In competition, dogs not only have to race their tails off, they also have to heel at the appropriate time. Professional trainers say amateur handlers should be unflaggingly positive and spend at least an hour a day of quality time—jogging, playing, etc.—with their pupil to build a strong dog-trainer bond. Once your dog starts to flourish, the professional trainers recommend—surprise!—that you send her to work with professional trainers. An academy like Mah's charges $75 an hour for private lessons. Most champion agility dogs are anywhere from 3 to 7 years old, so get cracking on those application forms!
By now, you're teaching your pooch commands, rewarding him for doing your chores, and feeding him high-end, protein-rich food. She can weave through an obstacle course, jump 20 feet, and all but crack a wall safe to find a tennis ball. But what if she turns out to be an athletic bust, just like your other kids? At least she'll be fitter and happier. The USDAA's Heather Smith says her miniature schnauzer gets the same social benefits out of the sporting life that a person might. "I know my little dog. He has his little agility classmates, and his fly-ball teammates, and they recognize each other, and know each other," she says. "I think they do. I'm sure they do."