By Jon S. Bailey
Agility is the fastest growing sport in the dog world. Welsh owners who have trained their dogs in agility report that Welsh Springers LOVE this fast-paced, exciting athletic event.
Welsh Springer Spaniels are particularly well suited to Agility because of their intelligence, strong desire to please their owners, their speed and "springing" ability, and great stamina.
Agility is the competitive event where a dog demonstrates its ability to be both fast and agile, yet under control as it proceeds with the handler through an obstacle course consisting of jumps, tunnels and other obstacles. A minimum time requirement is established for each course and dogs are grouped by height.
- For agility, dogs are trained on the following obstacles:
- Jumps (based on a standard pre-measurement of the dog) in various configurations including panel jumps, broad jumps, triple bar jump.
- Tire (the dog jumps through the tire).
- Tunnels and "chutes" (a collapsible tunnel).
- Weave poles (6 or 12 upright poles approximately 18-in apart).
- Dogwalk (a raised bridge).
- Pause table (jump on the table lie down or sit for a specified time).
Agility: How It Works
The dog/handler teams run a course that is designed by the agility judge. Handlers and dogs have not seen the course before the day of the trial. Courses are graded as to difficulty. For example, in AKC agility, teams compete at the Novice, Open and Excellent levels in two types of events: Standard and Jumpers with Weaves [JWW].
All handlers have the opportunity to "walk the course" before the competition starts in order to become familiar with the course.
Handler/dog teams are called to the ring one at a time and on a cue from the timer, they negotiate the course in a fixed order trying to make no errors (e.g. running past a jump, knocking off a bar) in the shortest time possible.
The handler presents cues for to the dog with verbal or hand and body signals. At the advanced levels, this requires an exceptional bond and "esp-like" communication between Welshie and handler and hours of practice. Handlers should be in good physical shape for this sport and will ordinarily take classes and seminars via local clubs.
Agility trials are sponsored by local clubs and can be found on the AKC website (type "Agility" in the search box). Other organizations also have agility titles including the UKC (United Kennel Club), NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council, Inc.) and USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association, Inc.).
In agility competition, events are separated by level of difficulty, types of obstacles, and size of dog. Any and all breeds may compete, and are separated only by size because of the jump heights. Welshies often compete at the 20 inch jump height. In AKC agility, titles range from Novice to Excellent. Beyond Excellent, there are national championships and the coveted Agility MACH title - Master Agility Champion.
For getting started in Agility with your Welshie, see:
- AKC Agility
- www.akc.org (type agility in the search box)
- NADAC Agility
- UKC Agility
- USDAA Agility