Fun & exercise for brain & body

The sport of dog agility provides both fun and exercise, while at the same time strengthens the bond between the pooch and pet parent/handler. Let’s see how.

The sport…

The main objective of dog agility sport is for the handlers to direct their dogs through an obstacle course while striving for both ‘fast time’ and ‘accuracy’. Handlers use voice, body position cues and movement to direct the dog; therefore the activity requires dog training, canine relationship building as well as co-ordination skills.

Basic root…

The first documented dog agility event was in Great Britain during the 1977 Crufts Dog Show where the course design was based on equestrian hurdles. The demonstration was so popular that the sport grew into local, national and international competitions. Today, agility has spread to over 80 countries and 30 of which take part each year in a World Champion held in Europe.


Agility obstacles are standardised equipments that are arranged by a judge on an area that is at least 30×30m, with numbers indicating their correct running sequence. There are various obstacles to test the speed and dexterity of both dog and handler team, such as jumps, tunnels, contacts and a crowd favourite, the weave poles.

Element of surprise…

A different designed course, which is never before seen by the handler, is at each event. The handler is given the opportunity to walk the course before their run so the fastest and most accurate path for both themselves and dog can be planned. Scoring is based on penalties such as knocked jump bars, lack of accuracy and the time of course competition.

Agility competitions…

There are several different organisations for agility each with their own rules and regulations, but what they all have in common is the division of dogs into classes based on height and competition level. Dogs are measured at their shoulders to determine what height they will jump, which can range from 25 cm for shorter breeds like Corgi to 65 cm for taller breeds such as German Shepherd.

Dogs are then divided into classes based on their level of competition. Novice level is for a dog and handler just starting agility; the Open level requires more difficult course and handling skills; while Excellent level is for dogs who have advanced training and handling maneuvers. Having various levels allow each handler-dog team to compete at their own ability.

Friendship guaranteed…

Training and handling in agility will allow you to make friends with other canine competitors, bring you hours of enjoyment and also create a stronger connection between you and your dog.

(Susan Paulsen, MEd, is an UKI Agility Judge; she has been working with dog for over 15 years and lives in California with her two Border Collies, an Australian Shepherd and a Papillion who all compete in agility).

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