By: Sharon Anderson  Date: 01/9/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

Running, climbing, jumping, zipping through tunnels, and twisting through a set of upright poles, dogs throughout the country are racing through agility courses having the time of their lives. If the dog's idea of how to run the course matches the judge's plan and he maneuvers the obstacles within the specified time, he and his owner will earn a leg towards an agility title.

Agility came on the American scene several years ago. In 1994, the American Kennel Club unveiled its agility program with its first trial at the Houston Astrodome. AKC held 23 trials that year; this year more than 700 trials have been scheduled. Many clubs are preparing to host their first agility trial, and the year 2000 will again set a record.

Agility is limited by only the number of dogs available to have fun. Courses are set for the size of the dogs. Jump heights are set at eight, 12, 16, 20, and 24 inches; no dog is asked to jump more than two inches higher than his shoulder height.

Success in agility requires proper training. This test of physical skill and mental prowess requires control, patience, and teamwork between handler and dog. The team is timed from the start line to the finish line; the dog must maneuver over, around, or through the obstacles in assigned order and within the assigned time, all without anything more than encouragement from the handler.

Agility dogs learn to climb the five-foot, six-inch A-frame, walk across a raised, narrow dog walk and balance on a see-saw. They have the thrill of leaping over single bar jumps, double bar jumps, triple bar jumps and panel jumps that they cannot see through. They have the joy of running full speed through open and collapsed tunnels and must pause on a table for five seconds somewhere on the course.

Unlike traditional obedience competitions, agility courses are designed anew by the judges, making the course a true test of partnership between dog and owner and a demonstration of thinking skills and speed by the dog. The variety of levels of difficulty goes from novice to excellent. The highest title obtained in agility is the MACH, Master Agility Championship.

AKC's national agility team boasts the title of World Agility Champion earned last year by the 16-inch mini-team in Slovenia at the third World Agility Championship. Two teams represented the American Kennel Club and US. One team of four dogs jumped the 16-inch height and another jumped the 26-inch height. This year the teams defended their championship title at the fourth World Agility Championship in Dortmund, Germany, in October.

The National Agility Championship will be held in Denver, Colorado, on November 5-7. Here the top dogs and handlers will vie for top honors in each jump height category.

This sport has reached all parts of the country and many trials are available for spectators to enjoy. To find the event closest to your area, visit the AKC web page ( and check the agility event listing. For further information regarding the AKC Agility Program, write for an agility rulebook: American Kennel Club, 5580 Centerview Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina 27606. Be sure to watch for the new agility video that is being made by the American Kennel Club and will soon be available to the public. This video can be ordered on the AKC web page in the near future.

To start your dog in agility search out your local dog training club, observe the class, and then join in the fun for you and your dog. Agility dogs work off-lead; basic obedience training is necessary before entering an agility class.

About The Author

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Sharon Anderson -

Member/Volunteer/Partner/Article Writer of the National Animal Interest Alliance.

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