What is Dog Agility?

Dog agility is a competitive sport loosely based on equestrian jumping events, but instead of getting to ride on top the human has to run as well. The handler directs the dog through a variety of jumps, tunnels, weave poles, bridges, teeter-totters and other equipment laid out in a set course by a judge. The judge watches the dog/handler team for faults, like knocking down a jump bar or going off course, and the official timer keeps track of the dog's time.

Handlers are trying for a clean, smooth run and a qualifying leg toward a title. Several national organizations sanction the sport, including the United States Dog Agility Association, the North American Dog Agility Council, The Australian Shepherd Club of America, and the American Kennel Club.Jump heights vary depending on the height of the dog at the withers, so a wide variety of breeds compete. Rainier Agility Team (RAT) members run Shetland Sheepdogs, Border Collies, Corgis, Whippets, Border Terriers, Australian Shepherds, Samoyeds and many other breeds and mixed breeds.

There are some very fast dogs, but although the runs are timed the emphasis is on the accuracy. It is fast-paced and exciting, and is hard to beat as a spectator sport. RAT trials are open to the public, and spectators are encouraged to bring their families to these free events. However, only pre-registered dog/handler pairs may compete. (Bringing dogs along just to watch may not be a good idea. It would be a little like taking kids to a playground where they don't get to join in).

Opportunities to watch the sport abound. RAT puts on four two-day trials each year, in February, April, July and September, at various spots around the Puget Sound region. The action generally gets going by 8 am, then winds down by 5 or 6 pm each day. For more information on a particular trial, call 425-222-3838 in Seattle.

To get your dog (and yourself) involved in the sport, contact your area club for information on classes, memberships and upcoming events. RAT has members in the greater Seattle-Tacoma area and offers classes in Kent (call 425-222-3838). Other Northwest dog agility clubs include the Sno-King Snowbounders, in northern King/southern Snohomish County (206-880-4474 in Redmond or 360-653-5080 in Arlington), Top Dog, in Olympia (360-357-6722), Chuckanut Chaotic Canines, in Bellingham (360-653-5080), Columbia Agility Team in the Portland, Oregon area (503-638-3142), Willamette Agility Group, in western Oregon (503-926-8767) and the Spokane Dog Training club (509-244-2332). Learn the exiting and fun sport of dog agility.

W.S.O.T.C.Washington State Obedience Training Club was organized in 1946 as a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to responsible dog ownership. WSOTC holds regularly scheduled obedience and training classes at its Ballard location and in Lake City. Pre-registration is required. Call 206-784-8026, or 206-524-2468, for more information.