my dog do agility?
Baby steps in training
Basic Do's and
of the obstacles
Tips for each obstacle
What to Call Each Obstacle
dogs that are slow, scared, stubborn and crazy!
Entering a competition
Groups, discussion boards etc.
Playing by the rules
Entering a match or
competition, and what the rules are
Matches are usually easy to get into last minute (if they are not
filled up early), but most of them
(especially trials) have deadlines. Either way, apply as early as you can.
They will usually return your money if its filled up. Most are pretty strict about not giving
refunds for other reasons, however. (Especially getting cold feet!). You will
need to know which "class" you will enter your dog in. If you are just
beginning, you will enter a "novice" class for AKC, or a
"starters" class in USDAA. When competing in trials, you need to go
step by step (without skipping any) because they keep track of your
"legs" (qualified runs) which add up to your titles. For example,
after you get 3 "legs" running your dog in AKC Novice classes, you
will get a Novice agility title (NA). After you get your title, AKC will mail
you a certificate that you can hang on your wall! How cool is that?
are labels that you can add to your dog's name, kind of like our educational
labels Ph.D. or D.V.M. For example, when starting off you will be acquiring a
"novice agility" (NA) title for AKC, or an "Agility Dog"
(AD) title for USDAA. You can they call your dog, "Snoopy, A.D.".
There are more labels, and the more you get, the fancier your dog's name
becomes! Some people think that these titles make a dog's puppies more valuable.
Most just like the pretty ribbons and dog toys they win!
You will also need to enter your dog into a
certain "height division". This is so your tea cup dog who takes 5
minutes to get between each obstacle does not have to compete against a great
Dane who leaps A-frames with a single bound. Height divisions are set by each
organization. There are about 5-6 different divisions. Most training classes
will measure your dog and tell you what height division he falls into. If your
dog is older or has a handicap, you may be able to get a lower height status,
which in some organizations is a special class in itself.
Some of the items you will want to bring to a competition is a strong buckle
collar, a leash, water, treats or toys (to be used outside the ring only, unless
it is a match), and a crate or tent for keeping your dog contained. This is
especially helpful to keep your dog shaded from the sun. Bring a blanket also,
to cover the crate for shade, and a chair for yourself. Oh, and last but not
least, a poop bag! (had to mention it). You can not bring any obstacles. You
will be able to use one of the "warm-up" jumps that are provided near
the ring. That is the only obstacle you are allowed to practice on. Occasionally
you are allowed a warm-up period in the ring to familiarize your dogs with the
obstacles. Often this is not the case, however.
In actual trials, your dog must run
"naked" (no collars or leashes). You take them off right at the
starting line. There is usually a leash person to give them to. Or
just throw them back behind you. Once you take your hands off your dog,
and say 'go' (or whenever your dog breaks his stay) the timer starts and you
Food is also not allowed in the ring
either. Not even in your pockets! It is strictly prohibited.
The only exception to this rule are "matches" in which you can use
food, collars, etc. Just remember that you don't earn any titles on your
dog for matches. They are usually just for fun and practice.
When you come to the competition it is helpful
to get your dog crated and comfortable first. Some trials have big tents where
all the crates will be held, while others allow you to set up anywhere. You can
keep your dog in the car if you prefer if it's not parked too far away. Then you
will need to find the registration table. There you will get an arm band. Ask
for the order of runs (so you have an idea of when you will be running), when
the "judges briefing" and walk-through will be, and ask if there is a
course diagram available. This is a sheet of paper that shows the obstacles in
order of how they will be. You can start memorizing them early if you want,
though you will be given an opportunity for a walk-through to plan your
At the beginning of each class, the judge will
blow a whistle or make an announcement for all those in that class to gather
inside the ring for a briefing. (without your dog). The judge will then go over
the rules and give all of the people a pep talk. He (or she) will also tell you
whether it is a "sit" or "stay" on the pause table. Then he
will allow you some time (10 minutes or so) to "walk the course"
(without your dog). This is the time you quickly memorize the order of obstacles
(there will be numbers to help you) and determine whether you will have your dog
on the left side, right side, if your dog will go through the tunnel instead of
over the aframe, etc. To some, it's almost like planning a war! Expect to feel a
little foolish running around the obstacles without your dog.
