Most probably you have seen dogs at festivals, dog shows, or on TV. Speedy small dogs racing around an obstacle course, jumping hurdles, going through tunnels, intertwine poles, A-frames. With the objective of finishing the course in the fastest time, and having the least amount of faults, is a sport they call dog agility.
Dog agility originated in a demonstration in the late 70’s in England. An entertainment at the Crufts dog show in 1978 was the first widely- documented emergence of dog agility. A lot of obstacles identifiable to modern handlers were actually present during the demonstration, they have the ‘cat walk’ or dog walk, canvas tunnel or collapsed tunnel, weaving flags or weave poles, tyre hoop or the tire, over and under or the combination of A-frame/tunnel.
However in the United States some people tried dog agility basically based on the British rule. In the early 1980s the first exhibition began, and the groups that started it were the NDCA and the USDAA. Now, the NDCA has already merged with UKC leaving USDAA as the major force in the U.S dog agility world. A lot of events and competitions are arrange by local clubs, but are still being authorize by an organization like the USDAA or UKC. These organizations give out titles, keep records and established the rules.
In definition, dog agility is type of dog sport where in dog handlers guide their dogs through an obstacle course in a contest for both time and accuracy. Dogs run without leash and handlers cannot touch both the dog and the obstacle. They are also not allowed to give dog’s food or toys as reward. Dog agility requires a lot of training of the dog and a lot of expertise of the handler, because commands are only through voice, movement and different body language.
Agility course are made up of an established standard obstacles, created by an agility judge in a lay out of his or her own choice within a 30 x 30 m area. Agility judge will also determine the order on how the dogs can complete the obstacle. These courses are very complicated for dogs, that they need human direction to correctly complete them. During competition, handlers evaluate the course, make strategies and then guide the dog through the course in a fast and precise manner. A lot of strategies are available to compensate for the obvious difference in dogs and handlers speed, together with their weakness and strengths they can overcome dog agility.
Scoring of every runs is according on how many “faults” are made. There are penalties that includes “course faults” when they knock down a bar in a jump or a “time faults” happens when they go over the calculated standard course time that were determine according to the competition level and the difficulty of the course and other factors.
Because of the available set of obstacle and possible faults there are a lot of variations of games or what they call classes that are only played on the dog agility field. Some of the classes are:
- Standard, Regular or Agility – this type of course usually consist of at least one of the three initial contact obstacles but not including crossover, these are jumps, tunnels and weave poles of different flavours.
- Jumpers or Jumping – this type of course now consist mostly of different types of jumps but depending on the organization they also includes poles and tunnels.
- Gamblers, Jackpot or Joker – this class typically, made up of two parts the opening and the closing parts that is commonly known as the gamble, jackpot or joker. During the opening they have a certain amount of time to do anything with in the obstacle and they will be scored according to the obstacle they completed. Then the closing part, they are given about 15 seconds to complete a sequence of obstacle assigned by the judge of the dog agility ahead of time.
- Snooker – Literally based on the billiard game, the course has at least three red jumps, which are numbered 1, and then six other numbered 2 to 7. Dogs will accumulate points based on the obstacle’s number.
- Power and Speed – this has two sections the first one is untimed called “Power” section that has contact equipment. If they clear it without faults they will be able to continue on to the second section which is the “Speed” which is a timed jumping course.
- Juniors – these are for handlers that are 18 yrs or younger who wants to join in dog agility, it consist of four levels beginner, elementary, intermediate and senior.
- Team, Pairs or Relay – team needs to complete a portion of a standard agility course, with handlers needs to exchange a baton between sections, teams are consist of two to three dog and handlers.
After reading this, you might say that your dog will not do that, although it requires a lot of patience and practice, you and your dog will surely have lots of fun. Before you proceed and try this sport make sure that you and your dog are fit and ready for the rigors of Dog Agility.