Dog agility is a fun and exciting sport in which handlers direct their dogs through a complex course of challenging obstacles. The early versions of dog agility, which were loosely based on equestrian jumping events, first appeared at the 1978 Crufts Dog Show in England. Since then, agility has become the fasting growing dog sport, with competition events held each weekend around the world. Agility is enjoyed by people and dogs of all ages. Most organizations hosting competitions allow for any dogs to compete so long as participating dogs are fit and healthy enough to meet the athletic challenges of agility. There are also junior handler programs for young enthusiasts, as well as programs for veteran dogs and senior handlers.
Agility is fun and strengthens the bond between handlers and their dogs! Agility creates an opportunity to get out and have a good time with your canine companion and meet great people. Dogs, especially high energy dogs who “need a job” love the interaction, mental challenge, and physical activity provided by the sport. While extremely physical in competition, agility is also a mental sport for dogs and requires focus and concentration. Dogs must be non-aggressive and have a good and positive relationship with their handler.
The beauty of agility is that teams (dog and handler) set their own goals and work towards them at their own pace. Agility participants can earn awards at sanctioned competitions, or train just for the joy of playing with their dogs without ever competing. Measure success against your own training goals, your level of enjoyment, and by the growth of your relationship with your dog.
Whatever the goal; safety, good sportsmanship and gentle and positive handling of the dogs are the priority.
Agility training is an on-going process. Introductory training focuses on safe and correct obstacle performance (including the common obstacles such as the jump, tunnel, weave poles, dogwalk, a-frame, and see-saw). Beginning dogs and handlers also work to build a foundation of trust, motivation, and teamwork. Agility skills are developed incrementally to ensure success at each step and to maintain motivation. Experienced dog and handler teams continue working to refine their skills even as they progress through the highest levels of competition. Training for agility uses positive reinforcement to ensure the dogs work happily and at speed.
Teams can compete for titles, awards, and placement ribbons. This is optional and NOT required. You can successfully train your dog and enjoy agility without going to any competitions.
There are local, regional, and national level competitions held by various sanctioning organizations. The dog/handler team can earn titles and certificates by completing courses successfully. Placements can be earned as well. Teams are split by skill level and by the height of the dog. Adding to the challenge, every agility course in competition is different. The courses are designed by the judge and are not shown to competitors until the day of the event. Handlers are given a brief “walk-through” period to memorize the course and plan their strategy. Then, the handlers return with their dogs for their individual runs. Teams may incur faults during their run for incorrect obstacle performance or by taking obstacles out of order. Time faults may also be incurred if the team takes longer than the standard course time to complete their run. Courses typically include 15 to 25 obstacles, with allowed times of 30 to 60 seconds.