The History of Dog Agility
Dog agility was created in 1977 to fill the time between different components of a dog show in England. A member of the committee, John Varley, recruited Peter Meanwell to design this event. In 1978, the first demonstration was held at the Crufts Dog Show in England. The sport spread after this and was mimicked by other dog trainers and shows. In 1980, the first official rules were made by the United Kingdom Kennel Club. A man named Peter Lewis was instrumental in refining the rules of dog agility. He suggested that the sport be judged and he devised a system of signals with which the judge could indicate faults. He also formed a national agility club in 1983, which refined the rules for both the judging and making of the obstacles. The sport soon became popular in other countries, and in 1986, the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) was formed. Other dog agility organizations were also formed in the United States, including the American Kennel Club, the North American Dog Agility Council, and the National Dog Agility Club.
The design of equipment has changed since the beginning to accommodate different sized dogs and to allow for easier transportation. Sandra Davis, an American, helped to popularize the sport in the United States and created adjustable obstacles to suit different sized dogs. The USDAA also created multiple jump heights to accommodate different sized dogs, since dogs were originally required to jump quite high, which limited the amount of dogs that could compete. Originally, equipment was quite difficult to move around. For example, the tire jump was once made of an actual tire, which was quite heavy and hard to move. Variations in equipment definitely exist between countries and organizations. For example, the National Dog Agility Club (at least at first) used carpet or mats for their contact obstacles instead of the sand and paint used in England. Both, however, had the same purpose: to help dogs complete the obstacle better by increasing friction so that the dogs would not slip and slide all over them. Since dog agility is still a relatively new sport, more innovations in equipment will surely be developed in the future!
The first agility course was pretty similar to ones used today. The course (pictured on the right) was run in a figure eight, both starting, crossing over, and finishing on the table in the middle. It included a hurdle, a cat walk, weaving flags, a see saw, and many other obstacles. Most obstacles in this course are still used today. Currently, the USDAA requires agility courses to have three contact obstacles (one A-frame, one dog walk, and one see saw), ten to twelve weave poles, two tunnels (one collapsible and one pipe tunnel), one table, one tire jump, and at least three hurdles (see picture on the right). There are specifications for each obstacle to make sure they are safe and relatively standardized.
Dog Agility Today: Rules and Regulations
Dog agility competitions and tournaments can range from local to national, varying in the types of obstacles included. However, the United States Dog Agility Association requires three hurdles, one tire jump, one table, two tunnels, a set of ten to twelve weave poles, and three contact obstacles, such as a see-saw. In these competitions, each dog must complete each obstacle in a specific order, or else faults may be given. However, there are three different levels of intensity, and sometimes the scoring, fault system, or other rules can vary based on the level. Throughout the course, a handler often runs with the dog to keep them on track. However, the handler may not assist the dog in any way, or else a fault may be given to the team. Another possible fault would be a Refusal Fault. If the dog hesitates, abandons, skips, or does not complete the obstacle correctly, the consequences could possibly lead to elimination. The dogs are often scored using faults; the dog with the least amount wins. Other scoring methods can be used, such as one based on time or one where points are awarded on performance.
The first dog agility course. It included weaving flags (basically weave poles), a see saw (teeter totter), and hurdles. Most agility courses today do not include a brush or window jump, however.
The layout for dog agility course in accordance with the USDAA standards. It includes a teeter totter, a dog walk, an A-frame, a tire jump, a collapsible tunnel, two pipe tunnels, a table, 12 weave poles, and six assorted hurdles.