April 24-26, I had a fantastic time shooting the Charleston Dog Training Club AKC Agility Trial. Three wonderful days surrounded by dogs of all breeds, and people who truly love the sport of agility. If you would like to do something with your dog, and think just because you don't have a border collie or shetland sheepdog that you can't do agility, think again!!!
If you have never had the opportunity to watch agility, and would like to see what it's all about, you might consider going to an event. It is fun fast furries flying fervently forward! (try saying that 5 times fast!)
Standard is probably what most people think of when they think agility. Laid out by a specific plan, the handler leads the dog through the course by means of verbal or physical cues (such as body movement, posture, pointing, etc.) Normally there will be an A frame, dog walk, teeter, tunnel, tire, dog walk, a table where the dog must sit or lay (as directed by the judge) for 5 seconds, chute and of course weave poles and jumps, or any combination of the above.
Jumpers With Weaves (JWW) is what I enjoy watching because I love to see those beautiful dogs fly over the jumps. There are some of the dogs I swear are going through the poles so fast they're doing a time warp! JWW is just that, lots and lots of jumps with weave poles in the line up as well. This too, is a laid out specific plan that a handler leads the dog through.
However, the most challenging (at least to me as a photographer) is FAST (Fifteen and Send Time)... from the AKC Agility Rule Book: As indicated by the title the Fifteen and Send Time Class uses fifteen (15) point valued obstacles and/or obstacle combinations. The course will include a ‘Send Bonus’ or distance element that will award a bonus of twenty (20) points if completed successfully, and is identified as the ‘Send Bonus’. Six of the fifteen (15) point valued obstacles must be single bar jumps (typicallywinged) valued at one point each. Winged jumps are assumed to have a value of one point unless other- wise denoted by the judge. Nine (9) additional obstacles on the course will be assigned unique values from 2 through 10 by the judge.
Now, in English. What that means is it looks like a Standard course. BUT there will be a piece of brightly colored tape on the ground marking off 2 or 3 obstacles. That is the "Send" part. The handler cannot cross that tape. They have to be able to communicate to the dog by voice or hand from a distance what they are supposed to do. While there are certain rules that restrict how some obstacles must be attempted; the order of the obstacles, and (at the discretion of the judge) the direction in which the dog goes, is pretty much up to the handler.
The truth is, no matter what is going on in a ring, it is FUN when you're doing agility! Allowing our dogs to enjoy themselves and really "work for their supper" is one of the most important things we can do as owners. Along with proper food, water and shelter, exercise is imperative to their health. Being involved in a sport with your dog can only benefit you as well! Whether it's a long walk on the beach, attending obedience, or doing agility together, regardless of the breed, big or small, Pomeranian to Pit Bull, a tired dog is a good dog!