Category Archives: Agility

AKC Offers a New Agility Program for Newcomers to the Sport


AgilityThe American Kennel Club has begun offering a new program that makes agility more accessible to newcomers. According to the AKC’s website (, the ACT will be available in two levels. “ACT1 is designed for the beginning level dog to show beginning sequencing and performance skills. ACT2 requires an increased skill level shown by the additional obstacles to be performed.”

The ACT is not designed to be just another AKC agility trial class. While it can be offered as part of a trial, the courses can be set up in smaller areas, like those that are used for training agility. Agility instructors and others will be able to apply to judge the ACT, so it can work well as part of an agility class “graduation.”

The ACT is more than just an evaluation. “Exhibitors will learn to fill out an AKC entry form, check-in at the ring, taking their dog in and out of ring, handling their dog while being judged and other information that will help them when they move on to AKC agility trials with their dog,” states the AKC website.

What if your dog isn’t AKC registered or isn’t eligible for AKC registration? That’s okay; you can still try the ACT. The only caveat is that the dog must be 15 months old or older.

What more information? Check out the rules here:

Tighten Those Turns

By Brenna Fender

Turbo wrapSeveral dog sports benefit from tight turns. Agility is the most obvious one, but rally and traditional obedience also include about turns that are best done tightly around the handler. Turning tightly is not necessarily a natural behavior because it requires a dog to collect their stride (taking smaller steps) rather than moving in extension, which dogs often do naturally.

Fortunately, there is a fun and easy way to improve your dog’s turns. First, find something that your dog likes that you can throw. If your dog is a ball or disc lover, that’s an easy task. Thrown toys work great as well.

What if your dog doesn’t like to chase thrown objects? If you are training indoors or on closely-cropped grass, you can throw a very visible treat. You may have to experiment to find a treat that your dog likes and that can be thrown several feet. Another option (which can be used more easily outdoors) is to throw a bait bag, small fanny pack, or a specially made treat-holding toy. Leave the bag, pack, or toy’s treat area open so that your dog can get the treats out by himself for maximum impact. You will have to spend a little time showing your dog how to get the goodies before he will be willing to run after the toy.

Now here’s the fun part: cue your dog to turn, and as they complete the turn, throw your toy or treats away from the dog so that the dog is encouraged to turn tightly in pursuit of the object. For example, if you are doing an obedience about turn (where, during heeling, the handler turns to the right and goes back in the direction from which you came), as you turn, release your dog with your release word (a cue that lets him know he can move out of heel position), and throw the toy in the direction that you are now heading. Once your dog catches on, he should pick up the pace as he turns around you in anticipation of fun!

At first, throw the toy simultaneously with the turn so that the dog is “pulled” forward by the toy. Then, complete your turn before throwing and, later, only toss for tight and timely turns. If your dog anticipates to the point of breaking out of the heeling position and running forward without your cue to do so, you might need to remind him to heel as you turn a few times. This is not as much of a problem in agility where running ahead is most often desirable.

Now, go and tighten those turns!

Homemade Agility

By Brenna Fender

Power-IPOC-6443Before you could buy agility equipment online, and even before plans for making agility equipment became available, people practiced agility for fun in their backyards, and you can too! As long as you keep safety in mind, you can keep your dog active, help him get in shape, challenge his mind, have fun, and do a little training all at home without spending much, if any, money.

How can you do it?

Jumps are the easiest pieces of equipment to make, and that’s great because you can set up several challenging sequences with just a few of them. For fun and fitness, backyard jumps can be kept low so that they are easy to build and safe for your pet.

In order to make a jump, you just need a “bar” – the thing your dog will jump over, and “standards” – the things the bar rests on. The most important thing is that your jumps be displaceable. That means that the bar needs to be easily knocked down. If your dog is large, a broomstick or other similar item might work, but for small dogs, that may be too heavy to move if bumped. You might need to purchase or borrow a few lightweight PVC pipes to use as jump bars.

Standards can be anything that you can sit the bar on in a way that it can be easily knocked off. For small dogs, or for very low jumps for big dogs, soda cans on their sides and dented in a bit can work. Paint cans, large buckets, flower pots, and similar items can make great jump standards. Chairs work too, but they can be too high and parts of the chair may keep the bar from displacing. If you use chairs, you can use two bars, propping one end of the bar on one chair and the other on the ground. Do the same with the other side to form an X. This will allow your dog to jump lower and to knock the bars down if necessary.

Other kinds of jumps can be made out of a stack of cardboard boxes. Those kinds of jumps can be made with a little “width” to them to simulate double jumps or wall jumps.

