Agility is a relatively recent addition to the AKC canine competition. Agility is definitely one of the more athletic events. It requires speed, skill and coordination between the dog and handler. In an agility trial, a dog demonstrates its agile nature and versatility by following cues from the handler through a timed obstacle course of jumps, tunnels, weave poles and other objects. The closest equivalent sport would be the equestrian jumping events.
The goal is for the dog and handler team to navigate a series of obstacles in the shortest period of time. The handler generally is running along with the dog issuing verbal commands or hand signals for which obstacle to do next.
Agility has levels of competition: novice, open and excellent. The number of obstacles run from 12 to 18 depending on the level. Completing the course with a score of 85 qualifies for a "leg". A perfect score is 100. There are faults for refusing to go on or over an obstacle or missing an obstacle or taking obstacles out of turn or not completing the course in the prescribed time. Each fault deducts points from ones score. Three legs earns the dog a title at that level.
As the levels progresses, the number and difficulty of obstacles goes up. In addition, the layout becomes more complex. Jumps are grouped together to require the dog to jump accurately and recover quickly from the previous jump. Often the entrance to several obstacles are side by side requiring the handler to direct the dog left, right or middle.
The obstacles include:
- hurdles: both lateral and vertical, open and closed
- tire jump
- pause table
- dog walk
- closed tunnel
- weave poles
Due to the short stature of the Scottie they usually jump 8 or 12 inchs.
Some of the obstacles like the A-Frame favor larger dogs. Everyone has to climb the same 5' height. However, the Scottie has an advantage on the elevated walk due to its low center of gravity and narrow stance. The Scottie can almost weave back and forth on the 12" rail where a larger dog would fall off. Similarly, the Scottie naturally like tunnels so is more adapt at these.
Each day all dogs compete for who has the fastest time.
In addition, individual dogs compete to complete "legs" toward their agility title.
Prior to each class or level, the handlers are allowed to walk the course. Their goal is to plan a strategy for navigating the course. The actual competition has one dog and handler at a time running the course. Timing is usually measured by breaking a photo-electric beam at the start and end of the course. A judge watches the event to determine if the dog correctly navigated the course without faults.
Agility is great for building a better relationship with your Scottie. The time spent training and competing will foster greater trust and mutual respect between dog and handler. Scotties love the excitement of running through tunnels, jumping, and scrambling over contact obstacles.
To practice one needs equipment, space and training time. Most of the equipment is simple to build and there are numerous books with construction instructions. You of course can purchase your own equipment. There are agility clubs and commercial practice facilities around the country. They provide the equipment and instruction/coaching in agility.
Training begins with basic obedience and attention exercises. Going to an agility club or practice facility is very useful. Locating and training with a more experienced person is good too. Working with other dogs is often helpful.
Once the basics are down, then the training advances to running several obstacles in a row adding in handler commands as each obstacle is encountered. Eventually you build up to doing a complete circuit.
Agility trials are sometimes held in conjunction with AKC conformation and obedience events.
For more information go to the AKC Site.