Last weekend Lizzie and I put on an agility demo in our little town as part of its annual "Huckleberry Festival" celebration. Most of the people had only seen agility on TV, if that.
After the demo, lots of folks came up to ask questions. Among the comments I heard repeated all weekend were:
"My dog could probably go over those jumps, but there's NO WAY I'd EVER get her to go up that bridge thing."
"Sparky'd probably do some of that stuff, but never in a thousand years would he go through that tunnel or that chute thing."
"My dog doesn't pay attention to me enough to be able to learn that stuff."
You wanna bet???
The hardest thing to make people understand about dog training (and especially agility) is that the dogs aren't EXPECTED to do all this stuff by themselves right away! You, the owners, teach them, step by step, in a way that makes the activity FUN for the dog. NO dog is expected (let alone encouraged or even allowed) to tackle a full course of agility equipment without proper training and guidance. If you think your dog would NEVER go up a dogwalk or A-frame, you are mistaken. You TEACH them to do those things in a safe, correct way. With the right motivation (treats, toys, praise, for example), your dog quickly learns the exercise you're teaching him, and learns to LOVE the activity.
Running an agility course correctly and safely takes months if not years of training. In the process, you enjoy a wonderful bonding experience with your dog. His confidence, strength and stamina increase, as do yours.
Remember the first time your parents put you on a metal slide at the park? It was scary! But after you'd done it a couple times, with Mommy or Daddy there to support and encourage, you couldn't wait to do it all by yourself. That's how agility is for many dogs. They'd never think of scrambling up over an A-frame all by themselves. But if you show them how much fun it is, they'll catch on...guaranteed!
Now...you still wanna bet your dog won't do that chute thing?