Obedience classes for dogs provide structure for the dog while agility classes provide them with much needed physical and mental exercise. This is especially true for dogs that live in urban settings and may not have enough space to exercise, run, and play freely. They're also good for the owners that accompany their pets.
Someone that understands this well is Simone Ritter, dog agility trainer at Oh My Dog! in Vancouver, Canada. After adopting her dog, a rescued Portuguese Podengo named Jiaozi, Simone noticed he was experiencing behavioral issues including fear of other dogs. When the situation was not improving, Ritter started to research what she could do to address her dog's condition. During the process, Ritter realized two things; 1) she loves dog, and 2) she wanted to help not only her dog but other dog owners in similar situations.
In 2009, she was certified through The International College of Canine Behavioral Science to provide obedience and agility training classes. Simone makes one distinction though, she holds agility classes for fun, not for competition. Ritter states, "Dogs respond well to games and mental stimulation, when they are shy, anxious, or fearful, obedience and training classes allow them to come out of their shell. Agility classes can make them feel more confident utilizing the agility equipment while being rewarded for their skills."
In Vancouver, open spaces for dogs to roam freely or to hold agility classes is limited. Ritter wanted to provide an opportunity for dog owners to learn how to lead their dogs throughout an agility course, even if only for fun. This resulted in a partnership with Oh My Dog! (www.ohmydogtraining.com), a well-rated training and overnight boarding facility that utilizes humane strategies to eliminate unwanted behavior. Oh My Dog! had the space to hold obedience and agility classes, so it was a natural partnership for both parties. At this point, Ritter invested in new agility equipment to install in the existing outdoor green space at the facility. She chose a free range concept design for her space as it provides plenty of opportunities for both dog owners and dogs to be physically active. She chose to include wave posts, a hurdle, an A-frame, a bridge, a table, a jump, a vented tunnel, a set of platforms and a teeter totter as it allows for a wide range of motions, skill practice and training exercises.
Classes are held from May through August or September (depending on weather). The weekly group classes are one-hour long lasting for six weeks at a time. She also offers obedience classes, puppy group classes, and private in-home training. Classes start with an overview of safety, proper warm up exercises, impulse control, and rear body awareness before dogs move to the agility equipment.
Reflecting on why agility classes are important to a dog's development, Ritter shares how exercising helps dogs release stored energy, especially for high-energy dog breeds. In addition, classes allow owners to bond with their dogs, teach them about basic obedience commands, and keep them calm and focused. She adds that most dogs enjoy the agility and obedience classes.