Create a Dog Agility Course in Your Own Back Yard

Spending more time than usual with your dog these days? Put the time to good use with these tips from one of the Park Authority’s dog obedience and agility instructors.

SR Dog Obedience_190411_0064

Kids are doing their school lessons from home these days. Why not a little homeschooling for your dog?

COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of obedience and agility classes for now, but pet owners can use this time to practice some basic obedience behaviors with their dogs so they will be ready when classes begin again. All the Park Authority’s upper-level classes require a dog to be able to sit, lie down, stay and come. Practice those commands in your back yard, front yard or down the street in front of a neighbor’s house.

Dogs are situational learners, so get out and explore and ask your dog to do those behaviors on his leash in new areas.  You might be surprised to find that it will be hard for them when they have lots of different smells and things happening around them.

If you think you might want to explore our agility programs, you can start by teaching some basic skills to get your dog ready.

Use a card table, place a towel or blanket over it, and ask your dog to tunnel through it. This will become the tunnel and chute behavior in class. (“Tunnel” is the command word)

If you own a hoola hoop, place the hoop in either hand. Keeping one edge on the ground, ask your dog to walk through it from one side to the other and then back again. This will help get the dog get ready for the tire jump. (“Tire” is the command)

You can use a couple of bricks and a broom stick to teach your dog to jump. Place the bricks on the ground and lay the broomstick over the top. Keep this low. You don’t need height. You just need to have the dog pick up his back feet to jump. This is the skill we will need in class. (“Jump” or “Over” is the command)

Another exercise will help your dog learn where his feet and back end are located. This can be taught by placing a ladder on the ground. Ask the dog to walk the ladder keeping his feet and legs between the rails and stepping over the rungs. (“Walk It” is the command)

Dog Agility_042516_0090Dogs will also need a skill called two on and two off. To teach this behavior, take a small butter or yogurt lid, put a treat on top and place it at the bottom of the stairs. With your dog on leash, ask him to walk down the stairs and at the bottom keep the two front feet on the landing (where the treat is) and the back two feet and the rest of the body still on the staircase. (“Target” or “Bottom” is the command)

Dogs can be taught all of these skills by positive reinforcement with treats, a marker word or a clicker. Kids can help, too, with a little parental supervision. Be enthusiastic, make it fun, but keep it safe!

I hope this gives you something to work on during our days away and that we will see you in one of our Pet Place programs soon.

The Fairfax County Park Authority has one of the largest dog training programs in Northern Virginia offering everything from puppy, general obedience and agility classes to competition classes. There’s even a camp for kids and their dogs. Go to Parktakes online and search the Pet Place category to see a complete list of canine classes.

Author Debbie Barrows is an instructor with the Park Authority. She can be reached at intrepidgoldens@hotmail.com.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/social-hub/ for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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