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Table of Contents

Basics of Agility

Dog agility is a sport in which a handler is given a set amount of time in which to direct a dog off-leash through an obstacle course. modeled on equestrian stadium jumpers competitions, the sport has its own obstacles, scoring and performance. Agility as an entertainment for spectators at the Crufts Dog Show the most rapidly growing dog sport in Europe and America. watching the dog and handler's enthusiasm in their athletic race against the clock.

national organizations for agility which sanction tests or trials held by local dog training clubs. Trials original international rules and specifications call for the highest level of agility from the dogs both in terms of speed and ability to perform the obstacles. the sport that call for less actual agility lower jump heights and smaller obstacles and focus more on the handling aspects .

obstacles common to all organizations:

    1. A-Frame
    2. Dog Walk
    3. See-Saw
    4. Collapsed Tunnel
    5. Pause Table
    6. Tire or Hoop Jump
    7. Various Types of Jumps

obstacles used in agility designed with both safety and appeal jumps have easily displaceable bars so that the dog should not experience injury should he misjudge and take down a jump bar.

obstacles are arranged in various course configurations, always unique from trial to trial, that offer levels of challenges appropriate to the class and experience level of the dogs competing. the dog and handler earn their way into successively higher levels, the courses increase in complexity require split second timing and coordination between the handler and dog to accomplish the course within the SCT.

Handlers may give an unlimited number of commands or signals to their dogs, but may not touch either the equipment or the dog. considerably from organization to organization. the dog with the lowest number of faults and the fastest time wins the class or height division.


Some basic obedience training is necessary before commencing agility training. At a minimum, the dog must be able to sit, down, promptly come when called off-leash, hold a brief stay, maintain control around other dogs, and accept handling by strangers. Off-leash heelwork is a big plus but not required. In addition, a trainer/handler that has encouraged their dog from puppyhood to play fetch will have a distinct training advantage over someone who has not.

Initial agility work begins by introducing the dogs to low and/or smaller versions of the obstacles. The height and/or length of the equipment is slowly extended over several training sessions to their full competition forms. Dogs at this stage of training require physical 'spotting' Physical handling and spotting techniques are often supplemented with food, praise, and fetch/tug type objects that both lure and reward the dog to perform the equipment and to develop a working 'command vocabulary' of both verbal and body signals necessary to direct the dog off-leash around an agility course.


Dogs must be at least 6 or 12 (AKC) months old to participate in competitive dog trials to compete in trials held under international rules (USDAA, AAC, and NADAC). Agility training is started with a young adult dog, some agility training can be appropriate for puppies: includes tunnel work, low jumps, and basic control training. Contact equipment work should be delayed to negotiate a plank above the ground. Long term negative impact of jumping and flexing on immature, growing bones, research the breed thoroughly and begin intensive agility training when the dog is past the growth age for that breed. Guideline for growth closure in mixed breed dogs is be 9 - 12 months for dogs under 50 pounds and 10-14 months for dogs over 50 pounds.

Most dogs are able to do well in agility until they reach 8-10 years . Owners should scale back their training and competing to obstacle heights and classes more appropriate for veteran dogs.

Health Considerations

Agility Dogs may become injured or aggravate an existing condition if the owner does not perform screening before entering intensive training. Veterinarians should be informed what is planned for the dog and the dog should be radiographed . reconsider plans for agility if the dog is rated anything less than 'Fair'. perfect vision is critical.

physical maintenance of the dog is necessary to prevent injury whether in training or competition. nails must kept trimmed back so that they do not catch on the equipment . sacrifice in dog appearance must be accepted in those breeds which have hair over or the eyes.

Breeds Involved

Agility trial dogs, both pure bred and mixed breed ( those sanctioned by the AKC, which restricts trials to AKC-registered dogs ) . medium build that come from breeds and/or lines of breeding that have retained their original working abilities tend most successful in agility competitions. no one breed dominate agility trials, outstanding individuals of every breed are well both in local and national events. athletic requirements of the sport, dogs that are less agile to the physical structure typical for their breed are successful in the forms of the sport conforming to international rules (USDAA and AAC). dogs however at the domestic forms requiring less actual physical agility (AKC, UKC and NADAC). the larger, giant breeds and to some extent the short-legged breeds.


The largest national organizations are as follows:

United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA)
P.O. Box 850955, Richardson, TX 75085-0995
American Kennel Club (AKC)
5580 Centerview Dr., Suite 200, Raleigh, NC 27606-3390
United Kennel Club (UKC)
100 East Kilgore Rd, Kalamazoo, MI 49001-5598
North American Dog Agility Council, Inc. (NADAC)
HCR 2, Box 277, St. Maries, ID 83861
Agility Association of Canada (AAC)
638 Wonderland Road South, London, ONT N6K 1L8
Agility Dog Association of Australia, Ltd (ADAA)
85 Blackwall Road, Chuwar Qld 4306, Australia
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