What is agility?
Running a dog in an agility trial is the ultimate game for you and your dog and is one of the most exciting canine sports for spectators.  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.  It’s an activity that strengthens the bond between dog and handler and provides fun and exercise for both, which might explain why it’s so enjoyable to watch and has become the fastest-growing dog sport in the United States!

Collies and Agility?
Agility is an exciting team sport which allows the Collie and handler to work together in an activity that is both challenging and fun for both.  Training a Collie for agility can involve enrolling in a local training class, taking private lessons, going to agility training seminars, watching videos/DVDs, and reading books and magazines on the topic.  It also involves a great deal of practice and understanding of the rules for those who plan to compete in official agility events.  With the right training and a little persistence, this is a sport that both children and adults can enjoy with their collies.

Collies are a larger breed with males standing 24 – 26” at the shoulder and females being 22 – 24”.  This means that they compete in agility classes against Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Dobermans etc.  In order to be competitive in official agility events, a Collie needs to be in good weight, in good athletic condition, and have a desire to work with and for its handler.  Some agility events are geared towards speed, while others are more geared towards perfect execution of the obstacles.  Requirements vary depending on the particular event.

When looking for a Collie, future owners should consider what they really want.  Collies are great family pets and generally do quite well with children.  They are a herding breed and training at a young age will help ensure that a Collie directs its natural herding instincts to things that are acceptable within the family home.  When planning to participate in agility with a Collie, one should spend some time researching Collie breeders and Collie lines to determine those that may be better suited to performance events.  Looking at health history, longevity, coats, and success in the agility ring among a Collie’s ancestors may help in selecting a perfect candidate for your new team mate.  However, many Collies with unknown ancestry have also done well in performance events, so don’t overlook a rescue Collie as a good candidate.  Be sure to keep your home climate in mind when selecting a Collie for agility.  Many rough Collies carry a very heavy coat, which can be a detriment in warmer climates during summer competitions.  While smooth Collies are somewhat lesser known to the general public, they can also make fantastic agility dogs and their short fitted coats make them easier to maintain for travel in any weather or climate of competition.

Collies are generally eager to learn and most are very trainable and excel with the use of positive training techniques.  Collies are not necessarily good with lots of repetition, so break up your training time into short sessions and keep it fun.  Look for agility instructors that understand how to work with a soft dog and how to keep it light and fun.  Consult with your vet and instructors about how soon to work on jumps, because you want to be sure that your dog is physically sound for its entire career and won’t want to overstress a young puppies joints and bones too soon

Organizations Which Offer Agility Titles
For more information about agility competitions and where to locate events in your area, check out the following websites:

AKC (American Kennel Club):

USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association)

ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America)

NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council)

UKC (United Kennel Club)

CPE (Canine Performance Events)

The AKC website also provides more information there about the Collie as a breed.  To view a listing of Collies that have achieved the MACH (Master Agility title) in AKC agility competition, check out Beth Elliott’s website at http://www.trinitycollies.com/rankings.htm.

Types of AKC Trial Classes
There are several types of classes offered at an agility trial: Standard, Jumpers with Weaves, Fifteen And Send Time (FAST).  The Standard class has contact obstacles, which have yellow “contact zones” at each end.  Contact obstacles include A-frame, dog walk, and seesaw.  The dog must place a least one paw in the contact zone in order not to receive a fault.  This encourages safety in training and in running the course.  The Standard class also has a variety of jumps; weave poles, pause table, tunnels, and a closed tunnel.  The Jumpers with Weaves class does not have contact obstacles or a pause table to slow the team’s forward momentum.  This is a very fast course requiring instant decisions by the handler and close attention from the dog.  The FAST class is an additional test of strategy, skill, accuracy, speed, timing and distance handling, to demonstrate a dog’s athletic ability and willingness to work with its handler in a fast-paced atmosphere over a variety of agility obstacles.  As indicated by the title, the Fifteen and Send Time class uses fifteen (15) point-valued obstacles and/or obstacle combinations.  The course will include a ‘Send Bonus’ or distance element that will award a bonus of twenty (20) points if completed successfully.

Levels of Agility Competition
Dogs may compete either in the Regular division or in the Preferred division.  In the Regular division, the dog jumps regulation height (based on dog’s height at the shoulders) and must meet a standard course time.  In the Preferred division, the dog jumps 4 inches lower than regulation height and will have slightly longer standard course times.  The Preferred division has its own series of titles to be earned, and a dog may earn both the Regular and Preferred titles.


There are three different levels of competition in AKC agility:

NOVICE:  This class is for the dog that is just starting in agility.  There are 14 to 16 obstacles on this course.  The focus of the Novice class is on performing the obstacles with minimal handling technique.

OPEN:  This class is for the dog that has completed the Novice level.  There are 16 to 18 obstacles on this course.  The focus of the open class is on more difficult obstacle course performance with more handling skill required.

EXCELLENT:  This class is for the dog that has completed the Open level.  There are 18 to 20 obstacles on this course.  The focus of the Excellent A & B class is to provide the opportunity for dogs and handlers to demonstrate their superior skills in moving quickly and efficiently with close communication and teamwork through challenging agility courses.  The Excellent B level is the class where dog/handler teams can earn the title, Master Agility Champion (MACH), in the Regular Classes.

How is Agility Scored
Agility is a time and fault sport where the qualifying requirements are more challenging as the competition class levels get higher.  There are two types of faults: time and penalty.  Time faults are given for every second a dog goes over the Standard Course Time, as set by the length of the course.  Below are examples of Penalty Faults that a judge may assess a handler and dog:
  • Taking an obstacle out of sequence
  • Missing a contact zone
  • Displacing a bar or panel on a jump
  • Jumping off the pause table before the judge is through counting
  • Running around or refusing the next obstacle
  • Exceeding the amount of time set by the judge for running the course
  •  Touching either the dog or any obstacle by the handler while running the course
  • Outside assistance may be penalized
  • Handler failure to control the dog may be penalized

Agility Jump Heights
The classes are divided by jump heights in order to make the competition equal between the different sizes of dogs.

REGULAR CLASS:  A dog may jump in a jump height class higher than his/her shoulder measurement, but never lower.

8" Class – dogs up to 11" at the shoulder

12" Class – dogs over 11" and up to 14" at the shoulder

16" Class – dogs over 14" and up to 18" at the shoulder

20" Class – dogs over 18" and up to 22" at the shoulder

24" Class – dogs over 22" at the shoulder

26" Class – dogs may be entered at this height at their owner’s discretion.

Qualifying Performance
A perfect score in any class at any level is 100.  A dog must earn 3 qualifying scores under two different judges.  The minimum score to qualify is 85 in all classes except in the Excellent B class where the minimum score is 100.  The minimum time allowed to run the course and the number of obstacles to complete successfully, increase as the level of difficulty increases.

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