Agility is a sport for you and your dog. Like any sport, also agility can be trained and competed at different levels. It can be a nice shared hobby for you and your dog in your free time or you can compete more seriously at top-level international competitions – still not forgetting having fun!
What is dog agility?
Agility is a dog sport, where the dog is handled through an obstacle course. The roots of the sport go back to 1970 England, when it was created as a demonstration sport. The first time dog agility was shown to an audience was at Crufts dog show in 1978. The new, fast sport immediately took off and within a couple of years it was given official dog sport status in the UK. Nowadays, agility is one of the most popular dog sports around the world.
Agility can be practiced with all kinds of dogs, no matter what the size. A good way to start is to contact your local agility club or an experienced coach, who can help you to start your new hobby safely. It doesn’t matter if your dog is a puppy or adult – contrary to common belief, old dogs can learn new tricks!
It is important to move at the level of your dog’s skills, as there are levels from basic to advanced. You can also prepare your puppy for agility by safely teaching him basic agility skills, making it much easier to continue when the puppy grows up.
Agility is a sport
Agility is a sport for you and your dog, and like any sport, can be trained and competed in at different levels. It can be a nice hobby for you and your dog or you can compete more seriously at top-level international competitions – still not forgetting to have fun!
Your dog must be healthy and in a good physical condition as dog agility is physically demanding, especially for the dog. You need to focus on muscle care including warm-ups and cool-downs to avoid injuries.
Agility is also a sport for the handler who runs and moves quickly, so you need to take care of your own fitness. Remember to warm-up before doing agility, and stretch afterwards.
Dog agility is suitable for all kind of dogs and handlers
Border Collies, sheepdogs and small terriers are popular breeds in agility competitions, but you can practice agility with any breed. Only if your dog is particularly tiny or huge, it might not be allowed to compete. But agility can also be just for fun. It means you can get moving and spend time with your dog, without any competitive goals.
There are no specific requirements for handlers either. Your age doesn’t matter and there are handlers well over 70 years old. Your movement skills are no hinder either. If you are physically limited, you can compensate by putting extra effort into distance handling. The more skilled your dog is, the easier it’s for you.
Agility competition courses include about twenty different obstacles: jumps, tunnels, weave poles and contact obstacles the dog scrambles over. During the course the handler cannot touch the dog, nor the obstacles. The goal is to complete the course without faults and as fast as possible. Similar to showjumping, you can get faults if your dog drops a bar when jumping, refuses to go to the obstacle or misses the contact zone. The course is about 140-200 meters long and dogs can run up to five m/s. The surface may be grass, dirt, rubber, or special matting.
Agility courses and the order of different obstacles vary in each competition, and this is what makes agility so interesting. The judge designs the course in competitions and handlers have five minutes to walk-through the course without their dogs. In these precious five minutes handlers memorize the order of the obstacles and plan their handling strategy.
Dogs are divided into different groups by size and their experience in competitions. The regulations for dividing the dogs in different groups vary by country. In Europe the levels are defined by the FCI definitions, which include skill levels from 1 to 3 and size levels from 1 to 3 (small, medium and large).
Dogs are allowed to start competing at a certain age (usually around 18 months), and again the rules vary in different countries. Competing starts at the lowest level with the easiest courses. As they gain experience and successfully complete the lower levels, dogs can move forward to more challenging levels.
Competing in agility is popular; it is a nice way to spend time with your dog and your fellow dog-owners. Many countries have regular agility competitions, even at most weekends. Internationally, the top competitions are the World Championships and the European Open. Hundreds of top teams participate in these strict and challenging competitions and the time differences are measured in hundredths of a second.
”One mind” with your dog
At its best, dog agility is a seamless cooperation between dog and handler – it appears that they are one. From the outside it looks easy! The connection of being “OneMinded” is also the core of the OneMind Dogs method. The dog is directed to the correct running lines by the handler using the right body language. The dog follows the following seven essential elements: handler's movement, position, eyes, chest, feet, arms and vocal commands. After you understand how the dog naturally reacts to these elements, and you are aware of how to use them correctly, you can achieve incredible results with your dog. It is possible to smoothly and quickly complete a course, with you and your dog in a perfect state of ”OneMind.”