The Importance of Learning Foundation Skills in Dog Agility Training - Part 3

Foundation skills in Dog Agility
Reading time – 4 mins
In the final part of our series on the importance of foundation skills, we’re looking at how to build in those skills into your everyday routine.

If you missed them, here is Part 1 / Part 2

Incorporating Foundation Skills into Everyday Training

Start Small
Begin each training session with simple foundation exercises to warm up your dog and reinforce basic skills. These could include targeting, recalls or shaping behaviours like pivoting or circling a cone.
Be Consistent
Consistency in training is essential for building a solid foundation. Ensure you maintain consistent cues, rewards and criteria across all exercises to avoid confusion and reinforce learning.
Progress Gradually
As your dog becomes proficient in foundational exercises, gradually increase the level of difficulty. This could involve adding distractions, increasing the duration or distance of behaviours, or introducing new elements such as obstacles or equipment.
Mix it Up
Keep your training sessions exciting and engaging by incorporating various exercises. Alternate between foundation exercises to prevent boredom and maintain your dog’s focus and enthusiasm.
Focus on Fundamentals
While agility training often emphasises speed and precision, don’t overlook the importance of fundamental skills such as attention, impulse control and body awareness. These key skills form the basis for more advanced agility moves.
Target Specific Weaknesses
Identify areas where your dog may struggle or show inconsistency and target those weaknesses during training sessions. Break down complex skills into smaller components and focus on strengthening each aspect individually.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is essential for motivating your dog and reinforcing desired behaviours. Use a variety of rewards such as treats, toys or praise to keep training sessions enjoyable and rewarding for your dog.
Keep Sessions Short and Fun
Keep training sessions short and focused to prevent fatigue and maintain your dog's engagement. Aim for multiple short sessions throughout the day rather than one long session, as this will maximise learning and retention.
End on a Positive Note
Always end your training sessions positively, even if progress is slow or challenges are encountered. Celebrate your dog’s successes and accomplishments, no matter how small, to keep them motivated and eager to participate in future sessions.
Seek Professional Guidance
Consider seeking guidance from a professional dog trainer or agility instructor, especially if you’re new to agility training or encountering difficulties with specific exercises. An experienced trainer can provide personalised guidance and feedback to help you and your dog progress effectively.

The Importance of Variety and Play in Maintaining Engagement and Motivation

Variety and fun play a big part in keeping dogs interested and eager during training. When training is fun and rewarding, dogs want to join in and enjoy themselves. Being engaged means dogs strongly connect with their handler, helping them listen and respond better to commands.
Motivation keeps dogs going, making them keen to do training activities. Without interest and motivation, learning and improving skills become much more demanding. So, adding different fun activities to training keeps dogs lively and interested and helps build a stronger relationship between you, leading to better training results.


As we've seen over the three parts of this series, dog agility training is a journey that requires commitment, patience and strong fundamental skills. We've examined how necessary these foundation skills are, from simple obedience to mastering complex obstacles. These skills make you more efficient, make the course safer and strengthen the bond between you and your dog.
Putting in the time to learn these basics sets you up for success, whether aiming for competitions or just enjoying training. Keeping sessions fun and varied helps keep your dog interested and happy.
If you're keen to improve your agility training, why not take what you've learned here and put it into practice? Whether starting out or looking to get even better, there's always a chance to build on your foundation and grow closer to your dog.
Let's set off on this exciting agility journey together, step by step, with commitment and positive reinforcement leading the way to success. Check out our events page for details of our sessions.

Sian's Top Tip

Create a reinforcement zone. Dogs will repeat a behaviour that leads to success, including moving into a location or zone.
Your dog’s strongest zone needs to be immediately surrounding you, wherever you happen to be. Instead of throwing a ball away from you for your dog to fetch (which reinforces the idea of being away from you), try rolling it on the floor by your feet.
Better still, get a ball on the end of a tuggy strap (like those made and sold by Paws Trading) and play short games of tug-of-war with it.
Make a point daily, or even hourly, if you have a puppy or are new to your dog, of finding opportunities to reward it. Spend some moments walking around your home or back garden with your dog. Each time they look at you, place a treat by your feet in line with your trouser seam. Walk off whilst they are eating, and keep walking and watching for the next time they look at you without being called.
Be patient. If your dog gets distracted by exploring the environment, let it, even if it takes a minute or two. Watch them 100% of the time for the very moment they look at you. Celebrate verbally, as this will draw your dog towards you, and then place (not drop) a treat next to you. Keep repeating for five minutes at a time.