About Dog Agility
Agility is a popular 'sport' in which a Dog and Handler work together as a team against the clock to navigate around an obstacle course without incurring any penalties.
The order of the obstacles on each course and their position within the ring is unique for each competition. The Dog/Handler team do not get to see the course before the start of the competition, although the handler is allowed to walk around the course just before the start of the class, and only get one attempt to run it. The common obstacles encountered are Jumps, Weaves, Tunnels, 'A' Frame, Seesaw and Dog walk. Penalties are awarded for any obstacle that is not taken cleanly.
Competitions are split into separate classes based on the size of the dog (Small, Medium or Large) and on the ability of the Dog/Handler pair (Grades 1 to 7). Progression through the classes from Grade 1 to Grade 7 is achieved by winning out of the lower class. The level of complexity of the courses set in each class also increases.
Dogs must be at least 18 months of age to take part in trials held under Kennel Club rules but training should start when the dog is much younger than this. Most dogs are able to participate and do well in agility until they reach 8-10 years of age.
Training before Agility
Basic obedience is required before commencing training dogs for Agility. Agility is done off the lead, so the dog must be accustomed to coming when called, being put and left in a sit or down position and should also be confident in close proximity to other dogs and people.
It is never too early to start teaching a dog the basics control required for agility, for example waits, send away, recalls and directional commands (left, right, etc). It is important that Dogs should not be introduced to any agility equipment that involves jumping until they are at least 9 months old to prevent skeletal damage. Only after this age should they be introduced to jumps but then at a low height.
Training a dog to do agility (and training the Handler) takes a lot of time and dedication. Is the reward worth it? Definitely, Just ask any of the hundreds of handlers who turn up to shows each weekend in search of that elusive clear round win!