Hula hoops and irrigation piping fixed into a circle make nice “tires” to jump through. A ladder on the ground makes a great training obstacle to teach dogs to understand where their hind feet are. A large cardboard box with the ends open can make a beginner tunnel. Encourage your dog to push through a towel or sheet to simulate a chute. Use your bed or sofa to practice sending to the table, and to practice downs and sits on the table. Use cones, or even trees, to send your dog around.

Test out your homemade equipment carefully to make sure that your dog will be safe when using it. And then have fun doing some homemade agility!

A Quick Guide to Agility Organizations

By Brenna Fender

Power-IPOC-5693The United States offers many agility sanctioning organizations, which means that American competitors have lots of options for different agility experiences. There are more similarities than differences between the organizations. Most are open to all breeds and breed mixes, although there are some exceptions. All organizations require registration and a registration fee for any dog competing in a trial they sanction.

Every organization offers several difficulty levels (at least three), jump heights that are associated with the size of the dog, and most offer more than one path to titles (a Championship division which is the most difficult, a level that allows dogs to jump lower and get more time to complete the course, and possibly other divisions that are based on the age of the dog and/or the handler or other factors). In addition, a variety of classes are offered with different rules. Most organizations have a standard class that includes one of almost all of the different agility obstacles, a jumpers class that has mostly jumps and selected other obstacles, and different classes with strategy elements or distance handling portions.

In every major agility organization in the US, earning qualifying scores leads to titles that can be used as a part of a dog’s name. In a few organizations, winning over other dogs is required in order to complete high level titles.

Here’s what you need to know about some of the most popular agility associations:

American Kennel Club

The AKC offers a wide variety of dog sports to competitors, including agility. All AKC registerable breeds and breed mixes are welcome, although mixes must be spayed or neutered. Purebreds of non-AKC recognized breeds are not eligible to compete in most cases. AKC offers two divisions so that handlers can opt for lower jump heights and more time. AKC offers Standard, Jumpers with Weaves, and two other classes, Time 2 Beat (T2B) and Fifteen and Send Time (FAST), which are strategy games. AKC agility is considered to be fairly competitive and it is quite popular here in Florida . AKC’s philosophy is to keep the sport accessible to a wide variety of breeds and its jump heights and course designs supports that. AKC has held its agility national event in Florida in the past and has been home to the AKC Agility Invitational (a national event for dogs at the top of the agility rankings for each breed) for several years.

Canine Performance Events

CPE trials are open to all breeds and breed mixes and the organization does not require spaying and neutering for mixed breeds. There are six titling levels, including an entry level that doesn’t use the teeter or the weave poles (which can be challenging for novices). There are several divisions that allow dogs to jump a variety of heights. CPE offers Standard classes and a variety of games classes. CPE has become quite popular in Florida. CPE held its national event in Florida in 2010 and will do so again in 2015.

North American Dog Agility Council

NADAC has no registration restrictions based on breed or mix and does not require spaying or neutering for mixes. NADAC agility has some big differences from many of the other organizations. NADAC does not use several of the obstacles seen in other agility venues, including the teeter, tire, chute, and table. It does have several additional obstacles, like the hoop and barrel. The added obstacles do not require jumping, and jump heights are lower than in other venues (and several of the divisions allow even large dogs to jump quite low). The courses encourage speed and distance work. There are quite a few games classes that include a smaller variety of obstacles, and some require working at a distance in some portions of the course. NADAC encourages distance work in other classes as well with bonus options. NADAC allows limited training in the ring (although the run will be nonqualifying). There are quite a few NADAC trials in Florida, mostly in the cooler months.

United States Dog Agility Association

USDAA registers all dogs, regardless of breed or mix, and it has no spay/neuter requirements. USDAA offers Standard and Jumpers as well as Gamblers (a strategy and distance game), Snooker (a strategy game), and tournament classes (Grand Prix of Dog Agility and the $10,000 Steeplechase). Like AKC, USDAA offers two divisions (USDAA actually started that concept!) and additional Veterans and Junior Handler classes at some trials. Clubs may also offer Intro Classes which are designed to help very novice dogs get started or to serve as a For Exhibition Only training class (with no qualifying or placements) for experienced dogs. USDAA’s programs require dogs of some heights to jump higher than in other US agility organizations and it offers more “international style” courses than many other organizations do (these may be more challenging). USDAA’s program also requires competitors to finish in the top percentage of one of their classes (Snooker) in order to complete high-level titles. There are many USDAA trials in Florida, mostly in the cooler months.

Other Organizations

There are also other agility organizations that are up-and-coming or not quite as popular (yet) in Florida. For more information, check out Dogs on Course in North America (DOCNA),; Teacup Dogs Agility Association (TDAA, for small dogs only),; United Kennel Club (UKC),; UK Agility International (UKI),; and a new agility/dog disc combination competition, the UpDog Challenge,