Dog Agility is not only the fastest growing dog-sport in the UK, since its introduction over thirty years ago it has spread to all corners of the globe and its’ popularity shows no sign of decline, claims Chris Park, agility expert.
From a five minute entertainment slot at a horse show to a global dog-sport with tens of thousands of participants – that’s Agility! The rapid rise in popularity over the twenty-five or so years since its inception in the UK may be surprising to the casual observer but to the increasing number of participants it is all too obvious as to why it has made such an impact. Put succinctly, “Agility is Fun!”
The wide appeal of the sport is not difficult to establish. It is amenable to all ages of handlers and to a wide variety of dogs and offers enjoyment to both, whether as a means of exercise or a competitive test. It enhances the bond between human and canine beyond pet ownership and provides a thrill of accomplishment which more sedentary canine pursuits simply can’t match.
In some ways, agility is just an extension of dog obedience training in that it requires the dog to learn tasks through the application of conditioning techniques; that is through association, repetition and stimuli response. The best results are achieved through the use of positive techniques or reward-based training.
As its title suggests, dogs are required to be agile and the more accomplished will also have a propensity to work, hence the proliferation in the sport of the “collie-type”. Many other types do participate, with success, from Miniature Yorkshire Terriers up to GSDs and Old English Sheepdogs. By inference, not all dogs are suitable to take part as the strains and stresses comfortably absorbed by the more mobile types could have a damaging effect on the stockier varieties, so common-sense dictates where the health and safety of the animal might be put at risk, caution is the keyword.
Agility in the UK is open to all dogs and pedigree and non-pedigree alike are freely allowed to participate. Sadly, this is not the case in all countries. For example, Kennel Clubs which come under the auspices of the Federation Cynologique Internationale (F.C.I.) have restrictions in certain classes which do not allow dogs without recognised pedigrees to participate. The American Kennel Club (A.K.C.) has similar restrictions.
Dog agility is a derivation of equine show-jumping, but has additional obstacles to jump. These include tunnels, tables, tyres, contact equipment and a series of poles called “weaves”. Tunnels can either be of a rigid variety, through which the dog simply has to run in one end and out the other, or of a soft variety which requires the dog to push its way through.
Are you an agility beginner or pro? Share your stories with other agility advocates and those interested in taking part - we'd love to hear why and how you got started!