Agility Information for New
Thanks to The
Dogpatch for the Agility clip-art.
If you're reading this in hard copy, go to
and read it on-line - the links are all live!
When I started Agility training with my dog, I found it difficult to
find information when we were ready to compete. And sometimes it was even harder to
understand the information I did get! Ive put together this cheat sheet to help
others avoid the struggle. Included are intros to the organizations, Internet resources, local clubs, a
pseudo-FAQ, some trial tips, and a Glossary
of Agility lingo. Ive concentrated on the
Internet and the SF Bay Area for resources.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Im assuming that you are already participating in
formal Agility training with a qualified instructor on safe equipment. But if not, I want
to emphasize that Agility equipment can be dangerous for the dog if the equipment is
sub-standard, or if the obstacles are performed incorrectly. It is not a sport that can be
self-taught you must get proper training on equipment usage for the safety of the
dog. If you need information on SF Bay Area trainers, please contact me. If you need information on trainers in
your area, check The Clean Run Clubs
USDAA: United States Dog Agility Assn
welcomes mixed-breed dogs in competition
Registration: $12 per dog, one-time fee for life
PO Box 850955, Richardson, Texas 75085-0955
ph: (972) 231-9700, fax: (214) 503-0161
Internet: www.usdaa.com; E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
CPE: Canine Performance
Events new fun organization, started in the MidWest but growing fast in
the West; titling programs in many
games that the others don't include, such as Colors, Wildcard, Jackpot, and BlackJack;
registration is not required to compete, but is for titling. Registration: $5 per dog, one-time fee for life; $15 for humans (not required, but gets a
hard cover rule and records book.
Contact E-mail: email@example.com
AKC: American Kennel Club Registered purebreds
or ILPd dogs only; registration fees vary.
580 Centerview Drive, Raleigh, NC 27606-3390
ph: 919-233-9767, fax: 919-233-3627
Internet: www.akc.org; E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
American Dog Agility Council welcomes mixed-breed dogs in competition
Registration: $10 per dog for members, $15 for non-members, one-time fee for life; Dues:
$12 annually for humans (not required in order to compete, but it does get you the
HCR 2 Box 277, St Maries, ID 83861
Internet: www.nadac.com; E-mail: email@example.com
ASCA: Australian Shepherd Club of America
allows mixed breed dogs in all agility trials, runs under NADAC rules, and frequently runs
dual-sanctioned events with NADAC; registration not required.
6091 East State Highway 21, Bryan, Texas 77803-9652, (409) 778-1082
Internet: www.asca.org; E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
UKC: United Kennel Club, allows mixed breed dogs
to compete with Limited Participation registration; minimal value locally (SF Bay Area)
since most of their agility trials are in the Midwest and East.
Registration: $28 for purebred, $30 for LP, one-time fee for life
100 East Kilgore Rd., Kalamazoo, MI 49002-5584
ph: 616-343-9020, fax: 616-343-7037
JFF: Just For Fun low-key organization
that encourages "park-style" competition and league play for fun (as the name
implies); no registration is required (or even available). There are currently
no clubs in California offering JFF events.
The best single resource
for Agility information in the Internet is Clean Run
Productions (www.cleanrun.com). They
publish a monthly magazine, Clean Run Magazine. In it you'll find
trainer profiles, handling exercises, judge's debriefing, great ads and classifieds, and
much, much more. They also have a terrific on-line store at with an enormous selection of agility-related books and supplies,
as well as back-issues of their magazine with a searchable index. And
finally, they host a searchable database at their Info Center, with clubs,
trainers, and a national schedule of agility events.
I'm sad to report that
one of the original resources for
DogPatch, seems to have faded away. Two very good
sources for agility and training books on the web are DogWise and SitStay.
If you don't mind sifting through an extra 50 or so e-mail messages per
day, there's a very active Agility mailing list available to which you can
subscribe. I have found this to be an invaluable source of information, with topics
ranging from joint care to hydration to canopy selection to simple brags from individuals.
