The sport of dog agility began in 1977 when Crufts committee member John Varley decided to try to create a demonstration to fill the time between people watching the obedience championship and the beginning of the group judging.
He knew more about show jumping than dog training, and so other working trials exhibitors, including Peter Meanwell, who is considered to be the founder of agility, were enlisted to help build some safe equipment. Two years later, in 1979, agility returned to Crufts as a competitive event, and in 1980 the first agility event was held under UK Kennel Club regulations.
Today, dog agility is one of the most popular dog sports all over the world, with dogs being tested over courses including obstacles such as jumps, tunnels, an A-frame and dog walk, weave poles, a tyre and a wishing well, all placed at set distances, and within a set course time. Faults are incurred for refusing obstacles, knocking poles down, and missing weave poles.
Completing a course outside the set course time will also incur faults. As dogs and handlers progress, they can move up through the ranks from grade 1 beginner dogs right up to grade 7 and into championship classes.
Dog agility is a fun and friendly sport, which handlers say can become very addictive! It certainly helps to keep dogs in great physical shape and encourages owners to become as active as possible. However, it is also a very social and inclusive sport, with people of all ages and levels of physical fitness participating, and less mobile people learning to do distance handling. Breeds of all shapes and sizes can enjoy agility.
To begin training dog agility, it is essential that your dog has been properly socialised and can cope with being around other dogs in what can be a very excitable environment. For some dogs, it can prove to be a bit too exciting, and owners may decide that a quieter, calmer activity suits their personality better.
For the safety of the dogs, it is recommended that they do not start training on any equipment until the age of about 12 months, and they cannot compete until they are at least 18 months of age and have been officially measured, with details recorded in a Kennel Club log book. To compete in Kennel Club shows, all dogs must be registered on the KC breed register or activity register. There are over 300 licensed Kennel Club dog agility shows around the UK each year, and many more special sponsored events. Why not visit some dog agility shows in your area to see if this exciting sport could become your next big adventure?