In case you have not heard of or seen dog agility, here’s a bit of background information:
Its first occurrence was at the Crufts dog show in the UK in 1978 as entertainment for the audience between obedience and conformation competitions. It was largely a jumping-style course resembling something from the equestrian world to demonstrate dogs’ natural speed and agility with added obstacles like ‘under and over’ (A-Frame and tunnel), tire hoop, weave poles, collapsed (canvas) tunnel and catwalk (dogwalk). The demonstration immediately intrigued dog owners because of its speed and challenge and the dexterity displayed by the dogs. People wanted to see more, and also wanted their own dogs to be able to participate.
Nowadays in Alberta there are 4 main venues who offer agility competitions, AAC (Agility Association of Canada), NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council). UKI (UK International) and CKC (Canadian Kennel Club). I chose to compete in AAC so that’s what I’ll be referring to. There are differences between the organizations but also many similarities.
Quoting from the AAC website (www.aac.ca): The AAC, founded in 1988, is committed to promoting inclusive, competitive dog agility at a local, regional, national and international level, for all handlers and dogs without regard to pedigree.
Agility is a challenge and a competition to be enjoyed by handler, dog and spectator. The main elements of the sport are good sportsmanship and fun for the dogs and handler.
There are 3 different levels at which dogs and their handlers compete: Starters, Advanced and Masters. Every dog starts in Starters and moves up when a specific number of qualifying scores has been achieved. There is a standard class and 5 different games (gamblers, jumpers, snooker, team relay and steeplechase) which all require different handling and skill sets. Dogs compete in either Regulars, Specials (lower jump height) or Veterans (7 years and older). The rules allow most dogs to compete at a level they’re comfortable at and many still compete at mature ages. Robin was still competing in limited runs/day until age 13½, since he only had to jump 10” in the veterans class.
Since I started competing in 2005 I’ve seen quite an increase in difficulty but as handling methods and techniques progress, the teams become able to handle these challenges with accuracy and speed.
I compete in AAC and UKI because I like the classes and format plus the fact that all breeds and mixed breeds are allowed to play. The competition is very friendly and supportive of each other. AAC keeps track of qualifying runs on their website and sends out certificates when titles are earned. The variety of classes offered challenges my skills as a trainer and handler and keeps the sport interesting.
Before you start teaching your dog to jump and go through hoops, I have to warn you that it’s addictive and you’ll soon be building your own backyard equipment, be on the road several times a week for classes and training and your week-ends and holiday money goes to seminars or agility trials. But if you’re looking to have fun with your dog, strengthen the bond with your 4-legged partner, don’t mind being outside in any kind of (Alberta) weather, agility may be right for you and, did I mention, it’s great exercise?