Dog Agility Competition
Dog agility is one of the fastest growing dog sports of the last century that presents the best of the best in agility, jumping and team competition, racing for both time and accuracy. It is fast, furious and a great favorite with competitors and spectators alike.
Dog agility is a relatively new competitive sport that tests a handler’s skills in training and handling of dogs over a timed obstacle course. Competitors race against the clock as they direct their dogs to jump hurdles, scale ramps, burst through tunnels, traverse a see-saw and weave through a line of poles in an obstacle course configuration designed to challenge a handler's competitive and training skills. With scoring based on faults similar to equestrian show jumping, dog agility has become a truly exciting spectator event.
In the wild, dogs are natural hunters, chasing and running after a variety of prey. While in pursuit of food, dogs must often follow rabbits and foxes through the forest and navigate through a variety of barriers. Their natural instincts involve jumping over fallen logs, climbing up steep slopes, and squeezing through bushes and vegetation. Since the end goal is to catch up with prey, time is of the essence and the faster a dog runs, the better their chances of ending up with a satisfying meal. Dog agility courses are designed to mimic these types of natural scenarios and fulfill the hunting and chasing desires of certain dog breeds.
In its simplest form, a dog agility course consists of a set of standard obstacles laid out by a judge in a design of his or her own choosing in an area of a specified size. Depending on the type of competition, the obstacles may sometimes be marked with numbers indicating the order in which they must be completed. Dogs run off leash with no food or toys as incentives, and the handler cannot touch the dog, nor the obstacles. The handler's controls are limited to voice, movement, and various body signals, requiring exceptional training of the animal and coordination of the handler.
Courses are complicated enough that a dog could not complete them correctly without human direction. In competition, the handler must assess the course, decide on handling strategies, and direct the dog through the course, with precision and speed – both being equally important. Many strategies exist to compensate for the inherent difference in human and dog speeds and the strengths and weaknesses of the various dogs and handlers.
Pole weaving, tunnel running, and hurdle leaping are all in a day’s work for the dog agility competitor, as they (and their handlers) race against the clock in hopes of posting the fastest time on the course. All breeds are welcome to participate in the sport, however those best suited for dog agility training tend to be physically active with ultra-high energy levels and a deep desire to please.