Be sure to get a front-row seat so you don’t miss any of the action—from dogs jumping through hoops and weaving through poles to climbing obstacles, guided by an enthusiastic owner. This is the thrilling sport of agility and you won’t want to miss it! Agility made its debut 40 years ago as a demonstration during the Crufts Dog Show in England and is now one of the most popular dog sports worldwide. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll know why.
Agility is a fast-paced and exciting sport in which the handler directs their dog over a series of obstacles while racing against the clock. The obstacles consist of jumps, tunnels, weave poles, dog walk, a teeter and a large A-frame. Points are deducted if the dog knocks down a jump, refuses obstacles, misses ‘contact zones’ or takes too long to finish the course. These are known as ‘faults’ and the team with the fastest time and fewest faults wins.
When you first watch an agility competition, it may seem a bit chaotic and noisy! The dogs race up, down and through obstacles, often barking with excitement. Their owners valiantly try to keep up, encouraging and directing the dog through the sequence of obstacles, by pointing and shouting things like “Over,” “Tunnel” or “Weave, Weave, Weave!” To get to the highest levels of competition there is an incredible amount of dedication and training required while dog and handler learn to maintain open lines of communication while the dog is off leash. But ask anyone who has tried agility and you will be told that there is no better way to bond with your dog, have tons of fun, and get some exercise, too!
SuperDogs Set the Stage
As it turns out, audiences can’t get enough of agility either. In the late 1970s, it was Canadian Herb Williams who promoted the sport to millions of fans and made the famous SuperDogs show an international sensation. Williams, a successful breeder/exhibitor of Chow Chows with a Top Show Dog accolade of his own, figured there had to be other ways to have fun with his dogs in addition to fun in the conformation ring. With this in mind, he enlisted dogs from across Canada—most were already active agility competitors—and built a ‘travelling’ show to highlight their extraordinary talents. SuperDogs eventually became the inspiration for movies, television specials and motivated pet owners nationwide to find an agility ring near them and join in the fun.
Agility Competition Has Something for Everyone
The Canadian Kennel Club joined in the excitement introducing agility trials in 2000. Competition is open to all dogs—purebred and mixed breeds, large and small, young and old!
Each dog is required to run the same course with adjustments made for jump heights and the time allowed to complete the course. Classes are divided by jump height, however the remaining pieces of equipment are a standard size and can present their own unique challenges. Imagine a giant Great Dane crawling through a 24-inch-wide tunnel or a tiny Chihuahua perched at the end of the teeter waiting for its weight to finally tip the high end so the dog can ride it down to the ground, before racing off to the next obstacle. This may sound scary, but there are important safety measures in place. For example, the ‘contact’ obstacles—the teeter, A-frame and dog walk—have yellow zones painted at the beginning and end of the equipment. At least one of the dog’s paws must touch these zones, effectively slowing the dog down and ensuring a safe approach and exit.
There are two main classes of competition, offering four levels of difficulty. The Jumpers with Weaves class is designed for speed and accuracy, using only jumps, weave poles and tunnels as part of its course. The Standard class courses are designed using all of the available agility equipment. The variety of obstacles makes this class more challenging. A dog that has completed all four levels of both classes is awarded the title of Agility Master Champion.
With participants who revel in every opportunity to play with their dogs, agility competition has grown to include a host of ‘games’ classes—Steeplechase, Points and Distance, Jumps and Tunnels, and more. Not only do these games test the teams’ skill, speed and accuracy, they also offer endless opportunities to add more illustrious titles to your dog’s name.
Agility is a wonderful activity for you and your dog whether you enjoy it occasionally or you are a weekend warrior. The recreational agility participant can win ribbons and achieve personal bests. The agility junkie can attend seminars and aim for a chance to compete on the international stage. Best of all, you will meet some great people and fantastic dogs!
Top Points for Dogs That Can Go the Distance
The CKC started recognizing the extraordinary talents of Canada’s Top Agility Dogs
in 2007. Agility competitors pick up points throughout the year each time they earn a qualifying score in Standard and Jumpers with Weaves classes. This means even competitors new to the agility, competing in Novice, can find a place among the seasoned pros. The Top Dogs are ranked within the Top 5 in each breed, the Top 10 in each group and the Top 10 all breeds.
A special thank you to our CKC Top Dogs
presenting sponsor, Purina® Pro Plan®