Agility training promotes dogs’ health, wellness

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By Karla Kelly

With ears flying and mouth wide in a doggie grin, ‘Patches’ sails through the final jump of the obstacle course to receive a well-earned pat and words of praise from his owner.

The five-year-old border collie has just finished a race through the dog agility course set up by owner Mikaela Marr in the backyard of their home in New Tusket.

Marr, who became involved with agility training with her first border collie ‘Rylee’ nine years ago, plans to offer this training to dog owners in the Weymouth area in an eight-week course over the summer months.

Dog agility is a popular sport where the owner or handler directs a dog through various obstacles such as tire jumps, weave poles, teeter-totter, tunnels and A-frame, with voice, hand and body commands, Marr said last week.

“Dogs are bred to work alongside humans or their person and this training gives them a job and purpose. These courses fulfill the hunting and chasing desires of your dog,” she said.

“Dogs can display negative behavior often due to boredom, inactivity or lack of training but agility training gets rid of their excess energy while teaching them to follow commands and challenging their mind and body.”

Marr says an active dog is a happy dog, and agility training is a great way to promote their health and wellness.

“There are so many positives to this type of dog training that benefit not only the dog but the owner or handler as well,” she said.

“Agility training fosters the bond between the dog and his handler and it gets you both in shape since the human has to keep pace to direct the dog through the obstacles.”

Marr says agility training engages a dog’s mind and turns him into a thinking dog, one that has to think on his own.

To start agility training, it is beneficial to dog and handler if basic commands of ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘down’ and ‘recall’ are known.

“It is better if they have these basic commands but they don’t need to be perfect” she said. “It will be more challenging for dog and handler teams if they don't have those four basic skills at least started.”

Marr said dogs and owners are initially taught with the dog on leash as they learn all the obstacles and how each is performed. Participants begin at the starter’s level which is the basic course and progress through to the advanced level.

“Each session is an hour and some of the training came be practiced at home.”

Over the nine years Marr and her dogs were involved with agility training, she relied on handmade and second-hand equipment to practice at home but that changed this spring.

 “The two people who ran the agility group in Yarmouth retired, so the opportunity to purchase a full complement of regulation-size equipment in order to set up my own group was made available.”

Marr said the benefits her two border collies and the other dogs participating in the agility training received were too good not to pass along the same opportunity to other dog owners.

“This is a venture I had intended to set up later on down the road and it has happened sooner than I thought,” she said. “I am excited about offering this service.”

Training sessions will open to dogs of all breeds ages six months and older and Marr said that even dogs older than seven will have their own division.

“These older dogs are in the veteran division and when they are out on the course they are having a good time. They can still participate.

“No matter the division your dog is in it is fun watching their enthusiasm for running the course, you can see the joy and happiness in their faces and that is reward enough.”

Marr said the first dog agility lesson begins July 9 and runs until Aug. 27.

“I have not confirmed the venue at present but hope to shortly,” she said.

Anyone interested can call Marr at 837-4334 or e-mail


Geographic location: New Tusket, Weymouth, Yarmouth

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