Dog Agility: Jump and Weave - Climb and a See Saw!

Dog Agility began as an off-shoot of equestrian show jumping and consists of a dog/handler team negotiating a course within a specific time and with no faults or errors. It began in England in the 1970s and was brought over to theU.S. in the mid-1980s. The first recognized dog agility program was created by the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA), which is based in Dallas Texas. The American Kennel Club's agility program began in 1995.

Agility is a sport where the dog/handler team navigates a course which is made up of jumps, see saw, A-frame, dog walk, weave poles, tunnels and tire jump in a specific order with a specific course time. The team which can run the course within the time alloted and no faults (errors) can qualify for titles. As the dog/handler team progresses to each level, the courses become more and more challenging.

There are many dog agility programs in which boxers are eligible to participate. USDAA, AKC, Australian Shepherd Club of American (ASCA) and North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC) are the four prevailing agility venues in the United States. There are newer venues which have been formed within the past several years, including Canine Performance Events (CPE).

Agility consists of a set of weave poles; an a-frame, which the dog must climb; a see-saw; a dog walk; an open tunnel; a closed tunnel or chute; and a variety of jumps, with one, two or three poles. To participate in agility, the dog must be under control and have a consistent sit-stay, down-stay and recall. The dog is first taught the individual obstacles so that they understand each obstacle and can execute the obstacle in a safe manner. The three contact obstacles (see-saw, a-fram and dog walk) have a band of yellow at the bottom of the planks. This is called the contact and the dog must touch the contact in order to peform the obstacle properly.

In AKC agility, dog/handler teams can participate in standard agility, FAST and Jumpers With Weaves. Standard agility class consists of 16 to 20 or more obstacles, which the team must make time and have no or minimal faults. There are three divisions, as in obedience: Novice, Open and Excellent. As the team qualifies and earns titles, each subsequent level is more challenging, in both the standard course time and the layout of the obstacles. Jumpers with Weaves consists of a course with all jumps and one set of 12 weave poles, where the team must make time and have no or minimal faults. FAST is a game which the team accrues as many points as possible within an alloted time and then perform a 'gamble' or "send bonus"- meaning the dog is sent away from the handler to perform a specified number of obstacles, within a set time, to get the points for the "send bonus". There is generally a line the handler must stay behind while the dog negotiates the obstacles.

The other agility venues offer a wide variety of classes not included in the AKC titling program. These include "Snooker", "Gamblers", "Pairs", "Tunnelers", "Jumpers" to name a few. All venues give the boxer and owner opportunities to enjoy the camaraderie and excitement of doing agility. Whether it is for a title or to strengthen the bond between boxer and owner, agility is, as many will testify, addicting.

There are several agility clubs and training centers in North Texas. A search of agility in North Texas by your favorite search engine should give you contact information to get you and your boxer started in agility. If nothing else, please contact the webmaster for further information.