Agility dog is perhaps the most popular sport for dogs. Its birth, which took place in the United Kingdom, is dated back to the late 70s of the last century, after which agility first spread to the countries of northern Europe, then gradually, has become known in many countries around the world. In our country the agility dog appeared in the late ’80s, to be precise in 1988; from January 1990, the ENCI (Ente Nazionale della Cinofilia Italiana) published its own regulations; the following year it was adapted to that of the FCI, the International Dog Federation.
After the first competitions held in 1990, agility dog began to become an increasingly popular sport, particularly in the central-northern regions.
What exactly is agility dog?
It is, essentially, a competition that provides for an obstacle course (inspired by that of the horse races) that the dog must finish as quickly as possible without receiving penalties, the competition also provides for the participation of the owner of the dog who must guide his four-legged friend giving him commands and instructions. It should be noted that the owner can guide the dog using voice, gestures, body movements, etc.., but he is not allowed to touch either the dog or the obstacles.
From what has just been said, it seems obvious that agility is a sport in which a perfect understanding between man and dog is fundamental.
Agility competitions are now very common and their spread is constantly increasing.
There is no unanimity of opinions on agility dog; some love this sport very much and believe that it is an excellent tool to create an even deeper relationship between the dog and his friend man, a way, in short, to cement their feelings, their team spirit, others, on the contrary, believe that it is incorrect to force the dog to overcome certain obstacles for what they believe to be only ambitions or vanity of the owner.
Surely, if you have to talk about human vanity, the dog that does agility has much more fun than the one that participates in exhausting manifestations of beauty. However, it should be noted that the dogs that have the most fun are those who are led to “work”, for example the border collies.
Agility dog: the main rules
Below we briefly report the main rules of agility dog.
Classes and Categories – The agility dog distinguishes between classes and categories. The classes are related to whether or not you are a beginner. Passing with a qualification of at least “Net Excellent” three races of class I degree you get the patent of agility that allows you to move to the second level. After obtaining three podiums in the second patent you can access the third patent, level that allows you to access the selections for the national team and the Italian Championship of Agility.
As far as the categories are concerned, they stand out:
- Small category (dogs up to 35 cm high at the withers)
- Medium category (dogs from 35 to 43 cm high at the withers)
- Large category (dogs taller than 43 cm at the withers).
Depending on the category to which they belong, there are variations in rod height, jumps and obstacles.
Obstacles – There are three types of obstacles: those that must be overcome with a jump (high jump and long jump), those of contact (obstacles to be overcome by passing over such as the palisade, the rocker and the gangway) and those of penetration (obstacles to be overcome by passing through it, for example the rigid tube, the soft tube, the wheel and the slalom).
A particular obstacle is the table where the dog must climb and stay for at least 5 seconds.
The routes can be between 100 and 200 metres long; the obstacles range from a minimum of 15 to a maximum of 20 metres.
Mistakes and rejections – During the competition the dog can make mistakes; these are divided into mistakes and rejections; we speak of mistakes when the obstacle is overcome not in accordance with the rules (for example, you skip a rod, but you drop it); every mistake made involves 5 points of penalty. Instead, we speak of rejection if the dog does not try the obstacle or partially tries it (for example, pass next to the hedge instead of jumping).
In the case of rejection, the handler cannot continue his run, but must first correctly overcome the obstacle for the dog; rejection also involves 5 penalty points.
Elimination – The agility dog also includes the possibility of elimination. It can be ordered for various reasons:
- the dog commits 3 wastes
- the dog makes the course wrongly facing an obstacle that should not have been overcome at that time or tries the obstacle in the opposite direction
- the dog leaves the course and leaves the competition ground
- the dog wears a collar
- the maximum time allowed for the competition is exceeded
- the handler behaves incorrectly with the judge or with his dog
- the dog shows aggression.
Route reconnaissance – Before starting their run with the dog, handlers, without their dogs, can make a reconnaissance of the route by studying and memorizing it in order to reduce the possibility of error.
The competition is won by the dog who, with less penalty, finishes the course in the shortest time.