Border Collie and Golden Retriever Activities

Dog Agility



Dog Agility

Learning the Seesaw

Agility was born in 1978 as a novelty event to entertain the crowds in the big ring at Crufts in the gap between the end of the Obedience Championship and the Breed Group judging. Agility was an instant hit and soon became a competitive sport in its own right.

Tigris in full flight

Over the years the obstacles have changed somewhat and the rules have become refined, today the sport is contested at the highest level by dedicated enthusiasts and highly bred and trained dogs. At the top level, border collies dominate the sport but hundreds of agility fans enjoy training for pleasure and lower levels of competition with a wide variety of breeds. At agility events there are classes for ABC (anything but collies) and also mini agility classes for smaller dogs.

Dog Agility

Rebekah at nearly 10 years, showing the youngsters how it is done

Agility is sometimes referred to as "show jumping for dogs" and there is some truth in that, but it is not just about clearing a course of jumps against the clock. An agility course consists of "obstacles" arranged into a course by the judge, the competitors run their dogs around the course tackling each obstacle in the correct order and competing for the clear round in the fastest time.

Dog Agility

Agility is a sport of speed and accuracy
Mastamariner Sea Quest in action

The obstacles are not just jumps but include a high level "dog walk", an "A frame", a rigid tunnel and a floppy tunnel as well as a table, a "tyre" and weaving poles. To ensure that the dogs do not treat the obstacles with reckless speed some of the obstacles have "contacts", areas at the beginning and end of the obstacle, dog must tread on the contacts otherwise points will be lost. The contacts are painted a different (lighter) colour to make it easier for the judge to see whether the dog touches the contacts or not.

Dog Agility

Rebekah through the tyre

If you want to start in agility with your dog your first port of call should be a local agility club, ring the secretary or instructor there and discuss your dog, the level of training you currently have and any health or fitness problems that your dog may suffer - agility is a physically demanding sport even at a fun level. Ask if you can come to watch the training and talk to people with experience, you may be invited to take you dog down so that she can be assessed for fitness and obedience.

Dog Agility

In competition the jumps are full height
Mastamariner Sea Quest

Like most performance sports, agility needs to be approached properly, poor control and lack of restraint can lead to accidents and injuries. You may be advised to join a local dog training organisation for a few months before starting agility because you and your dog need a little more time to practice basic control. Such advice is for your own good and should be taken seriously, dogs (especially border collies) love agility, they can become over enthusiastic to the point of reckless and become a danger of themselves and others.

Lots of Golden Retrievers love a challenge too

Most training organisations have classes for beginners and if the instructor is satisfied that you are ready to begin agility classes you will be enrolled in the appropriate class. You will need good basic obedience such as a solid "lie down", "wait" and "come" before you are ready to even start thinking about taking up agility at a fun level.

Dog Agility

Never push a young dog over full height jumps

If you wanted your child take up gymnastics you wouldn't rig up a collection of junk in the lounge and start tying to teach them yourself based only on what you have seen Olympic athletes doing on a sports programme on television.



Dog Agility

Some jumps are very fancy!

The advice and information here is aimed at the complete novice and if you do try your hand at agility you should do so with the help and advice of an agility club or experienced instructor who will be able to get you off to a safe and sensible start.

Dog Agility

Mastamariner Red Duster


Once you know what you are doing most equipment can be made at home quite cheaply (if you are fairly handy) and you don't need a full course of competition standard obstacles to practice - However all obstacles must be stable and robust otherwise your dog may become frightened and reluctant to trust even competition quality equipment.

Dog Agility

Training takes time and patience

Remember that dogs can get very carried away when they are enjoying themselves, like human athletes they can overdo things and injuries sustained, particularly in youth, can dog a dog for the rest of her life. Be aware of minor strains and stresses on joints and muscles, ensure that your dog only runs when she is 100% fit.

Caristan Cider of Mastamariner in full flow

Dry hard ground in the summer can be the equivalent of jumping your dog on concrete, lower the jumps and reduce the speed. Never set the jumps with very tight turns, this puts an unacceptable strain on the spine and can cause injuries to dew claws and shoulder muscles, agility should be fun not a punishment routine.

Mastamariner Jane Marple over the long jump

Where a young dog is concerned it is particularly important to progress slowly and very carefully, keep the jumps low and don't train on the weave until until at least 15 months of age. In agility, control and partnership are the most important elements, you will have quite enough to do teaching your young dog to stop, lie down and come on command, without overdoing stressful exercises with young limbs and muscles.

Dog Agility

Up and Over

If you want to compete;

  • Your dog will need to be registered with The Kennel Club on either the Breed or Working Register.
  • Your dog will need to be at least 18 month old
  • You will need to find out which shows are taking place, when and where
  • You will need to contact the Show Secretary and request a schedule
  • You will need to complete the schedule several weeks before the event

Dog Agility

Through the floppy tunnel

Common sense tips for Agility

  • Once a dog knows the command to jump, the height is irrelevant, so practice low most of the time to reduce joint stress.
  • Feed your dog several hours before agility or any other vigorous exercise to avoid discomfort or even torsion.
  • Don't practice on hard surface indoors or out, this can lead to long term joint damage for both you and your dog.
  • If you have any doubts about your dog's fitness or state of health, get them 100% fit and well before doing any stressful exercise
  • Rest your dog before training, tired dogs don't learn well and make more mistakes than well rested dogs, dogs like people learn from success not failure.
  • Always give your dog a "warm up" at the start of a training session to get her muscles "limbered up", dogs, like humans, can sustain injury if they suddenly take very vigorous exercise without getting their bodies gradually into readiness.
  • If your dog has done a round, exercise or obstacle well, leave it at that and quit whilst you are ahead, don't keep on until your dog gets tired and makes a mistake, - finish on a high note.
  • Make sure that all your equipment is robust and stable, shaky obstacles may make a dog reluctant and anxious.
  • Teach each obstacle slowly and methodically, don't try putting a round together until your dog is comfortable with all the obstacles, too much, too fast makes a dog inaccurate and prone to mistakes.
  • All dogs don't enjoy all activities, if your dog is unhappy or unduly stressed during agility training, move on and find something they do enjoy, it should be a partnership of pleasure not an endurance test.
  • Remember it is only a game, never put your dog's health, welfare or trust in jeopardy for your own pride or ambition.

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