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  • Klára Manychová

What is Agility?

Aktualizováno: 17. 10. 2021

Agility sports in general

Agility is a dog sport in which a dog led by a handler runs a parkour according to a predetermined order. Agility parkour can be likened to horse parkour, where the horse also overcomes jumping obstacles. This is also why among agility enthusiasts one can find many horse lovers who have switched to smaller animals. The parkour consists of jump obstacles, tunnels and zone obstacles. The speed and precision of each team is judged during each run. (A team is defined as a dog and handler). The pair with the fastest time and least penalty points wins. Each parkour should require a balance between speed and dog skill.

Agility sport history

Agility as a new sport probably began in 1977, but it is undisputed that it was first introduced at the Crufts in London in 1978. John Varley, one of the organising committee members at the time, decided to offer something more to the spectators. To expand and innovate obedience competitions. And because he loved horses as much as dogs, the idea was not far off. So he approached Peter Meanwell and on February 10, 1978 the first agility competition started. Two teams, each consisting of four pairs (dog and handler), fought against each other. The reaction of the watching crowd was thunderous. The original exhibition, designed to fill the leisure time of visitors to the show, quickly gained its own space in the sun. A year later, more teams were competing at the Cruft show and in December 1979, agility became part of the famous international park jumping show at Olympia, England. The first agility trials were held in 1980. [6]

At international competitions that fall under the umbrella of the FCI organization (World Championships, European Championships and European Junior Championships), teams are divided into three size categories - small, medium, large. In the Czech Republic we have a relatively new division of the size categories into five categories - extra small, small, medium, mini large and large.According to performance each team is further divided into three performance categories A1,A2 and A3. A1 is beginners, A2 is advanced and A3 is very advanced. At the races, according to these performance categories, trials are run in which each new team starts in the A1 category and moves up to the more challenging category depending on the successful completion of the trials. There are also two open agility and jumping runs where all performance categories run together. The open agility run along with the trials runs contain all the obstacles unlike the jumping run which is exempt from zone obstacles such as the A-frame, Dogwalk and see-saw.

Agility is a sport that can be taken up by pretty much anyone with a healthy dog who enjoys sport. There is no age restriction of the handler, nor does the origin of the four-legged friend play a role, unfortunately, except for international competitions under the auspices of the FCI, which is dedicated to dog breeding and therefore only dogs with a pedigree certificate are allowed to compete under it. It is best to start agility with a puppy, but the starting line can only be seen after the canine athlete has reached 18 months.

What is not allowed in this sport under any circumstances is physical violence. The dog moves around the course without a leash, collar or harness and is only controlled verbally or by the movement of the handler. It is not permitted to grab the animal by the fur, physically punish or roughly address it in any way.

Agility is all about fun

The magic of this sport lies in the strengthening of the relationship between the dog and its master, which the team achieves with proper training and positive motivation.

Being active, running and working with the master are all perfectly natural for the dog. It is important for each owner to get to know their canine partner as well as possible and to be able to determine what kind of motivation and training will be most appropriate. Some dogs won't let go of their favourite toy, others won't run without a treat. The same is true when learning all types of obstacles. Did you know, for example, that the agility world is divided into teams that stop at zone obstacles and those that runs running-contacts and rush through the zone like the wind?

In order for the chemistry of a race team to work properly, it's imperative that they trust each other. So before you consider an agility course, it would be a good idea to teach your dog the basic obedience commands you can do without on the show jumping course.

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[4] - Agility První krůčky - Martina Podešťová, Jaroslav Benda, Karina Divišová

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