Dog Agility Equipment Affordable Prices!

Fun & Faq's Email us Ordering Info View CartSubscribe

Learning Center!

Introduction to Agility

Can my dog do agility?
Baby steps in training
Basic Do's and Don'ts

Overview of the obstacles
Training Tips for each obstacle
What to Call Each Obstacle

Help with dogs that are slow, scared, stubborn and crazy!

Joining a class
Entering a competition

General Rules

The organizations
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?

"Titles" 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.

The Rules

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 gotta run.  

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 strategy.

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!

Agility Scoring Definitions

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:

Time faults Going over the maximum time allotted by the judge to complete a course (the standard course time (SCT)).
Missed contact 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.
Off course Dog takes the wrong obstacle on a course in which the obstacles are numbered sequentially.
Refusal The dog makes an approach towards the correct obstacle, but then turns away or hesitates significantly before attempting the obstacle.
Runout The dog does not directly approach the next obstacle, instead running past it.
Handling The handler deliberately touches the dog or equipment.
Other faults 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.

Article feedback: email:
Agility Scoring Chart from Wikepedia

back to top ^


Order Info.             View Secure Cart
Corporate Headquarters: 7428 State Rt. 20A / Bloomfield NY 14469
Orders/Questions: 1-800-254-9441 (M-F 8am-5pm EST / leave message after hrs)
Other inquiries 585-229-7979  ---  24 hr. Fax 585-229-4010
  Email: We promptly return all calls & emails!
All images and content copyright © 2000-2016 Affordable Agility, Inc. All Rights Reserved.