Admiring a dog in action during an agility trial.

Photograph by Hilary Schenck
Table 21-1 The Original AKC Agility Titles



Novice Agility (NA)

Three qualifying scores under two

different judges

Open Agility (OA)


Agility Excellent (AX)


Master Agility (MX)

Must have earned the AX title and

then qualify ten more times

Other than the exercises themselves, there are some significant differences between agility trials and obedience trials. We outline the differences in Table 21-2.

Table 21-2 Differences between Agility and Obedience Trials



Your dog has to be able to work

Your dog always works on your

on both your right and left side.

left side.

You have minimum time limits

There is no time limit (within reason).

during which you and your dog

have to complete the course.

The order in which the obstacles are

The exercises and the order of the

to be negotiated varies, as do the

exercises are always the same.


Continuous communication with During your dog's performance of an your dog is encouraged. exercise, you can't talk to your dog and can give only one command.

As with obedience, the level of difficulty increases with each higher class, as does the number of obstacles.

No doubt, part of the appeal of agility competition is its seeming simplicity. Almost any dog in reasonably good physical condition quickly learns the rudiments of the various obstacles. And, almost any handler who is also in reasonably good physical condition can compete in agility. But few things are ever as simple as they appear.

Beginning agility is deceptively simple, but it's not as easy as it looks. Because the courses you and your dog have to negotiate are never quite the same, there is a premium on your ability to communicate with your dog. Any lapses in communication invariably result in Buddy's failure to complete the course correctly. You're also competing against the clock and have to make split-second decisions. In addition, you need to memorize the course before you and your dog compete.

You can see what makes agility so exciting. The two of you really have to work as a team and keep your wits about you. We highly recommend that you try it. You'll be amazed how your dog will take to it. We aren't suggesting that you try to set up an agility course in your backyard — few of us have the wherewithal to do that. Find out from your local dog organizations where agility trials are being held and then take a look. Most communities have a group or an individual who has classes that meet on a regular basis where you and Buddy can get started. Even if you aren't interested in competing, agility courses are a good mental stimulation for Buddy, as well as good exercise for both of you.

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