To subscribe, send mail to LISTSERV@APPLE.EASE.LSOFT.COM
with the command: SUBSCRIBE AGILEDOGS. Be sure to read the guidelines when you are
accepted - the Admins really try hard to keep the list on topic.
I highly recommend joining a local agility club. Ive found that
even if they arent exactly nearby and you dont actively participate as a club
member, its worth joining just to get access to information. Both of these clubs
also stock extensive lending libraries (Free!) of videos and books that you can borrow for
the cost of postage. That in itself makes the dues worthwhile.
Bay Team: Very
active club centered in the East/South Bay. Conducts two NADAC trials and two USDAA trials
in Hayward every year; participates in many local demos. Dues: $20/year.
Contact: Karey Krauter, email@example.com,
tel: (650) 327-2529, fax: (650) 926-3674
Haute Dawgs (pronounced Hot Dogs): Another
active club centered in the Sacramento area. Conducts two USDAA trials in Placerville
every year, as well as several Fun Matches and classes at various locations in the valley.
Dues: $25/year, plus one-time $30 fee.
Contact: Margie Crewson, firstname.lastname@example.org, (916)
483-DAWG (3294) or 1-800-770-7166
(remember, these are only my opinions)
- How do I find out about Trials and Fun
Matches? Ask your trainer; talk to folks in your class; read the e-mail
announcements that come from the club you joined; check the web pages for the sanctioning
organizations; search the Clean Run
Event Schedule. Be sure to check this site often - new clubs and trials are posted
almost daily, and sometimes get posted here before they make it on the sanctioning club's
website. Once you enter a few events, youll begin to get on mailing lists and
info should start coming to you on its own.
- How do I decide that were ready to
compete? Ask your trainer; enter a Fun Match; go to a Trial without your dog and
watch the Novice ring. Make sure you have fairly good control commands, especially Come -
many rings are not fenced except with stakes and construction tape, so you need to be able
to gather the dog back in if s/he runs out of the ring (don't worry, it happens
- Which organization should I start with?
Some people choose to start with either CPE
or NADAC - their rules and
titling are a little less intimidating for Novices than USDAA.
For instance, jump heights are lower (for the tallest dogs - check specifics for your
dog), you can get points toward a title even without a clean run, and the courses are more
open and flowing, which means handling mistakes arent as likely to result in an off
course. There are several tables available on-line that compare the rules, including wag.ncn.com/comparison.html.
- What am I competing for? There are
two competitions embedded in each run. In one sense, you are competing against the clock
for Qualifying Runs. If you complete the course under the required course time with no
faults (or 5 faults in NADAC), you have earned a Leg that accumulates toward your Title.
Additionally, you are competing against all of the other dogs in your class at your height
level for placement ribbons. So you can still get a placement ribbon even if you
dont earn a Qualifying Run. The two are unrelated.
do I keep track of my Qs and Titles? There are several good resources on the web
for tracking your performance. One of the best is the Agility Record Book, which you can
buy from Clean Run
Productions. I have also prepared Titles At A
Glance, a simple Excel spreadsheet that you can use to track your progress visually.
It is designed specifically for USDAA, and automatically tracks your titles
by turning the cells GREEN
when you've earned -
a title. It even accounts for the change in titling requirements that
happened on 1/1/04.
- What about the "games"? I started out
being intimidated by the games and didnít enter. Once I saw them in action and
got a clue how they worked, I realized how silly that was. A brief description
follows Ė read the rule book and ask questions for a more thorough
Jumpers: Course consists of
only jumps and tunnels (and sometimes weaves in AKC). There is no reason not to enter this
class early on in your competitive career.
a little bit of distance handling, but in Novice, the distance obstacles will not include
weaves or the teeter usually tunnels, jumps, and maybe the A-frame.
is the most complex format, and I would suggest you observe a time or two before you run.
