Since my Agility Class at Wonderdogs does not start until March 2nd (I’m going to have some late Mondays), I thought I’d look up some details about Agility Trials. I found the AKC (American Kennel Club) Beginner’s Guide to Companion Events. Unlike other competitions I have been in, Classes are not defined by their level of difficulty. For example, I won’t be competing in the Novice Class, I will compete at the Novice Level. But let’s start at the beginning and answer “what is agility?”
Agility is when “a dog demonstrates its agile nature and versatility by following cues from the handler through a timed obstacle course of jumps, tunnels, weave poles and other objects. It’s an activity that strengthens the bond between dog and handler and provides fun and exercise for both…” (source)
There are many obstacles, some of which have contact zones, on which the dogs are required to make place at least one paw before moving through or over the obstacle.
The A-frame, so called because it looks like the letter “A,” is made of two flat panels joined with a hinge. There is a 42-inch contact zone on the 3-4 feet wide panels. Each panel should be roughly 9 feet long (going either above or below by 2-inches only).
In order to perform on this obstacle properly, your dog should hit the obstacle on the side indicated by the judge, run to the top and down the other side, making sure to place at least one paw in the contact zone on the way down.
The Dog Walk is made of three 12-foot planks: 2 ramps with contact zones, and 1 center plank. This obstacle is only 1 foot wide. The contact zone is 42-inches long.
Your dog should run up the ramp, across the center plank, down the second ramp, and make sure to place one paw in the contact zone before exiting.
Also called the “teeter-totter,” the See Saw is a very challenging obstacle. (And I can tell right away that Belle is not going to be happy about being on this thing) It is only 1 foot wide and 12 feet long and rests on a fulcrum. There is a weight placed 1-foot from the high end of the See Saw, which causes it to hit the ground in 3 seconds… or less.
Your dog has to run across the See Saw confidently and touch both 42-inch contact zones with at least one paw.
It’s just what it sounds like. A table, a 36 square inch table, on which your dogs pauses. It is a challenge of self control, which means Belle is going to have a problem with it. The height of the table varies and is based on your dog’s jump height. While listening to the Bad Dog Agility podcast, I learned that larger dogs have problems with the table tipping over or breaking under their weight. I’ll have to be on guard for this with Belle.
Dogs must jump onto the Pause Table and remain still with all four feet on the table for 5 seconds.
There are two different types of tunnels: opened and closed. An open tunnel is 10 to 20 feet long and open on both ends. Some are straight and some are curved. It must not move when a dog runs through it. A closed tunnel is more of a challenge as the dog must exit through a chute of fabric. Closed tunnel is 12 feet long. Dogs must enter from one side and exit from the other regardless of the tunnel type.
Weave poles are made from 3/4-inch wide, 40 inch high PVC pipes, spaced roughly 20 to 22 inches apart to form a straight line. When a dog enters the weave poles, s/he must enter between the first and second poles on the right side (meaning the poles must be on their left). Then the dog must weave left and right through the poles, without skipping a gap, all the way through the obstacle. If a dog misses a pole, they must begin again. After 3 attempts, the dog and the handler must complete the rest of the course.
There are several different types of jumps, but all jumps are 4 to 5 feet wide and the height varies with the height class of the dog. Bar jumps are made from 1 inch wide PVC pipe, panel jumps are made with 3 to 5 inch wide cross-boards, and the tire jump has a 2 foot wide diameter, which poses a problem for larger dogs, especially now with the breakaway tire which will fall if the dog collides with it. Regardless of the type of jump, all jumps must be made without the dog knocking any part of the jump off.