Agility News Friday – Learning the ropes

Going through the tyre! Photo courtesy of Le Hammer.

Going through the tyre! Photo courtesy of Le Hammer.

When people ask me what sport I like, I tend to talk about 2 things – Formula 1 and my love of Agility.

As a sport, it’s a very different road than your average sport on a Thursday night. Touch football, netball, Futsal (which I also love), and such are generally the team sports that get mentioned by the water cooler.

The next question people ask is – What is Agility?

To that I reply the most awesome fun you can have with a dog – ever! But really, what is Agility?

Agility is a dog sport which has been around for at least 40 years, when it first popped up at Crufts in the UK, and has greatly evolved since then. It is essentially the skill of a human-dog team, running an obstacle course for accuracy and time. The human is the handler, and the dog is, well, the dog.

Together you make a team.

Almost any dog can be trained to take part in agility. While some breeds may not really be suited to jumping over, up, down and through obstacles, it is a sport open to most shapes, sizes & breeds. And that also includes the humans!

The Agility Course is a set ring – about 24m x 24m and sometimes larger, in which different obstacles are set out for the handler & dog to accomplish. The Courses can include any and all of the following equipment: Tunnels, Jumps (single jump, broad jump, spread jump & wing jump), tyre, Dog Walk, A-Frame, see-saw, table, and weaves. These are set out in various levels of difficulty, according to dog’s experience, and also divided by type of course.

Within Australian National Kennel Council regulated Agility trials, the following competitions are contested:

Agility – All agility obstacles. The See-saw is not used for Novice class

Agility is contested in three class categories and two open forms

AD = Agility Dog (Novice or entry level). You currently need 3 clear rounds (Qualifications or Qualies) of an Agility Course at trial to achieve the title AD. Once you gain your title, you move up to the next class.

ADX = Agility Dog Excellent. You currently need 5 clear rounds to qualify for the ADX title.

ADM = Agility Dog Master. You currently need 7 clear rounds to qualify for the ADM title.

ADO = Agility Dog Open.

RQH Agility is an open Agility class that is contested all year long for the title of Agility Dog of the Year. The top 40 dogs from the year go into a shoot-out for the title.

Jumping – Jumps, tyres, broad, spread, and weaves (depending on level of difficulty)

Again, Jumping is contested in a very similar way to Agility.

JD – Jumping Dog

JDX – Jumping Dog Excellent

JDM – Jumping Dog Master

JDO – Jumping Dog Open

RQH Jumping

Jaxon in full flight!   Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Photography.

Jaxon in full flight! Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Photography.

In Australia we also contest a number of games: Gamblers, Snooker & Strategic Pairs

Gamblers is a great game where you need to do as many obstacles to accumulate points within a set time period. Then a buzzer goes off, and you must send the dog to the set finish of the course, also called The Gamble.

The total pre-Gamble course time depends on the class you are in, and you can only do an obstacle twice. So for example, the weaves are worth 4 points as an obstacle, so if you do that twice you get 8 points.

This is a fun game. As a handler the challenge is to choose the path of least resistance, most points, and one that ends in the vicinity of the beginning of the gamble by the time the buzzer goes off.

Snooker is another Agility Game. Based on the theory of the actual Billiards Game, Snooker emulates the rules by “pot a red, pot a colour” guidelines. There are 3 red jumps and each of the colours is one of 8 obstacles. The course uses all the equipment of Agility apart from the Table.  The objective is to Pot a red jump, then a colour obstacle, a red & a colour, a red & a colour (three times in total), then run the closing sequence of agility within the time set for the course. You must get the points set for the course – including the closing sequence, and within the time set to score a clear round (Qualie).

Strategic Pairs is probably the most fun of all. As the title suggests, it’s an Agility course set out for Pairs to compete. That means 2 handlers, 2 dogs, working as a group to accomplish the course. The course is a standard Agility course & includes all of the agility equipment applicable to the class. So Novice has a table, Excellent has a see-saw & so on. The 2 teams work in sequence. Say the course is broken up into 8 separate allotments. Team 1 does section A, Team 2 does section B, Team 1 does section C, Team 2 does section D and so on to completion of the course.

Team 2 cannot start their section until Team 1 has completed theirs – and it’s usually signalled by a hand in the air and a yell of “Change!”. In addition, if Team 1 fault any obstacle in their section, Team 2 must come & complete the section for them before going on to the next part! It’s nerve-wracking, hilarious, and a great game to watch.

Gamblers, Snooker & Strategic Pairs follows the same Class system as Agility and Jumping, with no Open contests.

That is: GD, GDX, GDM; SD, SDX, SDM; SPD, SPX, SPM

The other thing to note is that the dogs are divided into height classes as well. Dogs are measured to the height of their withers to see what height they jump.

The divisions are: 200cm jump height; 300cm jump height; 400cm; 500cm and 600cm.

Jaxon jumps at 300cm as his height at the withers is 31cm.

Dogs are formally measured at trials if they don’t have a jump height card before trialling.

Depending on the trial, events can be judged by separate heights, or by all heights.

In Australia, you can also compete in the Agility format set by the Agility Dog Association of Australia. It’s linked to the International Agility sport. We haven’t competed in that to date, but we’d like to know more, and will share more when we do.

Jaxon & I train at 2 different clubs in Sydney due to our schedule – it’s usually one or the other. The Northern Suburbs Dog Training Club – Agility arm, and the Agility Dog Club of NSW.

We also try to get along to Canine Fun Sports when we can. Their Summer Camp offerings are fantastic and lots of fun for new handlers & novice dogs.

While this is by no means an exhaustive download of all things Agility, I hope it gives you a good idea from a Novice team’s point of view.

Our favourite sport

Our favourite sport

Also see Wikipedia’s great info on Agility 

Posted on July 11, 2014, in Agility nerds, Discovery, Fun, News and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hmm, I thought it was 5 passes to get your excellent title and 7 to get your masters.
    And we don’t have RQH but it sounds like a smart idea.

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