Weaving through poles, leaping across jumps or charging through tunnels, agility dogs are known for their athletic ability. The American Kennel Club’s sport of agility has grown from 23 trials in 2003 to 2,014 trials in 2017. The quick thinking, precision and athleticism required to win an agility competition make it a challenge for even the most well-trained canine.
An Activity for Every Dog
One of the great aspects of agility trials is the wide variety of events. Every breed can take part! Agility trials have six different categories in which a dog can compete, including Standard, Jumpers with Weaves, Time 2 Beat (T2B), and Fifteen And Send Time (FAST). In addition, AKC offers the Premiere Standard and Premiere Jumpers with Weaves classes for Masters level dogs to compete on international-style courses.
Each of these categories have different levels that can be entered based on the dog’s experience. The first level, Novice, is for dogs just starting out in the sport. In Novice, there are 14-16 obstacles, and the course is less intensive for handler and dog. The next level, Open, increases the difficulty of the course and the number of obstacles to 16-18. The highest level, Excellent or Master, is for dogs who have successfully completed open level. This level combines tricky routes and an increase to 18-20 obstacles to challenge the dog’s stamina.
In each event, the dogs are separated into classes based on jump height. Dogs are measured to the point of their shoulder and must jump in the class for their height or in a higher class. The Preferred division offers modified standards of lower jump heights and additional seconds on course for dogs who need it.
Agility is scored on a time and fault basis. Dogs must complete all necessary obstacles in a course in the time allowed. Dogs can accumulate faults for a variety of reasons including running an obstacle out of sequence, displacing a bar on a jump, or refusing an obstacle. However, the dog isn’t the only one on the team who can cause faults. A handler who touches the dog or obstacle, or who can’t get control of their dog, will also accrue penalties.
In standard agility, there are a variety of obstacles that the dog must successfully conquer. The A-frame, dog walk, and seesaw are all contact obstacles that require the dog to put at least one paw in the yellow zone before the obstacle is considered complete. Dogs who miss this contact zone will receive a fault. Additional obstacles to the course include weave poles, tunnels, and a pause table where the dog must wait for five seconds before continuing.
Jumpers with Weaves
This event is similar to the standard class, however it does not contain contact obstacles or the pause table. The removal of these obstacles is meant to encourage fast running with no stops. Handler and dog must make instant decisions and be aware of their teammate’s direction if they want to succeed.
Fifteen And Send Time (FAST)
FAST events allow for creativity of the handler as there is no set course. The class has 15 obstacles with assigned point values to each. Six of the 15 must be single bar jumps, while the remaining obstacles can have a value of two to 10 points which are determined by the judge. There are rules about which obstacles can be taken back to back, what direction the obstacle can be approached, and there is a set time limit for the course with penalties for going over. The primary point earner of this event is the “send bonus”. To earn this bonus, the handler must remain a predetermined distance away while sending the dog over a sequence of two or more obstacles. The dog must complete all parts of the sequence successfully to receive the send bonus.
Time 2 Beat (T2B)
The Time 2 Beat events reveal the fastest and most accurate dogs. The scoring of this event is based on which dog can run the course in the fastest time for their height group without incurring penalty. Contact obstacles are combined with other obstacles found in the standard events, but the pressure comes from the need to be the fastest around.
Competing or Spectating
Interested in starting your dog in agility training? Create your own course at home with a few easy to find obstacles or go online and look for an agility training center near you!
Want to see some Master level dogs perform agility? Check out the AKC Agility Invitational in Orlando, FL, on December 15-17. The AKC National Championship Dog Show presented by Royal Canin, and the Canine Extravaganza, will also take place during this fun-filled weekend celebrating man’s best friend. If you’re planning to attend, don’t forget to visit PetPartners at the Fun Zone conveniently located between the vendors and the concession area!