Agility is an incredibly fun, fast-paced dog sport, the popularity of which has grown by leaps and bounds over the last three decades, since its introduction as a demonstration at the Crufts Dog Show in the 1970’s. Modeled after equestrian jumping events, the handler must guide the dog over, under and through a series of obstacles. In the United States alone, there are seven different organizations that hold dog agility competitions, each with their own sets of classes, rules, etc.:
The only two venues with which I have any experience are CPE and AKC. Of the two, I find CPE to be the better introductory venue. The rules are a little bit more lenient, and the general feeling is by and large one of camaraderie rather than competition. Also, there are a number of “Games” in CPE agility that help teach you strategies for handling courses, and work on building distance between you and your dog on course.
Whatever the venue, whether it be at a trial or in your very own back yard, agility is perhaps one of the best ways to build communication between you and your dog. While body language is your dog’s native tongue, it is often one with which we humans struggle. In learning to handle a dog on an agility course, you really become much more aware of what you are telling your dog — and it may not be what you think you are telling him!
If you do decide you’d like to compete, find yourself a good trainer to work with. Don’t just look at how many titles he may have on his own dogs; look at how many titles his students have on theirs. Lots of people can handle dogs — far fewer can teach it effectively.
I started Ian in agility and competed in one CPE trial. I may have pursued it further had he not had the injury he did. Elli is shaping up to be an amazing agility dog, and I can only begin to imagine what Magnum will be like. Now I just need to get MYSELF in shape for it!