|Allison Frappier - Successfully Training for Agility Competition
There are several obstacles you may see on the agility course. Some obstacles are a bar jump, a tunnel, a closed tunnel, the A-frame, dog walk, teeter, weave poles, and more! Go to an agility trial or watch dogs run agility online and see what you are striving to accomplish. Once you can name all of the obstacles and understand how the dog performs the obstacle, look up the rules for agility competitions.
We have rules for everything, including the sport of agility. When you see a judge raise one or two of their hands, it means the dog has made a mistake. Some mistakes a dog can make in the ring are overrunning an obstacle or missing a weave pole. These mistakes are only points off in Regular Novice Agility. If the dog makes a major mistake such as missing a contact or going over the wrong obstacle, they receive an NQ, or Non-Qualifying score. This means the dog does not earn a leg. A leg means the dog has received a Qualifying score, or a Q! Every handler aims for a Q! It means you have done a good job running the agility course. When you have received three Qs, or legs, you may move up to the next level and you earn a title! Yippee! There are 3 levels in Regular Agility and Jumpers: Novice, Open, and Excellent, with Excellent being the highest level. Everyone starts in Novice and moves up as they earn titles. Every level performs offleash. Now that you understand the agility rules, you are ready to train your dog for agility competition!
The next step is training for all the complicated moves you see in shows, such as front crosses, back/rear crosses, and obstacle discrimination. After that, you just keep practicing, praising, and becoming more skillful at handling. When you feel your dog is well trained, it is time to enter your first AKC agility trial!
Always study the course map and walk the course until it is memorized. Prepare your dog for what he/she has trained for and keep them focused. When you step into that ring, it is your time to shine and show off everything you've worked hard for. Who knows? Maybe you'll get first place, maybe you'll NQ. Or maybe, someone will be watching your dog maneuver through a complicated course of crosses, thinking, 'Man, my dog could never do that!' And wasn't it you who thought the same thing? Any dog can do agility... you just have to show them the basics. :)