Agility training should be fun. Use a motivator to train your dog, whatever it likes best. Whether it’s treats or toys, reward the dog often.
Each obstacle should have a different name. The dogs will eventually learn each obstacle and need to be able to locate them on a course. Dogs learn the finer techniques required for agility competition by training obstacles in groups of sequences, not by running courses. Most training should focus on sequence work and directional controls.
Before beginning a training session, make sure the dog is properly warmed up. This is more important in agility than in obedience. You can injure your dog if you begin sequences or a course without warming the dog up first.
Do not train the dog with any sort of slip collar or pinch collar. They may easily get caught on a contact obstacle, and may result in strangling the dog.
Be careful with the leash when training. Keep it clear of the contact obstacles. As with the collar, the leash may get hung on a contact obstacle and result in strangling the dog. When doing jump sequences dogs should generally jump at a height lower than they normally jump. The point to sequence work is learning direction, control and timing.
Dogs should be given lavish praise and an abundance of cookies when they have successfully completed an obstacle or sequence that had previously been difficult. Break off the sequence or exercise after successful negotiation of that obstacle or sequence, and give the dog a jackpot reward.
Most mistakes will be yours, not the dog’s. When you make a mistake, don't get upset with yourself. The dog won't know that you're mad at yourself and not it. When you make a mistake, laugh at yourself, and let the dog think that what it did was correct. Dog shut down more from the handler getting mad at themselves than from the handler being mad at the dog - they just don't know the difference, because the tone of voice can sound the same. If the dog makes a mistake, use “Uh oh” or “Oops” to let the dog know that wasn’t right. This MUST be said in a light tone of voice. Negatives or corrections generally not allowed. The exceptions to this are:
Keep training sessions short. The dog should always end with a success. Even if you have to back up to something easier, the dog must end on a successful sequence.
Train equally for right side and left side handling. Start training weave poles from the beginning. You’ll be glad you did! Do not allow the dogs on the contact obstacles unattended.
Consistency is the key to training. Your body will tell the dog where it is to go next. Be consistent with your body signals. Don’t “lie” to the dog. Above all else, keep your dog’s safety in mind.
Training should be fun for both you and the dog. If you’re not having fun, stop for the day.
PetGuide has a great directory of dog training tips that you can check into. Their editors write pretty regularly on new ideas to help you train your dog.
Please consult the services of a Professional Dog Trainer, Behaviorist or Veterinarian before implementing any of the advice contained on this site.