Agility – Dog Sport and Why Your Dog Will Love It

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Do you have a hyperactive dog? Or you want your dog to be more active? Should your dog lose a few pounds? If only one answer is yes, then you should think about dog agility. This sport will keep your canine happy and active. Read on to learn more about this exciting sport.

Dogs are big people pleasers. They are passionate about food, spending time outdoors, and acting as a real couch potato when opportunity demands it.

Like humans, dogs are individual, and some are into calm and lazy days, while others love spending their days running and being active all day long.

Since people learn more about dogs’ psychology every day, it is no surprise that more attention is put on the dog’s health and exercise and training needs.

With that in mind, in recent years, dog sports really skyrocketed. Therefore, agility is one of the fastest-growing dog sports globally, especially in the States – and for a good reason.

Agility – Dog Sports

Agility offers excellent exercise for your dog and you. It even positively affects the bond between you and your dog. Plus, it’s incredible to watch as your dog runs through tunnels, jumps, and weaves around poles.

Dog agility is a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. This canine sport is highly competitive, and dogs are trained to overcome various obstacles.

In dog agility, dogs run off without leash, with no food or toys as incentives. The handler isn’t allowed to touch either dog or obstacles and can control the dog only via voice, movement, and numerous body signals.

This sport requires exceptional training of the dog and the amazing coordination of the handler.

Although agility may seem complicated and confusing, in reality, this is a straightforward sport, where dogs must pass many different obstacles laid out by a judge. Each obstacle is custom build one each breed.

The surface may be of grass, dirt, rubber, or special matting. Depending on the type of competition, the obstacles may be marked with numbers indicating the order they must complete.

Courses are complicated enough that a dog couldn’t complete them without human direction.

Agility Basics

Dog agility is a sport where you direct your dog through various obstacles within a specific time limit. Obstacles may vary, and there are mostly 14-20 obstacles, which can include tunnels, tire jumps, seesaws, pause tables, and weave poles, where the dog must stop for a set amount of time.

Again, all of this is done with your dog, relying on the cues and body language that you use to direct them on course. All breeds, including mixed breeds, can participate in agility.

In these competitions, you can see the smallest and the largest of dogs. If you have never seen Agility in person, add it to your list and visit a competition.

This single event will expand your knowledge of dogs and inspire you to be more creative when it comes to your dog’s exercise and training time.

Dog Agility History

The first document on this sport shows that agility has its roots in the far 1978. Dog agility served as entertainment at the Crufts dog show in 1978.

That same year, Crufts intrigued dog owners because of its speed and challenge and the ability displayed by the dogs. People wanted to see more, and they wanted their dogs to participate.

What dogs demonstrated in that competition was so popular that it went in a short time from local, then national, and eventually international competition.

By 1797, British dog training clubs started offering training in a new sport in the new sport of dog agility. That same year in December, the first Agility Stakes competition was held at the International Horse Show at Olympia in London.

Dog Agility Development:

  • The Kennel Club became the first organization to recognize agility as an official sport. That was in 1980.
  • Small size dogs were later on included when class Mini dogs were introduced.
  • The first Mini Agility Dog of the Year competition took place at Olympia in December 1987.
  • Classes for Midi dogs were introduced in the Nineties. In 2005, they had their own competition at Olympia.
  • In 1992, the first weeklong agility show was held at Malvern in England, with a total of 885 dogs entered and 5,879 class entries.
  • In 2003, East Midlands Dog Agility Club (EMDAC) started appearing, which was a big step for accepting clubs and organizations outside UK jurisdiction.
  • In Canada, dog agility was introduced in 1988.
  • In the States, the first exhibition took place in the early 1980s.

How To Participate In Dog Agility

Before you start shopping for all dog agility necessities, make sure that you know if the sport of agility is right for your dog and you.

Access your dog’s temperament to be sure that he is right for agility. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my dog highly energetic?
  • Is my dog keen on learning new tricks?
  • Is my dog easily bored?
  • Does he enjoy running?
  • Does he enjoy responding to instruction?

Also, be far and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have enough time to train my dog?
  • If my dog needs to attend classes, can I afford it without jeopardizing my budget?
  • Am I willing to learn?

Once you have decided that both you and your dog both have enough time and energy to participate in dog agility, you must for the second step. It’s time to take a class.

Like with any other sport, you need to be guided by professionals to achieve results. Do your research and see what club you have near you and sign in.

Beginner courses will introduce you and your dog to obstacles, and provide basics on how to compete if you decide to do so. Most classes are once a week for an hour on average.

Practice At Home

Being part of classes if great, but it doesn’t mean that learning stops there. You should also use a free item to train your dog at home. To do so, you’ll want to have your won obstacles around the place.

First-timers usually start with tunnels, because they are easy to set and move around. Plus, tunnel holders keep them in place. You might think about having weave poles, as another popular at-home obstacle.

You can always purchase gear online or at a local pet shop if they are well stocked. You can always try to make DIY obstacles and use PVC pipes for it.

If you decide to build on your own from scratch, make sure to follow specifications in the Regulations for Agility.

Do You Consider Competing?

If you find yourself wanting to go to the next level, you can always compete. A great starting place to test your dog’s skills is at an AKC Agility Course Test (ACT). Once you are ready to compete, you will learn that there are three types of Agility trials:

  • All-breed agility trials for more than 150 breeds
  • Specialty trails for either dog of a specific breed or even varieties of one breed
  • Group trials for dogs fo a specific breed group such as working, herding and so on

Always search for an Agility event near you.

To be eligible to compete in Agility, your canine must be:

Dog Agility Sports Benefits for You and Your Dog

There are many benefits when it comes to participating in agility. Dogs love being busy and working on something, and they love the social side of it.

Plus, dogs really need the feeling of having a purpose or having a job, and for them working with their person is like a dream coming true.

On top of that, being outside and working with their favorite human builds up the dog’s spirit, enhances teamwork, trust, and a deeper level of communication. Since dogs aren’t vocal beings body language is a great way to communicate with them.

Which Dogs Breeds Are Naturally Good at Agility?

Some humans are great when it comes to basketball, while others are perfect in golfing, and some would rather skip the sport, and that’s OK.

Just like humans, some dogs are more prone to sport, while others aren’t sporting enthusiasts. For dog sports, working breeds of medium size will always do better than a large dog breeds with massive bodies, such as Great Dane or Mastiffs.

Certain breeds are more naturally suited to dog sport. Even 150 dog breeds so far have shown their surprising ability to perform well.

In general, dogs who are physically active, naturally full of energy, have a strong desire to please, or love to get into the trouble would do great in agility competitions.

Moreover, easily bored dogs are one of the most successful dogs in agility competitions.

Most Popular Dog Agility Breeds

As soon as you get a chance to visit an agility competition, it will become clear to you, and some of the smallest dogs may be real agility champions. Here are the top 5 dog breeds that are usually agility champions:

  • Border Collie
  • Russell Terrier
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Australian Kelpie
  • Standard Poodle

Also, Boxers and Bulldogs may not do well in agility activities. Why? The most common reason you won’t see these breeds in agility competition is that they have difficulty breathing, especially during the hot weather.

A similar approach applies to short-legged Dachshunds, who usually have difficulties jumping. Age and temperament are also important when it comes to agility.

Puppies younger than 9 months and dogs 8 years old and up aren’t allowed to compete.

If your dog is shy, he may have difficulties participating in agility, because they may find the crowd and cheering overwhelmingly.

Still, participating in agility can be beneficial for them. It will boost their self-confidence while letting them have fun.