Dog agility competitions are sporting events in which dogs navigate a series of obstacles based solely on handler commands. No food, toys or other rewards are allowed. Handlers control, guide and direct their dogs over jumps, through tunnels, around poles and other obstacles solely through voice commands that demonstrate their dogs' agility, speed and obedience.
Before entering the competition ring with your dog, you get to walk through the course and plan your route. You are not allowed to bring toys, treats or other rewards into the arena. Your dog must obey based solely on training. Dogs navigate a preset course and are timed. They are judged on how smoothly, quickly and accurately they navigate the course.
Agility courses contain standard obstacles arranged in unique patterns by the course designer or show host. Three standard obstacles are included in each course design. The A-frame consists of two ramps placed so that the apex is approximately five to six feet above the ground. The dog must walk willingly up and down the ramp. The Dogwalk consists of three planks arranged as an upward ramp, a flat plank and a downward ramp. The Teeter-Totter is like a child's playground seesaw; dogs must walk up, allow the plank to pivot, and walk down again. The dog must walk across the entire obstacle without falling off, and generally their feet must touch specially painted areas at the ends of each obstacle (called the contact zones), so that they don't "short-cut" the ramps or A-frame. Other obstacles include weave poles, which the dog must weave in and out of, tunnels, fences over which dogs must jump, and hoops that dogs jump through.
Typical Agility Course
Typical dog agility courses are arranged in an arena that measures 100 by 100 feet (30 by 30 meters) with 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6.1 m) between obstacles. Courses consist of three primary contact obstacles, such as a dog walk, teeter-totter or A-frame, with additional obstacles consisting of jumps, weave poles or tunnels. Each obstacles is numbered, and dogs must navigate the obstacles in numerical order within a predetermined standard time, which varies according to the competition and course. You can view the course diagram before entering the ring with your dog, and most competitions provide ample time for you to walk the course with other handlers to determine your route as you cue your dog over the obstacles.
Breeds for Agility
Any breed may participate in agility classes, including mutts or mixed breed dogs. Some breeds tend to perform better in agility classes, perhaps because they've been bred to obey handler commands that are similar to agility commands. Herding dog breeds, for example, tend to do well in agility classes. The top five dog agility breeds, according to Dog Time, are the Border Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Jack Russel terrier, and Australian Shepherd.