Dog agility courses are good for our bodies and our brains.

She’s holding a treat. Must … have …
that … treat.

“Ready?” the woman called.

I was born ready – ready for that treat!


That was my cue. With my eyes on the prize, I jumped over a hurdle, up a ramp, down a ramp, turned right – no, left – still chasing that treat. I raced through a tunnel and onto a pause table – four, three, two, one … off I went again. Then, one more jump. Done.

While I caught my breath, my friend Julian the Lhasa Apso ran the course. Don’t be fooled by the long hair, he’s no rookie to competition. He fetches flying discs and clears agility obstacles in record time.

The other day, I joined Julian and his brothers at the training grounds to brush up on my skills. As we leaped over hurdles and climbed the A-frame, we recognized that these skills mimic our natural instincts. In the wild, dogs are hunters, chasing after prey. While in pursuit, we often jump over logs, burrow through bushes, and teeter on steep slopes. Since our goal is to catch the prey, time is important and the faster dog will wind up with a tasty meal.

Agility taps into these inherent abilities, but also challenges our body and mind. It’s the perfect combo of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Plus, it gives a dog and his owner something cool to do together. Dog sport trainer, Norma Brizzi agrees.

“It’s an excellent bonding activity for dogs and their people,” she says.

The training builds a common language between dog and owner as we reply to cues as we move through the course.

Jumps, tunnels, and walkways are just a few of the obstacles.

Interested in taking part? Competitions take place in the company of dogs and their owners, so you must be comfortable with meeting strangers. Since competitions are off-leash, you must also be under control at all times and respond to basic obedience commands.

The good news? You don’t need to compete to reap the benefits.  You can take a class to get your paws wet and then practice at home.

Whether for fun or competition, agility is a sport that can be done by dogs of all breeds and sizes. Obstacles can be adjusted and courses can be arranged to provide new challenges that strengthen our muscles and enrich our connection with our human.

Want to watch top canines out-dog the competition? Grab a leash and head to Jacksonville Equestrian Center on Dec. 11, 12 and 13 for The Paw & Pals USDAA Agility Trials. Admission is free. Contact Norma Brizzi at nmbrizzi@gmail.com or go to travisdgibson.wordpress.com for details.