Agility was first seen as a demonstration display at the UK Kennel Club’s annual Crufts Show in 1978 and developed from there as an organised sporting event which has now gained massive popularity throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, the USA and the Far East. Competitions are held at both national and international level and the sport continues to prove a massive hit with spectators at Crufts. All types of dogs can compete in the UK from pedigree to mixed breeds and dogs of all shapes and sizes can be found enjoying themselves at Agility competitions throughout the country on most summer weekends.
The sport is based along the same principles as equestrian show jumping events. The handler has to guide the dog around a course of between ten and twenty obstacles in the fastest possible time. Obstacles consist of a variety of jumps, tunnels, weave poles and other equipment known as contacts, which the dog has to climb or cross in a controlled manner.
The courses are set by a judge taking into account the experience of the dogs and dogs will generally compete against others of similar experience. Jump heights are also altered according to the size classification of the dogs competing. Handlers are given the opportunity to 'walk the course' before the competition commences, giving them the chance to plan their route and determine the best way to control their dogs around the course. Accuracy around the course is the goal in order to achieve a clear round.
Hamish clearing a jump
Faults are incurred where jumps are knocked down or other items of equipment are not correctly completed. Dogs have to make 'contact' with the different coloured areas on the contact equipment. The A Frame, the Seesaw and the Dogwalk.
Weaving is possibly the hardest discipline for dogs to learn. Between five and twelve poles have to be negotiated correctly with the dog entering past the first pole with the left shoulder.
Tunnels on the other hand are often the most appealing obstacle for a dog to complete and are often positioned in such a way to entice the dog away from the correct course, eliminating the dog from the run.
Moss completing the See-saw
All handlers and dogs compete for fun only, although coloured rosettes and trophies for the winners are eagerly sought prizes. Dogs love to take part for the thrill of running over the obstacles whilst for the human handlers the sense of achievement of obtaining a successful clear round can be a real adrenalin buzz.