And get someone to explain to you whats going on. After you read Katie's
description, it might help if you think of it as the "Mother May I" of Agility.
is run as a relay the first dog/handler run half of the course, pass a baton to the
second team, who finish the second half of the course. You can enter with someone you know
or get matched up by draw. At the Novice level, everybody is in it for fun and nobody
really cares if something goes wrong in your half of the run, so dont hesitate to
Cindy Buckholt's book,
Competing In Agility. This book is a great place to start, with all kinds
of good information on how to get started, what it's like to be a Novice, Titling
- Get the rules for each organization and read
them: Its unfortunate to get called off the course because you didnt
know you couldnt put your leash in your pocket. Its really bad form to argue
with the judge and ask for a re-run because you didnt know the rule (Ive seen
- Send your Premium in early: Pay
particular attention to the closing date (they really mean it); send it in as early as you
can USDAA has no entry limits, but NADAC and AKC do and some events fill very quickly. The entry forms can be somewhat confusing -
if you need help filling them out, ask your trainer or someone with
- Create a checklist and use it for each
event: Without this, youre inevitably going to forget something I
recently showed up at a training seminar without the "dog bag" no treats
or toys. Oops! There are excellent "things to bring to trials" lists in the Novice trial and training tips links at the end of
- Be prepared for any weather (unless
the trial is indoors): You probably dont need to invest in a canopy or tent for your
first trial, especially if you know someone that has one ;-). But you should at least get
a cover or shade cloth for the x-pen/crate, bring plenty of sunscreen for yourself, and
bring lots of water (and a water bowl) for both you and the dog. When the time comes
to buy a canopy, check out my features summary and comparison at www.agilepooch.com/canopies.html.
- Work on your dogs show
behavior in advance: The days are long (8 to 12 hours), and your dog is
actually performing for less than 4 minutes on a typical day. That means lots and lots of
down time for you and the dog. Ideally, your dog should be comfortable and settled in
his/her crate or x-pen, even if youre not around (for instance, during the course
walk-throughs). And youll definitely want to bring a folding chair for yourself.
- Plan to be there the whole day: Even
if you know you cant possibly run until 11:00am (because they are starting with
8" dogs and yours is 26" tall), get there in time for check-in and the morning
briefing, especially if your dog has to be measured. Your dog will have a chance to get
acclimated, and you will be able to get your crating area sorted out without any stress.
If you find yourself sitting around and your dog is settled in a crate or x-pen, go to a
ring and offer to help out.
- Show respect for the judge: Attend
the preliminary ring briefings, pay attention, and ask questions if you need
clarification. Go on to the next obstacle if s/he tells you to (4-paw rule). Thank him/her
if your run goes awry and you decide (or are asked) to leave the ring.
- Volunteer to work: Working ringside
(as a pole setter) is an excellent way to get exposed to the flow and timing of the trial,
the rules and strategies of the more complicated games (snooker, gamblers), and various
handling techniques. And you may even get a free lunch for doing so.
The Bay Team has a
nice description of available trial jobs.
- Dont forget about your dog:
have found that I get self-absorbed at trials there are a lot of things to focus
on: keeping track of the rings and our run schedules, chatting with people, watching other
teams run, videotaping my friends runs, etc. Its too easy to fall into the
routine of pulling the dog out of her crate, expecting her to perform, and stuffing her
back in her crate. That may work for some dogs, but not mine. I have to remind myself that
she has other objectives so I make time for her to play with other dogs, have a
game of frisbee, wander around the grounds with me to check out the excitement. The
sniffing around is particularly important when you first arrive to get her comfortable
another reason to get there early.
- Remember why youre there: This
is closely related to the previous item Trials should be FUN, for both you and your
dog. If you get so wrapped up in the competition that you forget to have fun, your dog
will ultimately shut down. And there is something to be learned on EVERY run, not just the
clean ones. I've come home from more then one trial with no ribbons, but I was still
thrilled by moments of brilliance or success on something that had been an issue until
then. To me, that was just as satisfying as if we had run clean all weekend.