When the judge blows the whistle again, you
need to exit the ring and wait for your run. You can get an updated status from
the "board" that is displayed near the entrance of the ring. Your
dog's name will be listed there, for every class you entered. The ring steward
is a person who crosses off each dog's name after they ran. They will also
"call out" each dog's name (within earshot, so don't go too far if you
think you will be running soon).
When it's your turn to run you will enter the
ring (the judge will tell everyone ahead of time what obstacle the person ahead
of you has to be doing, before you stand at the start line). Remove the leash
and throw it aside, or give it to a "leash runner". Either hold your
dog by the collar, or put him into a stay. Then you must catch the eyes of the
person who is sitting in the ring with a stopwatch. When they nod yes or say
it's okay, you are free to go whenever you want. The clock will start as soon as
your dog moves, and will stop when you are over the finish line.
Each organization and class has different rules
as how you "qualify" to earn a "leg". It is best to check
the rules, so you are not in question. In novice agility, you are allowed a few
deductions. But there are some things that will immediately disqualify you
(though you can still finish the course). This includes touching your dog on
purpose to help guide it, having or using food in the ring, and if your dog
eliminates in the ring. Treating or speaking to your dog harshly is also not
allowed. And unfortunately, if your dog knocks a jump bar down he is also
disqualification. To qualify, your dog must "make the time" standard
(fall under the maximum time limit), and "make the accuracy" standard
(fall under the maximum amount of penalties allowed ). If you qualify, you will
get a qualification ribbon, which means you earned a "leg" that can be
applied to your title. You need a certain amount of legs to get a title (usually
3). You may also win a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. ribbon for the fastest most accurate
dogs in your height division.
One of the misconceptions of agility is that
your dog has to be fast to win. The truth is, accuracy is used as a judging
standard first, then speed, in determining ribbon placements. As long as your
dog didn't go past the time limit, you will still qualify even if you made a few
errors. But if you make too many errors, you will not qualify, no matter how
fast your dog ran. The exception to this is in the more advanced classes, where
no penalties are allowed, and it's all about speed competing.
Ribbons are usually hung up or placed near the
registration table later in the day for you to get. Expect to wait at least an
hour after your run for your ribbons to be ready. Some ribbons and prizes (like
the ribbons given for the best scores in the whole competition) are given out at
the end of the day. Yawn. But it's worth it!
Each organization has its own rules about what
constitutes faults and whether one can earn a qualifying score with
faulted runs. A completed run that passes the minimum defined standards for
time, faults, points, or so on, is referred to as a qualifying run and in
some cases earns credit towards agility titles. A qualifying run is also
referred to as a leg. A clean run or clear round is one
with no faults.
Different organizations place different values
on faults, which can include the following:
||Going over the maximum time allotted by
the judge to complete a course (the standard course time (SCT)).
||When the dog fails to place a foot in
the contact zone while performing a contact obstacle. In popular jargon,
a flyoff is when the dog misses the descending contact zone
because he leaps from the obstacle a long way above the zone, often in a
spectacular flying manner.
|Knocked or dropped bar
||Displacing a bar (or panel) when going
over a jump.
|Weave pole fault
||The dog must enter with the first pole
to his left and proceed through the weaves without skipping any.
Entering incorrectly, skipping poles, or backweaving when attempting to
correct missed poles can all be faulted.
||Dog takes the wrong obstacle on a course
in which the obstacles are numbered sequentially.
||The dog makes an approach towards the
correct obstacle, but then turns away or hesitates significantly before
attempting the obstacle.
||The dog does not directly approach the
next obstacle, instead running past it.
||The handler deliberately touches the dog
||Can include dog biting the judge or the
handler or other unsportsmanlike behavior, the handler exhibiting
unsportsmanlike behavior, the dog eliminating in the ring, the dog
leaving the ring and not coming back, the handler carrying toys or food
into the ring, the dog running with his collar on (collars are
prohibited in some organizations), and others.
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Agility Scoring Chart from Wikepedia