For dogs, physical activity and mental stimulation spells a happy, healthy life. Amongst other activities that combine both is dog agility - an increasingly popular canine sport that promotes human-canine communication and exercises your dog in more ways than one.

Agility involves a variety of obstacles, such as tunnels, weave poles, jumps and teeter-totters, which the handler must direct the dog through as quickly and accurately as they can. To do well, a dog should be focused, confident and energetic, as well as fully in-tune with its handler to respond to their cues.

Just as parents may encourage their children to take up sports or extracurricular activities to develop key skills, dogs can develop many of the same skills when placed in an engaging and challenging situation.

If you're interested in improving your dog's training and getting active, then agility could be just the thing for you. Here are a handful of benefits to be found in dog agility, which might just encourage you to take up the sport!

1) Exercise. This is perhaps the most obvious benefit of dog agility, which is great for dogs with excess energy to burn. Navigating agility courses challenges both the body and mind so dogs are properly tired at its end. Not only will agility help strengthen your dog's muscles, it will also improve his coordination, flexibility and endurance, in turn benefiting his all-round fitness.

Being a handler also carries a similar benefit as it involves running alongside your dog, assisting him as he jumps etc. In short, dog agility is the perfect workout for both of you!

2) Reinforces good behaviours. Agility is a sport that combines both skill and training, with particular focus on obedience. Off-leash reliability is essential if your dog is to excel at agility and have a clear round, avoiding faults. As the involvement of the handler is limited to just voice and body signals, your dog must be attentive to subtle instructions and be able to respond to them with speed and accuracy.

But being able to walk on leash in a calm and controlled manner at the start of the event is also critical, so agility not only teaches running and jumping, but the importance of self-control.

3) Strengthens the bond between dog and handler. Because the handler is limited in what they can do, there must be the utmost trust between the pair if the dog is to negotiate as many as 20 obstacles by himself. Communication is key here and the better the communication, the greater the trust, confidence and success of the competing pair. Of course, this kind of relationship on-course will also have a positive effect off-course too.

4) The social factor. Many people enjoy dog agility (not to mention their dogs!) which means there is ample opportunity to make friends in the sport. This is surely the icing on top of the cake when you think of all the other incredible benefits!

If you do dog agility, let us know what you love about it! Comment below or email me your thoughts: [email protected]

Written by: Hannah