complicated and equipment dependent? I think this is one of the reasons I am doing it less and less – I don’t have equipment to train on, other than a jump and four weave poles – and it is a big pain to drive 30 minutes each way to train. For some reason I don’t find this nearly as burdensome to do for sheep. But I digress…
My thought is simply that this morning I took my dogs down to the woods and let them run. I said nothing, and simply walked along the path. They, of their own accord, ran a harder, faster agility course than one could ever set up intentionally. The forest is a mess, covered in downed trees and rotting logs. The area floods regularly and is covered in branches and other swamp sludge from the bottom of the river. I should try and get some photos to show just how complicated the footing is for the dogs. Yet they race through it at mock 10 speed, chasing each other or some poor squirrel who didn’t hide quickly enough. And they keep this up for the entire walk.
I did 100% of my malinois’s training in the woods, prior to ever trying agility. We just played – I taught her to jump and go over and under and even race up logs and to fetch and to search. When we finally discovered agility, she could do any piece of equipment without hesitation. Perhaps this is why Hannah was able to run an agility course, without any hesitation or bars down, after not seeing agility equipment for 5 months.
Now I realize that the purpose of agility is to work with your dog, and to get the dog to follow a sequence according to your requests. And I understand that not everyone has access to forests in which to run their dogs, and in that case fancy equipment meant to simulate forests is a great option. But I am going to continue to just let my dogs run free as their main training for this sport.