dog agility jumpingWhat is agility for dogs? Agility for dogs is actually a sport for handlers and dogs where they run through an obstacle course. In competitions, they run as fast as they can without making errors.

Many people use an agility course with their dog for fun and exercise. It’s a great way to get exercise and bond with your dog.

Benefits of Agility

Agility is a great way to release your dog’s physical and mental energy at the same time. It will make your dog stronger, keep them fit and improve their coordination.

You will get some exercise too! You will be running along with your dog and directing them through the agility course. Running through the course will help keep you and your dog in shape.

Another benefit is the bond between the two of you will get stronger as your dog relies on you to guide them through the agility course. Your dog will trust you to give them the commands to guide them, both verbal and physical signs such as body movements or hand signals.

The Handler

The dog’s handler can not touch the dog or the obstacles throughout the course and they can not use food or objects to encourage the dog. The handler can only use their voice, movements, and body signals to guide their dog through the course.

Agility Competitions

In competitions, the judges will lay out the agility course as they would like. In some competitions the order of the obstacles may be marked with numbers or they may not be marked. Surfaces in the course can be dirt, grass, rubber or a special matting.

Basic Agility Obstacles

There are different types of obstacles that your dog will maneuver in the course. If your are in a competition, the obstacle forms remain the same although the sizes will be determined by the competition.

A-Frame

An A-frame consists of two ramps that connect together with hinges and the middle is raised to 5 or 6 feet tall. Each end of the ramps at the ground have yellow paint on the bottom 36 inches to 42 inches.

The dog must touch the yellow portion, called the contact zone, with at least one paw on each side of the A-frame. Some competitions allow horizontal slats to help the dogs with the grip.

dog on agility rampDog Walk

The dog walk consists of three planks, with one horizontal plank about 4 feet above the ground and a plank connected to each end of the horizontal plank that leads to the ground. The planks are about 9 to 12 inches wide.

Some of the competitions will have slats on the planks to help with the dog’s grip, some will not, and some will have a rubberized surface. The planks will have a contact zone like the A-frame does.

Seesaw

The seesaw is a plank about 10 to 12 feet long that pivots like a child’s seesaw. It is set off balance or weighted on one end so that the same end is always returned to the ground.

It also has contact zones but it does not have slats, although it may have a rubberized surface determined by the competition.

Jumps

Jumps are two upright supports with a horizontal bar that the dog jumps over, sort of like hurdles. The horizontal bar adjusts to different heights for dogs of different sizes.

  • Double jumps
  • Triple jumps
  • Panel jumps
  • Broad jumps
  • Tire jumps

Tunnel

Consisting of a tunnel or tube that is 10 to 20 feet long with a diameter of about 24 inches. It uses wire to hold the tunnel open which can be straight or curved. Click here to see one.

Pause Table or Box

The pause table is an short platform that is about 3 x 3 feet square. Dogs will jump onto the platform and pause for a predetermined amount of time. The pause box can also be a square area marked on the ground where the dog will stop and pause.

Weave Poles

The weave poles are upright poles that the dog will weave through. There are 5 to 12 poles about 3 feet tall that are placed about 2 feet apart. The dog will start with the first pole on its left side and they can not skip any poles.

Chute

The chute is a tube shape of fabric with one end that connects to a circle shape. The rest of the tube lies flat on the ground. The dog runs through the tube and out the other end. Due to injuries to dogs, the AKC has suspended it’s use.

Crossover

The crossover is a 3 x 3 foot platform raised 4 feet high with planks attached to 3 or 4 of its sides descending to the ground. The handler must have the dog go up the correct plank and come down the correct plank. Most competitions have discontinued the crossover due to injuries.

dog running out of agility tunnelAgility Dogs

Dogs that run agility courses come in all shapes and sizes. What do agility dogs have in common? The most successful agility dogs are physically active, have lots of energy and a strong desire to please their handler.

Some popular dog breeds for agility are Jack Russell Terriers, Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Standard Poodles, Australian Kelpies, Papillons and Rat Terriers.

There are many other dog breeds that are good at agility including many mixed breed dogs. Your dog does not have to be a specific breed to enjoy an agility course and working with their handler.


As you can see, agility is a great way to release your dog’s physical and mental energy, create a tighter bond and you get some exercise too!

Leave a comment below about your dog or share a story about your dog. The information on this website is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian, dog trainer, or dog behavioral specialist.

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