- Record your runs: Call me
compulsive, but I like to keep a record of each run, with notes on what
happened (good or bad). This way I can review my notes and check for trends
or developing problems and nip them in the bud. Itís nice to think that
youíll remember every run, but thatís not likely. I record the following
information: CST, our time, faults, points (for Snooker and Gamblers), and
whether or not it was a Qualifying run. If she placed, I make a note of how
many dogs were in the class. If she faulted or we had a handling problem, I
note what happened and what I think might have caused it (of course, itís
always handler errorÖ). If Iím really inspired and there was no printed
course map, I sketch the course layout to jog my memory. All of this
information can be useful down the road for training and sorting out your
titles. You can buy
a great one from Clean Run.
- Get your hands on a camcorder: If
youre going to get serious at all, this is a good investment. It doesnt have
to be fancy and expensive I found a used setup with extra batteries and a case on E-Bay for $325. Find someone to tape your runs at trials
youll be amazed what you see that you didnt even know you were doing
(or not doing). Its also helpful to tape your runs in practice if possible, so you
can see what you are doing differently from practice to competition trust me,
theres bound to be something, even if its just a different energy/stress
More Novice trial and training tips are available at www.agilityability.com/newbie_tips.htm,
Catalog = published list of Exhibitors for a given Trial
Crating Area = where you set up your stuff
CST (or SCT) = Course Standard Time. This is calculated by measuring
the course in yards, and dividing the result by the yards-per-second requirement for the
class (which is specified in the rules). In other words, this is the "time to
beat" for any given run.
Dog Show = any form of canine competition - conformation, agility
Exhibitor = Competitor
Four-Paw Rule = in some trials, if your dog puts all four paws on a
contact obstacle and then jumps off, you will be asked to go on to the next obstacle. The
intent is safety at that moment in time, your dog is deemed not ready to do that
Fun Match = a low-key practice event run by a local agility club
formatted the same as a trial, but without timers or judges.
Games = courses that are NOT Standard Agility; e.g., Jumpers, Snooker,
Gamblers, Pairs. Some dont use all of the obstacles, and the rules and strategy are
quite different from Standard.
Leg = Q, but in NADAC you can get half-legs or half-Qs (5 points
toward a title).
Performance Class = a category in USDAA that allows dogs to compete at
lower jump heights
Performance Event = any non-conformation (agility, herding,
lure-coursing, tracking, etc.)
Placement = finishing position relative to the other dogs in your
class for a given event
Premium = the packet that includes the Entry Form, Event-Specific
Information, and a Summary of the Rules/Classes for the Trial.
Q = Qualifying Run. USDAA requires a clean run for a Q, NADAC gives
Ĺ-Qs for 5 faults or less. Qs accumulate toward Titles the number required varies
from organization to organization.
Show Dog = any pooch that exhibits in Dog Shows. My mouth still
trips over calling my Generic Brown Dog a "show dog", but it can help at motels
that are iffy about pets.
Show n' Go = the AKC name for a Fun Match. Many are open
non-registered and mixed-breed dogs, in contrast to most AKC events.
Standard or Regular Agility = traditional agility course,
incorporating all obstacles the organization uses.
Title = the reward for accumulating Qs. Standard Agility Titles are
awarded in all organizations at all levels; Games Titles are awarded at all levels in
NADAC, but in Masters only in USDAA.
Trial = a competitive event sanctioned by one of the established
agility organizations (see Organizations
If you have more questions about competing in agility trials, ask your
trainer or contact me. If you have comments,
corrections, or ideas for improving this document, send
e-mail to email@example.com.
Thanks again to The Dogpatch for the Agility
© Holly Newman 2000-2016. All rights reserved.
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