Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Agility for You and Your Dog

By Betty Mowbray

What is agility? If you watched the "Hawaiian Moving Company" TV segment on agility, my miniature Dachshund showed you. Agility is a game we play together. And it is extremely fun.

If you watch agility competitions on "Animal Planet," other dogs also show you how happy and excited they are as they run through weave poles and jump over obstacles.

According to Wendy Pape, a member of the 2005 American Kennel Club USA World Agility Championship Team, "Agility is a great dog sport. Dogs go over, under and through tunnels, walk planks, see-saws .... It builds confidence in our dogs and makes obedience training more enjoyable. Agility makes the kid in us come alive ... and awakens older dogs."

Agility appeared in England in 1978 at the Crufts dog show as a way to entertain the audience during a break in the show and to demonstrate a dog's natural speed and agility. By 1980, dog agility was recognized in the U.K. as an official sport. Six years later, the first agility competition in the United States was held in Texas.

Whether agility is played just for fun or as a competitive sport, it is exciting for spectators and lots of fun to watch. The action is fast and always entertaining. It is no wonder that agility is the fastest growing dog sport in the United States.

The dog runs off leash and follows the handler's verbal cues, hand cues and body cues through a timed obstacle course. Depending on the type and difficulty level of the course, the obstacles and course pattern will vary and might include a combination of jumps (bar, double, triple, panel, broad, one bar, and tire), weave poles, tunnels, chute, table, dog walk, seesaw, and a-frame.

In competition, scoring is based both on the dog's speed and deductions for faults (knocking bars off jumps, not touching the bottom of the see-saw, refusing to take an obstacle, taking an obstacle out of order or in the wrong direction, taking too long on the course, etc.). When scores are tied, the faster time breaks the tie.

Agility is run by dogs of all sizes, from Great Danes to Chihuahuas. Adjustments in running times and jump heights are made based on the dog's height. Dogs are grouped by jump heights and experience, and in some venues a dog's (or handler's) age for fairer competition.

Before doing agility with your dog, a veterinarian should check its structural soundness. Dogs younger than 16 months should not jump higher than their knees because of developing bones. Conditioning of the dog is important. A fit dog is less likely to get hurt.

Agility training is a great way to strengthen the bond between dog and handler. Positive training methods are a must. Wanted behaviors are rewarded and unwanted behaviors are ignored. With training, agility dogs become confident dogs that trust their handlers. And they absolutely love to play their sport.

Betty Mowbray developed the agility program at Art's Obedience where she has been teaching agility for the last 2 years. Her miniature Dachshund is Hawai'i's first dog to earn the American Kennel Club's Versatile Companion Dog title by earning titles in tracking, obedience and agility. Betty, who has been with Art's Obedience for 7 years and can be reached via mowbray@artsobedience.com.