Agility is many things. It is not only a great way for you and your canine to exercise together; but it is also a wonderful way to spend quality time together. To excel in this activity, you must form a synchronized team with your companion. It becomes a dance between the two of you.
In its most basic form, this off-leash sport involves teaching your dog to maneuver on or through specific structures such as weave polls, the A-frame, jumps, tunnels, etc; and your buddy is evaluated on speed and proficiency. The obstacles are all standardized; but how they are placed in a course is determined by the event judge. Normally there is 10-20 feet between items, and the arena is 100 feet by 100 feet.
Communication between a handler and a dog is only through voice command, signals, and movement. Treats, toys, or other items are not permitted; and the person is not allowed to touch any of the obstacles or the dog. This may sound simple; but it is not. Maps are often given to the handlers before the competition. It is used to help develop a course strategy. Each person is also allowed a walk through or run through without their canine, to prepare for the event. The person becomes a director, and must not only convey to the dog which obstacle to work; but also what direction to take afterwards to be best prepared for the following one.
Different organizations have their own rules and scoring techniques. There are different types of courses, as well as different levels or classes. Dogs groups may be organized based on size, age, and level of experience.
If you are interested in training your dog to perform agility, local classes are available through Guaranteed Dog Training www.gdogtraining.com; Sycamore Lane Kennels www.sycamorelanekennels.com; The Canine Culture www.canineculture.com; and Allen’s pet resort www.allenspetresort.net. The AKC also offers seminars. One of our local dog parks, Barkleyville, has an agility area. There are several videos available on you tube; and multiple books on this subject. Here are some websites for more information: The American Kennel Club: www.akc.org/events/agility , The United States Dog Agility Association: www.usdaa.com, and The North American Dog Agility Council: www.nadac.com
This column is dedicated to Dr. Karyn McCulloch, a local veterinarian who recently passed much too young. She was a well respected colleague, and a dog agility aficionado. She will be greatly missed by many.