Agility is the fastest growing dog sport in the United States. It is a fun, competitive sport, testing for speed and accuracy of handler and dog. Dogs are individually timed as they are directed by their handler to negotiate a course of jumps, contact obstacles, tunnels and weave poles. Qualifying scores are awarded to those dogs finishing the course without disqualifying mistakes, within a predetermined amount of time. The difficulty of the course increases as dogs advance to higher levels of competition. Ribbons are awarded to the first four places in each jump height, for each level.
In choosing a borzoi for agility, adult or puppy, choose a happy, outgoing, people-oriented dog. The dog should not be shy, sensitive to noises, or fearful of unfamiliar situations. A “puppy aptitude” test can be helpful in determining if a puppy has these traits. This test can be adapted for adult dogs. That being said, agility is a great way to help your dog overcome its sensitive nature and become a more confident dog. Structural soundness is equally important because agility is a physically demanding sport.
With proper training, any borzoi can do agility. Your dog should have an understanding of basic obedience commands, such as sit, down and come. (See The Borzoi in Obedience) Positive training techniques work especially well for agility. Contact your local agility or obedience club for information on training classes.
Start with a foundation agility class where you and your borzoi will learn all the skills you will need to perform on the obstacles. As you progress, you and your dog will learn to work together to negotiate a course of obstacles designed by a judge.
If you are starting with a puppy, choose a puppy that is curious and willing to try new things. Adults may take a little more time and effort, but they can be just as successful. Encourage your dog to enjoy food and toy rewards. Make training fun for you and your dog. Your dog should be willing to walk on many different surfaces, like a tarp, wood, metal, cement, gravel anything you can think of. Let your dog think anything new and different is something she should explore and touch. This will help when she starts on the agility equipment because she will be used to doing exciting new things. You and your dog should be in good physical condition as agility is a strenuous sport.
A-frame: a contact obstacle made of two panels; the dog must go up one side and down the other. They must touch the contact zone on the down side.
Dog Walk: a contact obstacle consisting of a center section and two ramps, twelve inches wide. The dog must go up one ramp, across the center section and descend the other ramp. The dog must touch the contact zone on the up and down ramp.
Teeter: a contact obstacle consisting of a 12 inch wide plank supported in the middle by a fulcrum. The dog must go up the plank and cause it to pivot to the ground before dismounting. The dog must touch the contact zone on the up and down part of the plank.
Pause Table: Some agility venues use a pause table that the dog is required to stop on for a specified time, usually 5 seconds. It is a 36 inch square table set at a height corresponding to the dog's jump height.
Open Tunnel: a tunnel made of flexible material with a 24 inch opening, 10 to 20 feet long. It can be curved so the dog cannot see the exit.
Jumps: many types of jumps are used on the agility courses, depending on the level of competition. They are single bar, panel, broad, double bar and triple bar. Class divisions are determined by the height of the dog measured at the top of the dogs withers.
Closed Tunnel: consists of a rigid entrance with a chute attached. The length of the closed tunnel is 6 to 12 feet depending on the venue in which you are competing.
Weave Poles: consist to 6 to 12 poles 36 inches tall and spaced 22 to 24 inches apart. The poles are arranged in a straight line. The dog must enter the poles correctly and weave through all of the poles.
Tire Jump: a suspended tire like jump.
Contact Obstacle: an obstacle that requires a dog to touch a safety zone.
Contact Zone: the yellow painted area on an obstacle indicating the safety zone.
Call Off: a challenge on the course where the dog must be redirected by the handler in a different direction so the dog will not take the obstacle in his path.
Judge's Briefing: prior to the start of a class, the judge goes over rules,time, distance and scoring for the course.
Course Time: time allotted to finish the course without incurring time faults
Time Faults: penalties incurred by running over the time allotted for finishing the course.
Elimination: a dog is given a "no score," but is allowed to finish the course.
Excusal: an elimination with excusal requires the dog and handler to leave the ring immediately.
If you are interested in competing, there are many agility venues that award agility titles. All of these venues have classes that award titles for beginning, intermediate and advanced dogs. There are many classes to compete in, including standard, jumpers and games classes. The organizations include but are not limited to the :
AKC (American Kennel Club ) http://images.akc.org/pdf/rulebooks/REAGIL.pdf
CPE (Canine Performance Events) www.k9cpe.com/recall2007.htm
NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council) http://www.nadac.com
USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association) usdaa.com
You can also find a schedule of events at these websites, if you are interested in attending a trial.
Agility is a team sport for you and your borzoi. Agility will build confidence and trust between the two of you. There is no other dog sport that builds a better bond between you and your dog. Agility has great spectator appeal because it is so exciting to watch. Exhibitors encourage and support each other as they compete against a qualifying standard rather than each other. Whether you train for fun or competition, agility is a great way to spend time with your borzoi.
A word of warning, agility is addictive, and once you start, you may not be able to stop.
Please refer to "The Borzoi in Obedience" for books. These books apply to agility and obedience. For a more complete selection of books and DVDs go to Clean Run magazine at cleanrun.com They have a very good selection from beginners to advanced.
Revised 2015, Suzanne Deghi.