Agility - Something fun for canines and their humans
Agility is the most popular and fastest growing performance event in the history of the AKC. It is big – and there are agility trials many weekends in the Northwest.
Agility is a competition in which a dog-handler team must successfully negotiate an obstacle course with the dog performing each obstacle at the handlerÕs direction, within a certain amount of time. A perfect score is 100; the judge deducts points for course faults (off course, refusing an obstacle or not performing an obstacle). Time faults also happen! The minimum score to pass is 85 points. Obstacles include: weave poles, an A-frame, dog walk, teeter-totter, a pause table, tunnels and chutes, and a variety of jumps. A complete set of rules is on the AKC website.
The event is designed to demonstrate teamwork, trust and communication between the dog and handler. Before competition begins, handlers walk the course laid out by the judge, and plan their course strategy. The dog does not see the particular course before starting. Once in the ring, handlers cannot touch the dog or the obstacle nor can they use any food or toy motivators.
AKC offers six classes: novice, open and excellent Standard Agility (using all obstacles) and novice, open and excellent Jumpers with Weaves (using just jumps, tunnels and weave poles). While it’s a lot of fun for both dog and handler, it’s also a lot of work in training, conditioning, strategizing and practice. Training techniques improve every year, with the most successful methods focusing on a positive and fun experience for the dog. It is also a sport that teaches patience to us humans – something we all can use!
Four main ingredients of successful agility are: motivation, training, athleticism and experience. While speed and accuracy are important, the safety of the dog is always paramount. Most dogs can start formal training at about nine months; even puppies can get accustomed to tunnels, poles laying the ground to “jump” over, random sits and downs to get used to the pause table, and having fun.
There are several agility clubs in Washington and Oregon: Rainier Agility Team (RAT) is near Renton, Willamette Agility Group (WAG) and Columbia Agility Team (CAT) in Portland/Vancouver area; TOP DOG in Olympia, Hurricane Ridge Runners in Port Angeles, Chuckanut Dog Training Club in Bellingham, and Puyallup Dog Fanciers in Tacoma/Puyallup. Several dog clubs hold agility trials during the year: Yakima Valley Kennel Club (KC); Bell-Vernon KC (Mount Vernon), Mt. Baker KC (Bellingham), Olympic KC (Enumclaw), Boston Terrier Club of Western WA, Seattle KC, Puyallup Dog Fanciers, and Washington State Obedience Trial Club to name a few. To find out more about where to take agility classes in your area, contact Kathy Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org To locate upcoming AKC trials, go to www.akc.org and look under calendar of events on the Home Page.
As we say in agility: Run Fast, Run Clean, Have Fun!