Doggy Training

What is agility all about?

Agility is the formula one of dog sports – fast, furious, but still controlled (most of the time!). The sport originated in the United Kingdom in 1978 to entertain crowds at Crufts, but little did they know this crowd-pleasing filler would turn into a sport equally as competitive as the breed judging. Agility is loved by people and dogs all over the country; not only at large competitions but as a fun, relationship building activity for pet dogs also.

Introducing the kit


Dogs are measured and jump heights set appropriately. Dogs could be required to take a jump head on, take the backside to the jump, or take the jump and curve round the jump wing back towards the owner. Options are endless!


The accelerator of the agility course – and most dog’s favourite bit of kit! Dog Walk: A long ‘bridge’ style structure. The dog’s paws must touch the coloured contact points at the ends of the equipment – no leaping off from the top. This is either done by the dog stopping on the end with their paws remaining clearly on the equipment (a stopped contact) or by teaching a ‘running contact’ where the dog keeps running in a split leg stride to ensure the contact point is touched.


This is another climb-able obstacle in the shape of an A. The same rules apply – no leaping and contact points must be touched.


The weaves will usually come in sets of 6 or 12, and the dog must move in and out of the poles. The dog must always enter with their left shoulder against the first pole.


The seesaw requires the dog to listen to their body and balance the equipment as it tilts. The seesaw must touch the ground before the dog leaves and the contact must be touched so a 2 on 2 off position is often used here.

As the courses get trickier obstacles such as the long jump, tire, and the spread are introduced. Thanks to safety developments in the sport we no longer see obstacles such as the flat tunnel or the table.

What are the benefits of agility?

Agility is fantastic for building off lead control. Whilst your dog will need a basic level of focus to take part, it can be instrumental in increasing your dog’s off lead focus and ability to listen at a distance.

This sport is fantastic for giving your dog an outlet for their energy. We know that approximately 20 minutes of mental enrichment is equal to an hours walk with regard to tiring your dog out… so imagine what happens if we combine both mental and physical?!

Agility is great for owners too; it doesn’t tend to be a sport where you do a six week course and then forget all about it, there is something addictive about it. This means that you create supportive friendships with your trainers and other class members. The first club I was in with my spaniel, I stayed in for nearly 9 years and lots of people I know still remain in that club, 15 years later.

What kind of dog suits agility?

Let’s myth bust here – agility is not just for the collies.

If your dog is physically sound and able to jump, they can do agility! Speed isn’t everything either – accuracy and ability to follow cues is arguably just as important.

Your dog should ideally have a basic level of fitness; we get our dogs fit for agility rather than using agility to try and shift the pounds. Excess weight puts extra strain on joints, so if we ask our dogs to jump and climb on top of that we are setting them up for an injury.

Do I have to be super fit?

Not at all! If you can run and want to then that’s great, but there are loads of distance handling options for the less mobile handler.

I have a puppy or young dog – can they join in?

Absolutely. Dogs can’t do any of the high impact activities until their bodies are fully developed – usually at about 12 months but the bigger the dog the slower they grow so we wait a bit longer. This means no jumping, no repetitive movements such as weaving, and no leaping over the contact equipment.

But there is a never ending amount of flatwork younger dogs can do – my Bumble had his first agility workshop at four months old. With young dogs we look at building.

- Motivation and drive for the toy.
- Following body language cues.
- Introducing tunnels and running through jump wings (no pole so no jumping).
- Foundations for contacts – nose targets and mat work.
- Focus and working off lead around other dogs.

Do I have to compete?

There is no pressure to ever end up competing. Agility is a fantastic activity to build the bond between dog and owner and if you have no desire to bring a competitive element into that then you can continue happily training with no pressure.

It is important to remember that competing isn’t all about winning (a fact I have to be reminded of sometimes!). Taking your dog to a competition allows them to practice their skills in a new environment, allows you to meet other doggy people, try out different courses from the ones your trainer sets, and provides a wonderful day out – I have visited parts of the country I would never have seen if I had not been competing.

‘Ooh I would love to but my dog could never…’

Don’t rule it out because you have watched Crufts and seen the best of the best competing; everyone starts somewhere. My first agility dog was a Springer Spaniel called Dottie who was anything but your typical agility dog. She was nervous and constantly distracted by smells on the ground and when we began competing it took us just over three years to get a clear round. But we persevered and she ended up a fantastic first agility dog for me and taught me lots about how important it is to be consistent and keep it fun!

The beautiful thing about agility is that we don’t try and tame dogs too much. We harness their wild side and run with it! So if you worry about your dog being ‘too much’ for agility – don’t. There is nothing more magical that watching your dog stretch out and enjoy an agility course at top speed, whilst somehow still having enough connection to direct and control their movement.

Agility Dog Training
Fancy giving agility a go? click on one of the links below and see how this fantastic ultimate sport can working your dogs body, mind, and building your bond.
Fancy renting our amazing equipment?
Young Dog Agility
Beginners Agility