The sport of Agility originated in England in the late 1970's as a way to keep people and their dogs entertained during down times at the Cruft's Dog Show. It combined the challenges of jumping in the horse world with additional skill tests geared more toward dogs. Agility is the fastest growing dog sports in the United States and its popularity is no doubt due to the fun both dogs and handlers always seem to have in these events. It is also great fun for the people watching. Agility is fast-paced, challenging, and enjoyable for all!
Agility events involve the dog and handler working as a team, with the handler directing the dog through a course involving various obstacles including weave poles, jumps, tunnels, elevated dog walks and A-frames, as well as other objects which the dog must rapidly negotiate. The entire event is timed and the handler urges the dog on with verbal commands and hand signals. Both dog and handler move through the course as quickly as possible, but speed is not the only thing that matters. Points are deducted when the dog fails to clear obstacles or doesn't complete the course correctly.
What is an Agility Obstacle?
The Agility course has many different obstacles and will require your dog to run, bend, climb, balance, jump, go through openings, and even stay! He will encounter different types of jumps, a pause table, an A-frame, dog walk, tire jump, teeter totter and two kinds of tunnels. There are also weave poles to challenge both handler and dog and to thrill the spectators. Weave poles consist of a series of upright poles that are approximately one inch in diameter, between three and four feet tall. They are spaced per the judge'’s specifications, between 18" and 24" inches apart. There are a minimum of five poles up to a maximum of twelve.
There are several types of jumps that your dog must negotiate.
These include single jumps, picket fence or columns, double and triple jumps, panel jumps (sometimes called a wall jump), broad jump (similar to the broad jump in obedience) and a tire jump (dog jumps through the center of a tire suspended a set distance off the ground.) The height and breadth of all the jumps are determined by the dog's height.
Tunnel obstacles can be especially fun for the dog. One type of tunnel is open through the middle and can be shaped in a variety of ways. The dog must enter at the end designated by the judge and exit at the opposite end. The other type is known as a chute tunnel and a portion of it is collapsed. There is a barrel-shaped opening on one end and it has a 12 foot section of loose material at the other end. The dog must enter the open end then push its way through the material lying on the ground to exit at the other end.
Agility is a very active, fast-paced activity, but control also plays a very big role--whether it is the control needed to successfully complete an obstacle or the control required to keep your dog on course. The pause table is one obstacle in which control is extremely important as the dog must perform a down-stay for a count of five seconds. All elbows must be touching the table and the dog must not raise its body, nor must it leave the table until the judge says "go." The table height is set according to your dog's jump height. Control is also required to perform correctly on the contact obstacles which include the A-frame, dog walk and teeter totter. All of these obstacles have "contact zones," which are regions of the obstacle painted a bright yellow to contrast with the rest of the obstacle. On these obstacles, the dog'’s feet must touch the contact zone. Otherwise, faults are given, resulting in a lower final score.