Agility is a dog sport where the handler and their dog work as a team and perform a course, completing obstacles while competing against other teams. The agility course is laid out by the judge with numbers indicating the order that the team must complete the obstacles, in a certain amount of time. Teams strive for accuracy and speed. The dog and handler have one chance to complete the course successfully. Not successfully completing the course, or not completing it fast enough results in the dog and handler not qualifying. Places are awarded for clean runs, according to the fastest times.
Obstacles include jumps, a-frames, dog walks, weavers, tunnels, chutes and a table where the dog must stay and wait for 5 seconds.
Each course is different, though handlers are allowed to walk the course without their dog before the competition starts so they know the course and can work out how best to handle their dog to get through it.
As with most performance titles, as the dog moves up through the levels, their lesser titles are replaced by higher ones. For example, if a dog achieves it’s novice jumping title (JD) and then it’s excellent jumping title (JDX), the lesser of the titles (which in this case would be JD) is replaced by the higher level title (JDX). What seems to be so confusing about jumping and agility is that a dog can have both a JD/JDX/JDM title AND a JDO title. While these titles sound similar, they are in fact from different classes which require different skills to qualify.
Titles : JD (Jumping Dog), JDX (Jumping Dog Excellent) and JDM (Jumping Dog Master)
In both jumping and agility, the judge sets out a numbered course which must be completed in sequential order. The judge will also dictate a maximum amount of time allowed to complete the course. To qualify, dogs must complete all the obstacles successfully, in the correct order, under the allowed time. Dogs must gain enough qualifications to earn their title before they can move on to the next level.
While at first glance, jumping and agility may appear to be very similar, the obstacles allowed in the classes are different. The obstacles that may be used in jumping are bar jumps, broad jumps, tyres, tunnels, chutes and spread jumps.
Title: JDO (Jumping Dog Open)
Open jumping is open to dogs of all levels and all height categories. It differs from jumping as it includes a distance handling exercise (meaning the dog has to work away from the handler). While there is only one title for this class and even untitled dogs are able to enter, it must be at least an excellent level course meaning it is quite difficult to qualify in, particularly for novice dogs. This class uses the same obstacles that are used in jumping.
Titles: AD (Agility Dog), ADX (Agility Dog Excellent), ADM (Agility Dog Master)
As with jumping, in agility, the judge sets out a numbered course which must be completed cleanly, in order and under the allowed time. Where it differs from jumping is in the obstacles that are used. In addition to the bar jumps, broad jumps, tyres, tunnels, chutes and spread jumps, dogs must also be able to manoeuvre the dog walk, seesaw, table, scramble (A-frame) and weave poles. For added difficulty on the see saw, a-frame and dog walk, and to prevent dogs injuring themselves jumping off the equipment, dogs must touch the contact points as they move on and off the equipment. The
contact points of the a-frame and the see saw can be seen below—they are the yellow areas at the bottom. Many very fast dogs will freeze with their back feet still on the contact to show the judge that the dog has completed the
contact and to make sure that the dog doesn’t learn to jump off the end, risking injury.
Title: ADO (Agility Dog Open)
Like open jumping, open agility is open to dogs of all levels and height categories, with the same course time. It must also include a distance exercise and be at least an excellent level course. Open agility uses the same equipment as the other agility classes.
Agility games are a great way to have some fun while trialling with your dog in agility. All three games rely on the handler/handlers working out which is the best way to run their dog through a course that may not be set up in a way that presents an obvious sequential order and often, trying to recover when things don’t go to plan. Games definitely require handlers to think on their feet! Having the three games (snooker, gamblers and strategic pairs) also means that there are three more disciplines you can earn titles in, and potentially have 3 more lots of titles on the back of your dog’s registered name. For all three, the dogs needs 3 qualifications to earn the novice title, 5 for the excellent title and 7 for the master title.
Titles: SD (snooker dog), SDX (snooker dog excellent), SDM (snooker dog master)
In Snooker, dogs have to alternate between “red” and “coloured” obstacles until they have completed 3 red obstacles, before moving on to the closing sequence of coloured obstacles. Red obstacles are always a bar jump while coloured obstacles may be an A-frame (scramble), dog walk, bar jump, weaves, spread hurdle, broad jump, tunnel, chute or tyre or a combination of each – to earn a quallie, the dog must complete both the opening and closing sequence successfully and earn enough points. They need 37 points in novice, 42 in excellent and 47 in masters, 27 points of which come from the closing sequence.
Titles: GD (Gamblers Dog), GDX (Gamblers Dog Excellent), GDM (Gamblers Dog Master)
Like Snooker, Gamblers has two parts. In the first part, the handler directs the dog to take as many obstacles as it can. The dog earns points for successfully completing an obstacle and can complete the same obstacle twice. After 45 seconds, a buzzer sounds and the dog and handler must move on to the “gamble” which is a series of obstacles (which must be completed in the order the judge specifies), behind a line on the ground which the handler must not cross. Dogs need 20 points in novice, 25 points in excellent and 30 points in masters to qualify.
Titles: SPD (Strategic Pairs Dog), SPDX (Strategic Pairs Dog Excellent), SPDM (Strategic Pairs Dog Master).
Strategic pairs is a pairs relay where there are two dog and handler teams on the same course, with only one dog and handler team running at a time. Courses appear disjointed to allow the teams to come up with a strategy to run the course and change between teams. If an obstacle is not completed correctly by one dog, rather than retrying it, the other team must come and “fix” the mistake by completing the obstacle correctly. If both dogs fail to complete the same obstacle, they must take turns trying to complete the obstacle until one of them completes it correctly. In order to qualify, all of the obstacles must be completed successfully and in order under the maximum allowed time. Strategic pairs can often result in a lot of laughs when things go wrong!
THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE
AGCh – Agility Champion
After the dog has completed its JDM and ADM titles, it may start collecting “points” towards it’s Agility Champion title. 500 of these points must come from jumping, and 500 points must come from agility. Dogs get 5 points for qualifying and extra points for placing in the top three dogs (1st is awarded 25 points, 2nd gets 20 points and 3rd gets 15 points). The agility champion title is abbreviated to AGCh and also includes the height category the dog competed in, for example AGCh (400) for dogs in the 400mm height category.