Agility training and competition are a great source of exercise and mental stimulation for both you and your dog. Depending on your dog’s breed, Agility may even be a highly recommended outlet of pent-up energy. Many levels and classes of competition exist, which can be intimidating for someone considering Agility training for the first time.
At each agility competition, classes are categorized by the dog’s ability level. Within each level, there are a number of classes, each showcasing a different aspect of athleticism. Per the American Kennel Club, the three competition levels are Novice, Open, and Excellent/Master. The classes among each level include Standard, Jumpers with Weaves, Fifteen and Send Time (FAST), Time 2 Beat (T2B), and Preferred. To note: different organizations may have different names for each level/class, however, the general gist remains the same.
Novice level competitions are geared towards dogs newly trained in Agility. These classes consist of 14 – 16 obstacles, and the goal of the class is for dogs to perform each obstacle with little help from the handler. In the Open level, dogs which have successfully competed in Novice classes must complete 16 – 18 obstacles on a more difficult course, with increased interaction between dog and handler. Finally, in Master level competition, dog and handler must display the highest level of communication while completing 18 – 20 obstacles along the toughest of courses.
Among each level are various types of classes. A Standard class incorporates the obstacles one typically associates with Agility. These include the “contact” obstacles such as seesaw, A-frame, and dog walk. Each contact obstacle will begin and end with a yellow “contact zone.” The dog must place at least one paw in each contact zone on the course, in order to not receive any faults. Other standard agility obstacles include jumps, tunnels, and weave poles.
Highly athletic dogs may participate in Jumpers with Weaves classes which only contain weave poles and jumps. This class is fast-paced, and showcases a dog and handler’s ability to make split-second decisions together. Although Jumpers courses are fast, scoring is primarily based on faults, with time being used as a tie-breaker. The FAST class tests a duo’s speed through 15 agility obstacles. There is no set course, thus making the competition “freestyle,” and primarily testing the dog and handler’s strategic decision-making skills, as well as their agility prowess. Each obstacle has a point value, including a 20-point bonus “send” area, where the handler sends the dog into a marked area to complete a series of obstacles by itself. The T2B class tests which dog can record the fastest time over a series of jumps at each jump height. T2B classes are fast, with maximum time limits set at 50 seconds for 20 – 26’’ jump heights, 55 seconds for 16’’ jump height, and 60 seconds for 4 – 12’’ jump heights.
The Preferred class is perfect for handlers with senior or injured dogs. In a Preferred class, the dog performs the same obstacle course as in non-Preferred classes, but with a lower jump height and an extra five seconds of allotted time.
Agility is a fun way to spend time with your dog, and is all-inclusive. Dogs and handlers of all breeds, ages, ability levels, and sizes can participate. At first glance, an Agility schedule may look confusing, or even intimidating, but upon further breakdown one sees that the number of classes available simply exists to make the sport all-encompassing!