Sure it is!
Agility builds a unique relationship with our dog, it's not a sport for working dogs only, it is very beneficial for the more "independent" dogs as well. Through agility, the dogs learn to work with their companion/handler and build a strong mutual trust relationship.
The first time I decided to try agility was when I first saw an agility show by the Athens Agility Addicts team and the trainer Efi Papadopoulou. Then I thought: is there any chance for my Saya to complete a full course? Two voices were arguing in my mind , the one was like "don't even think about it" and the other "you will never know if you don't try"
Efi Papadopoulou when asked , was very encouraging , "if you work hard you will see progress and I am sure the dogs will love it!"
Of course my dogs aren't competitive compared to traditional agility dogs, but me, my children (George & Katerina) and our gogs keep training together and have fun. When it comes to performance: well, there are times that after a complete course I feel like it was a huge triumph. I can't describe my feelings and pride. I hug my dogs to show them they accomplished something really great! Their response and body language shows they had as much fun as I did. Of course in order to keep them motivated I give them tons of treats. Occasionally, when we successfully complete a course , our trainer Efi teases us by saying: "is this an akita, are you sure?"
Other times, stubborn as they are, they decide to slowly walk around the course or even completely forget about it and roam around smelling flowers, eat some grass or even follow their own shortcuts because they feel it would be best to lie on our couch instead of running around.
With akitas , agility expectations aren't as high as they would be with a border collie, we know we can't compete with them and we simply enjoy the sport with our dogs. We build an incredible cooperation and relationship , especially with my kids, they have so much fun and work extremely well together. Even then, akitas keep reminding us that "they know better", they simply stop and give us the look: "OK, now you do it and I watch". It's the moment of confusion, you don't know what to do, laugh, cry or lie down and start begging them to finish the course.
Agility in general is a very good physical and mental exercise. Our dogs socialize, learn to behave well and build a kind of friendly relationship with other dogs. There are always exceptions of course, if our "dog-coathletes" aren't properly socialized then we may occasionally have some "doggy arguments". Besides that, agility is an excellent way of exercise for humans and dogs, we both must be watching each other, run together and make sure we give the right signals at the right moment. We must be concetrated, precise and well behaved. It's an absolute must that agility dogs have gone through the basic training , they are already highly socialized and obedient, otherwise you will get in trouble.
Akitas aren't so energetic, so after a training they lie down for hours and maybe get up to drink some water. I always make sure that we don't ask them to do things beyond their abilities and limits, in addition to that I keep in mind that they get bored easily and quickly. I respect that and don't put any pressure on them.
Nothing is perfect, we keep trying and failing. Many times when one of my kids runs with one of our dogs, our friends outside the course keep teasing me: "get the kid a collie, leave the akita home". This isn't disappointing , most of the times it's our motive to keep trying and keep having fun. We don't want to win the race, we want to enjoy quality time with our dogs and we do that very well.
Photos by: Natassa Kostaki , Agility Addicts, Angelina Koutsougera
We are training at: Athens Agility Addicts