The Australian Cattle Dog, also referred to as a Blue or Red heeler depending on their coat color, is an intelligent, energetic, highly trainable working dog developed for herding cattle. They are also ideal for activities like agility. Because they are highly motivated to work and have lots of energy, Australian Cattle Dogs get excited about learning agility obstacles and their athletic ability makes them real naturals. Like most herding dogs, they are extremely intelligent, able to problem solve, and learn complex behaviors. This can make learning agility obstacles easier for Australian Cattle Dogs than some other breeds. However, because they are also very independent and can be stubborn at times, you will need to have established a good relationship and obedience with your dog prior to starting agility training. Being successful at running agility courses takes a lot of work on the part of the handler and the dog to practice and develop conditioning, ability, and skills. Fortunately, your Australian Cattle Dog is a worker! He is more than capable of putting in the effort, you just need to match his enthusiasm and running agility courses will be lots of fun for both of you.
An agility course contains all sorts of obstacles, including, jumps, weave poles, tunnels, and contact obstacles. Jumps can be series of hurdles, taller upright jumps, hoops, and long jumps and come in all kinds of sizes and shapes. Jumps are adjusted to the height of the individual dog performing them. Ramps like “A” frames, seesaws and elevated dog walks are used, as are pause tables that a dog needs to jump on and may be required to sit or stay on. Several of these obstacles have designated areas where your dog needs to make contact with his paws to successfully complete the obstacle--these are called contact obstacles.
Because agility obstacles can be strenuous, especially jumps, make sure your dog is physically able to perform them prior to initiating training. A veterinarian can identify whether your Australian Cattle Dog has any orthopedic conditions that would prevent him from performing agility obstacles. Young dogs are often introduced to agility obstacles, however, they may not be physically or mentally mature enough to perform all obstacles and sequence performing obstacles until they develop further.
Before running agility courses, you should have established a good working relationship with your Australian Cattle Dog, and your dog should be reliably trained to respond to verbal commands and preform obedience commands on and off leash. You will need to set up agility obstacles in a contained area, like a fenced yard or a large indoor area. Many agility obstacles can be homemade, but make sure they are sturdy and safe and that your dog will not become injured using them. Agility obstacles are also available commercially. Local kennel clubs and dog sport organizations can provide information on obstacles, sizing, and spacing and give tips and specifications for creating and setting up obstacles. To reinforce successfully completing obstacles and encourage your dog, treats in the form of food or a toy to play with can be used.