The exciting sport of agility has taken the dog fancy by storm and is one of the fastest growing dog sports in the country. Dogs and handlers race against the clock as they navigate an obstacle course with concentration and speed – demonstrating the deep connection between the team.
Courses typically have between 14-20 obstacles, which can include tunnels, weave poles, tire jumps, seesaws, and pause tables where the dog must stop for a set amount of time. At each trial you and your dog will race around the unique courses designed for that day. All of this is done with your dog relying solely on the cues and body language you use to direct them on course.
There are two major organizations that hold agility events: AKC and USDAA. As far as your dog is concerned, there is no difference between the two programs. Your dog gets to run, have fun, and ‘play’ with you. Whatever your preference, AKC or USDAA, check out the two sites and titling progression below for more information.
Standard Classes (STD): Involve multiple types of obstacles, such as A-frame, dog walk, seesaw, weave poles, tunnels, and jumps. Titling levels are based on increasing numbers and types of obstacles as well number of qualifying runs. Titles are Novice Agility (NA), Open Agility (OA), Agility Excellent (AX), and Master Agility Excellent (MX).
Jumper/Jumper with Weaves Classes (JWW): In these classes, dogs are not slowed down by the careful performance and control required by the contact obstacles and Pause Table. Dog/ handler teams can therefore race through a course composed primarily of jumps demonstrating a dog’s speed and jumping ability. Titles are Novice Agility Jumper (NAJ), Open Agility Jumper (OAJ), Excellent Agility Jumper (AXJ), and Master Excellent Jumper (MXJ).
Premier Classes: These optional titling classes are designed to challenge dogs and handlers at an increased speed and skill level above those set for the Master level classes. Handlers/dogs will need to negotiate courses that require varied approach angles, spacing, and obstacle discriminations to be successful in these classes. Titles are Premier Agility Dog (PAD) and Premier Jumpers Dog (PJD).
Time 2 Beat (T2B): This optional agility titling class is meant to challenge the handler/dog to set a clean efficient line with an emphasis on speed and accuracy. The dog that sets the quickest time in each jump height will set the time to beat for that jump height. The regular Time 2 Beat title is T2B.
Fifteen and Send Time (FAST) Classes: This agility titling class is meant to be an additional test of strategy, skill, accuracy, speed, timing and distance handling in a fast-paced atmosphere over a variety of agility obstacles. During your run, you must also successfully perform the SEND at the required distance from your dog. Titles are Agility FAST Novice (NF), Agility FAST Open (OF), Agility FAST Excellent (XF), Agility Master FAST Excellent (MXF).
Preferred Classes: Preferred classes mirror the classes above but allow dogs to jump one height lower than the regular jump height division and it also gives them five extra seconds to complete the course. Preferred titles are designated with a ‘P’ at the beginning.
Advanced titles requiring additional qualifying scores, double qualifying scores (qualifying in both STD and JWW on the same day), and a cumulation of fast times include MACH (Master Agility Champion) and PACH (Preferred Agility Champion).
USDAA offers the following titling programs, as well as championship honors in annual tournament series, advancement to international team status, and collective recognition of accomplishments through Lifetime Achievement Agility Top TenSM Awards.
Championship Program: involves multiple types of obstacles, such as A-frame, dog walk, seesaw, weave poles, tunnels, and jumps. Titling levels in Starters Standard, Advanced Standard, and Masters Standard agility classes are based on increasing numbers and types of obstacles as well number of qualifying runs. Titles earned are the Agility Dog® (AD), Starters Standard AgilitySM (SSA), Advanced Agility Dog® (AAD), Advanced Standard AgilitySM(ASA), Standard Agility MasterSM (SAM), and Master Agility Dog® (MAD), Agility Dog Champion® (ADCH).
Performance Program: similar in performance and titling structure to the Championship Program, with obstacles at lower heights and more time allowed on course.
Junior Handler Program: a program designed to encourage involvement of school-age children and their pets in the sport of dog agility. Recognition awards include title certification certificates and accomplishment medallions.
Veterans Program: designed for dogs in their senior years to remain active and physically fit through continued participation under less strenuous standards of performance. Recognition awards include title certification certificates in the four classes.
As with any sport, it is recommended you start by taking a class at agility club near you. Beginner courses introduce you and your dog to obstacles, and provide the basics of how to compete should you decide to go that route.
AKC offers an entry level event – Agility Course Test (ACT) program - designed to introduce beginning dogs and handlers to the sport. There are two types of ACT courses - ACT Standard (ACT 1 and ACT 2) which are the beginning level standard courses and ACT Jumpers (ACT 1J and ACT 2J).
USDAA also offers an introductory program for the newcomer, allowing more flexibility in crossing over from training curriculum to the competitive course. Recognition awards include title certification certificates in three class types— standard, jumping and games.