Agility is a fantastic sport that has gained a huge following around the world. Agility can benefit both dogs and their owners and it’s great fun. If you haven’t tried agility then you are missing out.
Some dogs tend to do a lot better at agility than others. For example, Collies, Jack Russells, and Poodles tend to love agility. Dogs that come from a working background and are of a medium build tend to do particularly well. Working dogs are bred to do a job, so they work very hard at challenges such as agility courses.
Agility also tends to really suit dogs that are very active and full of energy, as it is an excellent way to tire them out. If your dog loves to please you then they will most likely do well at agility. However, lots of different breeds of dogs take part in agility, and it really does come down to each individual dog and whether it suits their personality. Dogs can start basic training from an early age, for example, box work, going through tunnels and mastering basic moves. Clubs usually allow jumping, weaves, and contact equipment from the age of one.
What is agility
Agility is a form of canine sport where dogs have to complete a course of obstacles in a specific order as quickly as possible. Dogs have to run through tunnels, jump hurdles and weave in and out of poles, amongst other things. It tests their fitness, strength, athleticism and obedience. According to the Kennel Club, agility ‘Dog agility measures the handler’s ability to direct their dog over a course with various obstacles.’
Dogs are guided around the course by their owner and have to complete the course in order, going around things the right way and without hesitation. Agility is a fantastic sport to watch, it’s thrilling to witness dogs show off their athletic prowess and put on such an impressive display of obedience.
The benefits of agility
- There are many benefits to taking part in agility. It’s a hugely beneficial sport that is great for your dog’s mental and physical health. The main benefits of agility include:
- Building a strong bond between owner and dog, because you have to work together as a team.
- It helps to improve your dog’s obedience and responsiveness to training.
- It is a great exercise for both you and your dog, constantly running around an obstacle course is hard work. You can get fit together.
- It provides your dog with some much needed mental stimulation. Dogs that do agility on a regular basis are less likely to become bored and disruptive.
- You get to travel all over the country to different places taking part in competitions.
- You get to meet lots of other dog owners and trainers.
- It’s really enjoyable and lots of dogs absolutely love it.
Agility requires quite a lot of equipment. You can buy agility equipment to use at home if you have space. However, a lot of people go to an agility club where there is a big course laid out. An agility course is normally made up of between 17 and 20 pieces of equipment. Including, jumps, tunnels, weaves, a frame, dog walk, see-saw, tire, wall, long jump and spread jump.
Contact equipment (a frame, dog walk, and see-saw) have a section at the bottom of the equipment that the dog must touch before they jump off. If a dog fails to touch the contact they are given 5 faults. Weaves are a set or six or twelve poles that the dogs must weave in and out of. They must always enter on the right-hand side of the first pole.
Agility competitions and scoring
At competitions, handlers are often given a course map in advance so they know exactly how the course should be completed. Each course can be very different, so handlers are allowed to walk through the course beforehand. The course has to be completed both quickly and accurately.
At the start, the dog waits at a starting line until the handler instructs them to begin the course. Handlers run with the dog, directing them where to go. This is usually done using hand signals, body language and also verbal commands.
The scoring for agility is based on the speed in which the course is completed (whether the dog manages it within the standard course time) and also how many faults the dog receives.
The aim is to complete the course without faults. Faults can be given for knocking a pole, missing a contact, coming out of the weaves, or going past a jump.
If they do not complete the course in the correct order they get eliminated. That includes going over an obstacle in the wrong direction.
Agility clubs and organisations in the UK
The two main organisations in the UK are the Kennel Club and UK Agility. The Kennel Club starts at Grade 1 and goes up to Grade 7. UK Agility goes from Beginners to Novice to Senior then up to Champ level. There are lots of different agility clubs across the country you can join. Click here for a list of competing clubs,
Dogs that struggle with agility
Agility is not ideal for all dogs. Some dogs simply aren’t interested, and others can’t take part due to their physical build or health issues. For example, Great Danes are very large and struggle with the athleticism needed for agility. Brachycephalic (dogs with flat faces) breeds also struggle because they often have difficulty breathing, and agility can prove too strenuous.
Dogs that are seriously overweight, very elderly and have severe health issues also shouldn’t take part in agility unless a vet has given the all clear. The best thing to do if you are unsure whether your dog would be suitable for agility is to call up an agility club and speak to an expert. You can also go for a trial class to see how your dog gets along and to determine whether they like it.