Agility is a young sport, and one of the fastest growing competitive dog sports in the country. It began in the 1970s in Great Britain and spread to the U.S. in the 1980s; the first AKC licensed agility trial was held in 1994.
Agility provides enormous fun for both dog and handler. The dog, under his handler's direction, negotiates an obstacle course where he will go through tunnels, over jumps, weave through upright poles, climb an A-Frame or a seesaw, jump through a tire, or sit quietly on a low table. The agility course, or sequence and placement of obstacles, is different in each trial.
In trials, both speed and accuracy determine a team's score, but many people take agility classes with no intention of competing — they do it because they and their dogs simply have such a good time. Any dog enjoys agility, regardless of size or age; in fact, agility training is an excellent confidence-builder for the young and shy. Whether you're interested in competition or just looking for a structured way to play with your dog, agility offers wonderful opportunities.
PCOTC has designed an agility program that offers instruction from Foundation classes to the Masters level, taught by instructors who have been training and competing in the sport for years. We teach each obstacle separately with positive reinforcement and patience. To avoid injuring growing bones, very young dogs do not use obstacles that must be jumped or scaled. It is highly recommended that a team take the Clicker Basics or Family Manners: Foundations courses, before attempting the Agility Foundations class, though this is not required.
In addition to obstacle skills, the agility dog and handler must also have basic handling skills. These include the dog working on both sides of the handler and the handler being able to cross in front of the dog, behind the dog, send the dog ahead, and work at a distance from the dog. The dog relies on the handler's body language and voice to know which obstacle to take next. This requires, and builds, an exceptionally close rapport and teamwork between handler and dog. Strong planning skills are required of the handler.
AKC AGILITY CLASS TYPES
There are three types of classes offered at an AKC agility trial: Standard, Jumpers With Weaves, and Fifteen and Send Time (FAST).
The Standard class has contact obstacles, which have yellow "contact zones" at each end. Contact obstacles include A-frame, dog walk and seesaw. The dog must place at least one paw in the contact zone in order to not receive a fault. This encourages safety in training and in running the course. Standard class also has a variety of jumps, weave poles, pause table, tunnels and a closed chute.
The Jumpers with Weaves class does not have contact obstacles or a pause table to slow the team's forward momentum. This is a very fast course requiring instant decisions by the handler and close attention from the dog.
The FAST class is an additional test of strategy, skill, accuracy, speed, and timing and distance handling, to demonstrate a dog's athletic ability and willingness to work with its handler in a fast-paced atmosphere over a variety of agility obstacles. As indicated by the title, the Fifteen and Send Time class uses 15 point-valued obstacles and/or obstacle combinations. The course will include a 'Send Bonus' or distance element that will award a bonus of twenty (20) points if completed successfully.
There are three different levels of competition in agility:
Novice is for the dog that is just starting in agility. There are 13 to 15 obstacles on a Novice course. The focus of the Novice class is on performing the obstacles with minimal handling technique.
Open is for the dog that has completed the Novice level. There are 16 to 18 obstacles on this course. The focus of the open class is on more difficult obstacle course performance with more handling skill required.
Excellent is for the dog that has completed the open level. There are 18 - 20 obstacles on this course. The focus of the Excellent class is to provide the opportunity for dogs and handlers to demonstrate their superior skills in moving quickly and efficiently with close communication and teamwork through challenging agility courses. The Excellent B level is the class where handler-dog teams can earn the title, Master Agility Champion (MACH), in the Regular Classes.
All breeds may compete in agility, but the classes are divided by jump heights in order to make the competition equal between the different sizes of dogs. In addition, the Preferred Class option offers lower jump heights and more generous course times, affording an opportunity for a greater variety of dogs, and their handlers, to participate in the sport of agility.
AKC AGILITY TITLES
Standard Class Titles:
Novice Agility (NA)
Open Agility (OA)
Agility Excellent (AX)
Master Agility Excellent (MX)
Jumpers With Weaves Titles:
Novice JWW (NAJ)
Open JWW (OAJ)
Excellent JWW (AXJ)
Master Excellent JWW (MXJ)
Novice FAST (NF)
Open FAST (OF)
Excellent FAST (XF)
Master Excellent (MSF)
Preferred titles are the same as the Standard, JWW and FAST titles, with the addition of "P" (preferred) at the end of the title.
Special Agility Titles:
MACH (Master Agility Championship) is the highest-level AKC agility title. To earn this title, a dog must achieve a minimum of 750 championship points and 20 double qualifying scores obtained from the Excellent B Standard Agility class and the Excellent B Jumpers With Weaves class.
FAST Century 1 (FTC1) requires the MXF title plus one-hundred additional Excellent B FAST Class qualifying scores of 60 points or greater.
Preferred Agility Excellent (PAX) is the highest title for the preferred program.