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What is Dog Agility?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Feb 07, 2024
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Dog agility is a spectator sport that involves dogs racing through an obstacle course while being guided by a handler. The race is judged on the agility dog's speed and accuracy. Different courses and obstacles are used for each race, or trial, to keep the race challenging for both the handlers and the dogs.

Some of the different types of common obstacles used in dog agility are jumps, tunnels and contact obstacles. Singe bar jumps in which the dog jumps over one bar are common as are triple jumps that the dog jumps over in a row. These are similar to the jumps in horse events, but also may include tire jumps in which the dog jumps through the center of a rubber tire.

Tunnels in dog agility courses include open-topped and long, closed cloth tunnels. Contact obstacles are featured in dog agility and they are angled and/or suspended boards that dogs must either walk or run on. These contact obstacles have painted yellow ends that the dog must either enter or exit on.

All breeds and sizes of dogs, from chihuahuas to Doberman Pinschers, may participate in dog agility. Border collies are especially known to be superb in the weaving poles. Vertical poles are spaced a certain distance apart and the dog must move through the poles quickly and accurately. Mixed breeds as approved by the American Kennel Club (AKC) may also participate in dog agility.

Most dog agility regulations state that an agility dog must be at least six months of age to compete. Dogs should be examined by a veterinarian before becoming involved in dog agility to be sure that the individual animal is healthy enough to participate in the sport without being likely to become injured due to a muscle, joint or other problem. Agility training is done gradually to get the dog used to the sport and to increase the height of the jumps at a rate that is safe and comfortable for the dog.

Low contact obstacles are used to start with and the handler gets the dog used to a reward system of food treats and praise. As the dog gradually gains experience, more contact obstacles of different types and heights are introduced. The handler teaches the dog more verbal cues for direction through the courses as the agility dog gains more experience.

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