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!