Agility Training for Anxious Dogs

Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT, wrote a great article about the benefits of agility training for anxious dogs. Many of the clients who turn to Rock Hill dog trainer Mariah Hinds have dogs who display telltale signs of anxiety and so, Mariah wanted to share this great information which originally appeared on the American Kennel Club’s website:

Gibeault brings out an important point. “If you have a fearful or anxious dog, you might think competitive dog sports are out of the question. After all,” she wrote, “if unfamiliar people, dogs, and/or environments overwhelm your dog, how can you train him to participate, let alone compete, successfully?”

As she points out, the process of agility training can be extremely beneficial for dogs who suffer from anxiety – and for the pet owners who hate to see them suffer!

“In the sport of agility, a dog and his handler complete an obstacle course. The dog tackles a fun array of obstacles, such as jumps and a seesaw (teeter-totter), in the order the handler dictates, all while racing against the clock. It requires teamwork between the dog and handler, focus, and self-control. Facing the obstacles also requires confidence. And for a fearful dog, the benefits of training these behaviors and building these personality traits are endless,” Gibeault explains.

In an agility trial, you and your dog work as a team. That requires effective and meaningful communication. And that is the basis of the agility training provided by Mariah, who is one of the most trusted dog trainers in Rock Hill.

“The focus and trust fostered in agility training will help an anxious dog off the course, as well,” Gibeault says. “If he is looking at his owner, he can’t be looking at the other people or dogs that make him nervous. What he is paying attention to is most likely what he is thinking about, so the more he looks at his owner, the less he will be overwhelmed by the world around him. And if he trusts that his owner has things under control, he will have less to worry about.”

Another really great aspect of agility training is the focus on a dog’s ability for self-control. Enhancing this ability through group dog agility training classes offered by Mariah, who is a certified dog trainer, can be extremely helpful for anxious dogs.

As Gibeault explains, “While running a course, a dog can’t simply tackle his favorite obstacle first. He needs to proceed in the sequence set out by the handler. In addition, some obstacles, such as the Dog Walk — a long, narrow elevated platform, and the seesaw have contact zones that the dog must touch with at least one paw to ensure he is entering and exiting the obstacle safely. This requires teaching the dog to control his excitement and slow down enough to make the contact. This self-control training is beneficial for anxious dogs because it helps them manage their emotions and think a situation through, rather than act on impulse.”

Gibeault concludes by saying, “There are so many advantages to teaching your anxious dog agility skills, from building his confidence to helping him focus on you instead of the world around him.” And Fort Mill dog trainer Mariah Hinds couldn’t agree more! She also agrees when Gibeault says, “it requires patience and persistence.”

If you think agility training might offer relief for your anxious four-legged friend – and for you – contact Mariah about in-home dog training or group dog training classes. You can schedule a complimentary phone consultation to answer any questions you may have.

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