Attention all Shar Pei enthusiasts and aspiring agility masters!
Have you ever watched an agility competition and thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to tackle an obstacle course with my Shar pei?” Well, you are not alone!
I thought so too and started training at our local dog school with my Shar Pei Elwood.
What is agility?
Dog agility is a dynamic canine sport where dogs navigate through an obstacle course, showcasing their speed, agility and teamwork with their handlers. The course includes jumps, tunnels, weave poles and other challenges. The goal is to complete the course accurately and swiftly. This sport highlights the bond between dog and handler. It is a thrilling display of coordination, communication and athleticism. While the shar pei may not be the first breed that comes to mind when considering agility, they possess hidden talents waiting to be discovered.
How to get started?
To embark on your shar pei’s agility journey, it is important to establish a strong foundation by teaching them the fundamentals.
With Elwood I participated in a puppy class and several obedience courses before we started our agility adventure. I found that commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “come” will serve as building blocks for their agility skills.
Agility is an off-leash sport, so obedience and a neutral behavior towards other dogs is essential. Once this is accomplished, you and your shar pei are ready to join an agility club to get started.
The most exciting aspect of agility are of course the obstacles themselves! Picture your Shar Pei maneuvering through a curved tunnel, weaving their way through a series of 10 poles, leaping through a tire or hoop in the tire Jump, and elegantly jumping hurdles of varying heights. Each obstacle presents a distinct test of agility and coordination.
One might question whether a Shar Pei can effortlessly clear a jump. Just prepare to be amazed as you witness those squishy faces gracefully navigate the air, with their wrinkles flapping like miniature flags. It is a wonderful sight that puts a smile to your face!
There are several different jumps in an agility course. The height and width they are required to jump depends on the size of the dog. Elwood is (like most Shar Pei) a relatively heavy dog compared to other dog breeds of the same height. Therefor we practice with jumps at low height to protect his joints.
The Dog Walk
The Dog Walk resembles a balancing act. Consisting of a narrow walking board with angled ramps on each end, this obstacle challenges our Shar Pei to maintain their equilibrium while traversing the ramps at full speed. This obstacle is challenging, and the handler has to put it the effort to give the dog the necessary confidence to be able to conquer this obstacle. Often bigger or wider build breeds need a little more time.
The tunnel is an obstacle the dog has to run through, it is 5 meters long can be straight or at an angle. A course can have several tunnels. Many dogs love this obstacle, it’s fun and it is save to do for dogs of any age.
The A-Frame is like a miniature mountain. It comprises two ramps hinged together in a triangular structure. The lower portions of the ramps are painted in a distinct color to mark the contact areas. These areas need to be touched by the dog.
The Tyre Jump
The dog has to jump through a hoop or a tyre. This fun jump can be quite a challenge!
The weave poles
The weave poles are one of the most challenging obstacles to teach the dog. The dog has to go through the poles in a zig-zag pattern without skipping one!
The training process
Throughout the agility training process, it is crucial to maintain an atmosphere of positivity and celebration. Reward your dog for it’s accomplishments, no matter how small, and revel in it’s achievements. Use treats, engaging play sessions, and words of praise to reinforce correct behavior and foster the ongoing progress.
One important rule is that punishment has no place. Agility is a sport rooted in speed, excitement, and positive experiences for both you and your dog. Focus on creating an enjoyable training environment that our Shar Pei will adore. Remember, a happy Shar pei is much more likely to cooperate and excel!
As training advances, gradually reduce the frequency of rewards. Transition to offering rewards at the completion of a full course, mirroring the conditions of a competitive event. This gradual shift prepares your Shar Pei for the challenges that lie ahead while ensuring their unwavering focus and enthusiasm.
Well-being and safety
As with any activity involving, safety remains of utmost importance. Prioritize your Shar Pei his wellbeing by scheduling a thorough veterinary exam before getting started, find a knowledgeable trainer and build up the training gradually. Opt for durable jumps and obstacles that can withstand their enthusiastic efforts, safeguarding against any inadvertent mishaps.
Relish the journey
Always bear in mind that agility training represents an educational and exhilarating journey for both you and your dog. It is an opportunity to strengthen the bond between you, enhance their skills, and explore the remarkable world of agility together. Above all, relish the journey!
Agility training is about creating marvelous moments with your pup, witnessing the sheer delight on their face as they conquer an obstacle, and sharing in the fun that fills the training field. So let’s assemble our training treats, anticipate the heartwarming sight of wrinkle-filled smiles, and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime! Shar Pei agility training is poised to captivate the world!
Foto’s by Jan van Ommen
Training field and obstacles used belong to dog training centre ‘Hondenschool Darwin’ in Wilp, The Netherlands