Agility is one of the fastest growing dog sports in the country and the single fastest growing event held in conjunction with the AKC National Championship Dog Show Presented by Royal Canin. It’s challenging, great fun for dog and handler, and thrilling for spectators. For the dog-human team, agility requires athleticism, concentration, training, and, most of all, teamwork. The handler directs the dog through a predetermined pattern of obstacles, including jumps, tunnels, and weave poles, while racing against the clock. They must complete the course as perfectly as possible within a specific amount of time.
The agility teams you’ll see at the AKC National Championship are not beginners. They’ve all competed in the master level and have earned points toward Master Agility Champion (MACH) or Preferred Agility Champion (PACH) titles. Agility is a timed and a fault sport, meaning teams gain or lose points based on several criteria. Each team starts out with 100 points. Points are deducted for every penalty — for example taking an obstacle out of sequence, displacing a panel on a jump, or leaving the pause table too soon. Teams also lose points if they exceed the time set for running the course. But you don’t have to memorize all of the rules to enjoy watching the speed, athleticism, and sheer joy of agility.
What may be most surprising about agility competition is the wide variety of breeds that compete. Sure, you’d expect to see Border Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Australian Shepherds. But one of the best features of agility is that it’s for every breed. All dogs run the same course; the only difference is that the jump height is adjusted to make the competition equal across all sizes and shapes of dogs. Yes, the 2016 Top MACH Dog is Hob Nob Mystic Flame, a Border Collie. And the very first dog to win the title of Agility Grand Champion was Rivercity Outrageous, a Golden Retriever. But you haven’t lived until you’ve watched a Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Dane, Dachshund, Old English Sheepdog, Pug, or Cardigan Welsh Corgi fly through the course.
We should warn you, though, that watching the agility competition may have a serious side effect: it looks like so much fun that you may decide to try it with your own dog. And that can be addictive!
Interested in attending this incredible dog-filled event for yourself? Buy tickets here.