Getting The Dog Off The Sofa

This is Harry, the French Bassett Hound who spends his time eating food, barking at anyone who walks past the house and lying on sofas he isn’t allowed on.

He’s a pretty lazy dog, who has combined that with a grumpiness very rarely seen outside of old men. He’s only just reaching middle age for his breed, so has prematurely arrived at his senior stage. He’s good at refusing to go any further on walks, loves food a little too much and doesn’t like Emma as she doesn’t take any nonsense from him.

Harry is also lovely, a genuinely welcoming and warm dog who is fun to be around and easy to live with. We are always a little harsh to him, but it’s only because we have high expectations for him. Which is exactly why we are about to try a makeshift dog agility course with him.

Emma has reliably informed me that he used to do agility (he’ll do anything for food) and was, by all reports, pretty good at it when he was a pup. Let’s see if he’s remembered …

When done well, agility is an exciting sport to watch. There is a connection between dog and owner, as they move from jumps to weaves to seesaws with only a couple of shouts and the pointing of a finger. If you think it’s a sport only for the dog, you couldn’t be further from the truth. To be good at the sport, you have to be fit. Dogs run fast, and as a handler it’s your job to keep up with them.

We are lucky enough to have a dog agility trainer in our village. I met her for an interview as part of my course for sports journalism and she allowed me to have a go with her dogs. I’m in fairly decent shape, but the sport was way too quick for me.

It’s hard to explain without having done it, but you have to think three or four stages ahead of where you are. To do it at competition level, you have to remember the course, as you are directing where the dog should go. It’s completely up to you. The dog could be the fastest dog in the competition, but if you don’t know which way they should enter tunnels then they will fail. It’s hard. It’s one of the most difficult sports I’ve sampled. Not many sports combine memory power with athletic ability.

Harry was decent. But we were shocking, and forgot the routes we created. As referred to above, the training for both the mind and body is obvious. If you have a dog, I’d recommend you give it a go. It’s pretty good fun, and great exercise for both the dog and yourself.

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