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!
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
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
information about agility competitions and where to locate events in your
area, check out the following websites:
(American Kennel Club):
Dog Agility Association)
(Australian Shepherd Club of America)
(North American Dog Agility Council)
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.
AKC Trial Classes
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
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
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
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
- 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
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
– dogs over 11" and up to 14" at the shoulder
– dogs over 14" and up to 18" at the shoulder
– dogs over 18" and up to 22" at the shoulder
– dogs over 22" at the shoulder
– dogs may be entered at this height at their owner’s discretion.
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.