Most people think that Agility is the most enjoyable of all the canine sports both for dogs and humans.
It is fast, furious and a great favourite with competitors and spectators alike. Agility is a comparatively new form of dog competition, where the animal’s fitness and the handler’s ability to train and direct the dog over and through certain obstacles are tested.
If you decide that Agility is a suitable activity for you and your curly, your next step is to receive some expert training, again, details of such clubs can be obtained from the Shows, Trials and Awards Department of the Kennel Club. Make enquiries well in advance so that you can go down and visit the club and chat to members about the training schemes. It is worth looking for a club that has had some experience of training a range of breeds, including larger breeds and gundogs.
The very special nature of the curly means that it needs gentle handling and a varied training programme or it will become unresponsive. Some clubs have set starting dates whereby the classes start on a particular date and run for a certain length of time, other clubs you can just turn up as and when you are able to. Dog training clubs are generally sociable places and welcome all standards of handlers and dogs to be trained. Training can be started at a very early age but jumping should be restricted in young dogs until joints and bones are well developed. Dogs cannot compete in agility before they are 18 months old.
Agility can become quite addictive. It’s fun, friendly and keeps you and your dog in good condition. Curlies enjoy agility and respond well to the very close teamwork that develops between handler and dog. Most people’s view of Agility comes from the television coverage of Crufts each year and the competition held in December in conjunction with The International Horse Show at London’s Olympia. However, there are 300 licensed Agility Tests held annually, not to mention the numerous special sponsored events which take place nationwide.
There are 16 obstacles allowed under Kennel Club Regulations, ranging from a straightforward hurdle to a long jump, tunnels, weaving poles, an “A” ramp and a see saw. Whilst the basis of the sport is jumping hurdles no higher than 650mm (2ft. 1.6ins), the full set of Kennel Club approved equipment requires the dog to be agile in various ways. Agility also requires the dog to be under the handler’s control at all times.
Agility Shows are run against the clock to ensure that handlers do not take their dogs round the course at a walking pace in the hope of ensuring a clear round. The setting of a reasonable course time, together with the careful design of the course, allows the dog and handler to show their skill at control and speed. Special ABC (Anything But a Collie) classes are available at many shows, where the course time and layout are designed with breeds, other than collies, in mind.
There are a few curlies who compete at agility shows and I’m sure their owners would be more than happy to discuss agility with you if you are interested.