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~~Adapted from A Beginner's Guide to Agility
Published by the AKC

Running a dog in an agility trial is the ultimate game for you and your dog and is one of the most exciting canine sports for spectators. In an agility trial, 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, which might explain why it?s so enjoyable to watch and has become the fastest growing dog sport in the U.S.!

How an Agility Trial Works

Once the judge has set up the course and determined the sequence of obstacles, handlers are allowed a ?walk through,? which is done as a group, without the dogs. Handlers follow the numbers set at each obstacle to become familiar with the course. Most handlers walk the course as many times as they can in the time allotted, to plan their handling strategy. Exhibitors may even gather in a small groups to discuss potential challenges on the course and how best to handle them.

The handler and dog team runs the course individually, off-leash. The ?timer? tells the handler when he or she may begin, starting a stopwatch as soon as any part of the dog crosses the start line and stops the clock when any part of the dog crosses the finish line. As each dog runs, the judge indicates the faults, if any, that the dog commits. These faults are recorded by a scribe on a score sheet for that individual dog. The dog?s time is also placed on the scribe sheet. This information is then given to a scorekeeper, who calculates the qualifying performances and top placements of each team.

Two Types of Classes

There are two types of classes offered at an agility trial: Standard and Jumpers with Weaves.

The Standard class has contact obstacles, which have yellow ?contact zones? at each end. Contact obstacles include A-frame, dog walk and seesaw. The dog must place a least one paw in the contact zone in order not to receive a fault. This encourages safety in training and in running the course. Standard class also has a variety of jumps, weave poles, pause table, tunnels and a closed chute. The Jumpers with Weaves class does not have contact obstacles or a pause table to slow the team?s forward momentum. This is a very fast course requiring instant decisions by the handler and close attention from the dog.

Levels of Competition

There are three different levels of competition in agility:

NOVICE ? for the dog that is just starting in agility. There are 13 to 15 obstacles on this course. The focus of the Novice class is on performing the obstacles with minimal handling technique.

OPEN ? for the dog that has completed the Novice level. There are 16 to 18 obstacles on this course. The focus of the open class is on more difficult obstacle course performance with more handling skill required.

EXCELLENT ? for the dog that has completed the open level. There are 18 ? 20 obstacles on this course.

The focus of the Excellent A & B class is to provide the opportunity for dogs and handlers to demonstrate their superior skills in moving quickly and efficiently with close communication and teamwork through challenging agility courses. The Excellent B level is the class where handler-dog teams can earn the title, Master Agility Champion (MACH).

How Do I Get Started in Agility?

The best way to start is to join a local dog-training club. Local clubs frequently offer training classes for the agility ring and for obedience competition as well. Even if agility competition is not your ultimate goal, the relationship that training forms between you and your dog will be very rewarding. Local clubs also have ?fun matches,? where you and your dog can test your skills in the agility ring. Training and handling your dog in the agility ring is an exceptional and enjoyable experience. From your first attempted obstacle to the finished product of 20 obstacles performed with speed, you and your dog will develop a bond. While training classes offer the best hands-on way to practice for the ring, watching exhibitors at licensed trials will gain you expertise in the agility ring.


  • Dog Walk
  • A-Frame
  • Seesaw
  • Pause Table
  • Weave Poles ? 6 in Novice and up to 12 in Open/Excellent
  • Open Tunnel
  • Closed Tunnel
  • Bar Jump
  • Double Bar Jump
  • Panel Jump
  • Tire Jump
  • Broad Jump
  • Triple Bar Jump
  • One Bar Jump