Dog Agility is a rapidly growing canine sport where dogs must correctly and rapidly perform a series of obstacles under the guidance of their handlers. Fun for participants and spectators alike, the sport has been receiving increasing exposure in the media, adding to its popularity.
The obstacles a dog may need to perform include a variety of jumps, tunnels, a seesaw, a narrow "dogwalk", a tall a-frame, weave poles (a series of poles the dog must slalom between), and a table where the dog must stop and wait for a count of 5. The handler runs with the dog and guides the dog to the correct obstacle with voice and signals. In competition, the handler may not use food, toys or touch the dog or the obstacles, however toys and food are used quite a bit in training. A dog needs to be healthy and reasonably fit to participate safely, but it's a game dogs of all sizes and shapes, mixed breed and purebred can play.
In the United States, the major agility organizations (AKC, USDAA, NADAC, CPE and UKC) hold trials where dog/handler teams compete and can earn titles. Complexity of the course and criteria for a qualifying performance (called a "run") increase in difficulty as a dog progresses through 3 levels of competition - from starters/novice through open/advanced (the intermediate level) into the masters/elite/excellent classes. Each organization also offers championship titles to dogs who demonstrate excellence in the highest level of competition. There are national competitions for teams which meet the requirements. Agility is also popular in Great Britain and Europe and there is an annual International event.
The sense of fun and teamwork which develops while training a dog in agility is something which carries over into other dog sports and most importantly into your whole relationship with your dog. If you've been sitting on the fence trying to decide if agility is for you, hop off and join us!