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What is "Dog Agility"?

Dog agility is a competitive, spectator sport that tests a person's skills in training and handling of dogs over a timed obstacle course as they demonstrate a dog's natural agility and the bond between handler and dog. Competitors race against the clock, directing their dog to jump hurdles, scale ramps, burst through tunnels, traverse a see-saw and weave through a line of poles on a course designed to challenge a handler's competitive strategic planning and training skills. With scoring based on faults similar to equestrian show jumping, dog agility is an exciting spectator event.

Must I have a purebred dog in order to compete in dog agility?

No. A competitor may compete with any dog, purebred or mixed breed in USDAA events. Dog agility is practiced as a sporting activity that demonstrates a handler and trainer's skill in working with a dog on an obstacle course. The type of dog may pose certain challenges in training and handling, but a competitor is not restricted as to type of dog. Therefore, dog agility is frequently referred to as a "sport for all dogs".

What dog is best suited for agility?

Any dog with good physical agility and energy is a strong candidate for the sport. Though many breeds appear more naturally adapted to the sport, more than 200 breeds (including mixed-breeds as a single breed) have demonstrated their ability to perform well.

How high does my dog have to jump?

USDAA has various height divisions within its competitive programs in order to best match competitiveness in the classes. The jump height class is defined by which program you may choose to compete in based upon the measurements as shown below:

Championship Program

  • dogs measuring 12" (30.48cm) or less must jump at least 10" (25.40cm)
  • dogs measuring 14" (35.56cm) or less jump at least 14" (35.56cm)
  • dogs measuring 17" (43.18cm) or less jump at least 16" (40.64cm)
  • dogs measuring 19" (48.26cm) or less jump at least 20" (50.80cm)
  • dogs measuring 21" (53.34cm) or less jump at least 22" (55.88cm)
  • dogs measuring over 21" (53.34cm) must jump 24" (60.96cm)

Performance Program

  • dogs measuring 12" (30.48cm) or less must jump at least 8" (20.32cm)
  • dogs measuring 16" (40.64cm) or less jump at least 12" (30.48cm)
  • dogs measuring 19" (48.26cm) or less jump at least 14" (35.56cm)
  • dogs measuring 21" (53.34cm) or less jump at least 16" (40.64cm)
  • dogs measuring over 21" (53.34cm) must jump at least 20" (50.80cm)

The Championship Program jumping height classes were developed to be congruous with USDAA philosophy in setting international standards to demonstrate the highest standard in training and performance, fully revealing the dynamics of canine performance capabilities in a competitive class environment. Time has proven that these jump heights provide both a safe and fair competitive environment when a dog is trained and conditioned for competition properly.

The Performance Program offers similarly competitive classes, except providing for jump heights and time standards that are more suitable for dogs of dissimilar physical structure.

What is USDAA's philosophy on dog agility?

USDAA promotes dog agility as competitive, spectator sport, requiring athleticism and demonstrating agility of the dog. The USDAA® brand demonstrates that dog agility an athletic, spectator sport in its own right and offers enthusiasts a variety of competitive classes in addition to the standard agility class, such as—

  • gambler's choice, where competitors accumulate points on course by handlers creating their own course strategy within the context of the regulations,
  • team relay, where handlers team up to strategize how best to apply their talents in running a course,
  • jumpers, where competitors demonstrate their training and handling expertise with their dogs performing a fast course comprised of various styles of jumps and hurdles, and
  • snooker agility, where handlers strategize in calculating their route on course following the principal strategy rules of the billiards game of snooker

Though agility is a competitive, athletic sport, USDAA also promotes dog agility as a community sport, as it offers families a fun alternative for spending quality time with their pet through a variety of programs meeting with their goals, desires, and abilities—the Championship, Performance, Veterans, Intro, and Junior Handler program. The obstacles are relatively easy to train, and a handler and their dog can do reasonably well and have fun with just a few hours investment each week; however, as with any sport, considerable time and energy is required to be highly competitive. As a commitment to promoting dog agility and responsible pet ownership, USDAA has also developed programs for older dogs, an Intro program for people to get started, and a junior handler program for school-age children and their pets.

What are USDAA's primary activities?

USDAA's primary function is to promote dog agility as an international competitive, athletic sporting activity. This involves development and promotion of dog agility certification tests and tournament events, which USDAA conducts through a network of almost 200 licensed groups across North America and around the world. In support of this purpose, USDAA disseminates information on dog agility to educate the public on the sport through its web site and corresponds with interested parties. USDAA also is a ready resource for information on rules & regulations and course design principles. Further, USDAA offers lectures, working seminars and training seminars to qualify judges to meet the demanding standards of the sport.

What kind of events does USDAA have?

USDAA and its growing number of licensed groups host two principal types of events. First among these are Agility Certification Trials (or "Tests") to measure (or test) a competitor's level of expertise achieved in training and handling a dog, such that they fully demonstrate a dog's natural agility pursuant to USDAA® definition of agility and its competition standards. Participants may earn certification titles, such as Agility Dog®, Advanced Agility Dog® and Master Agility Dog® in USDAA's Championship Program, as well as titles offered through the USDAA Veteran Program, Junior Handler Program, Intro Program and Performance Program. Certification titles are offered to provide recognition for a wide variety of accomplishments for both standard and nonstandard classes—standard agility, gambler's choice, snooker agility, jumpers and relay. For those who excel, competitors may earn the coveted Agility Dog Champion® title, and continue to measure their excellence through bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond level designations in each class. Similar titles are offered in USDAA's Performance Program.

USDAA also ranks competitors on the number of competition points earned each year for ranking as the Agility Top Ten, as well as ranks performance qualifications overall.

The other principal type of event is USDAA's competitive tournament series that challenge competitors to be the best of the best, with results measured in head-to-head competition. These tournament series include the prestigious Grand Prix of Dog Agility® World Championships, the $10,000 Dog Agility Steeplechase®, the Dog Agility Masters® International Three-Dog Team Championship, and the all new Masters Challenge BiahtlonSM . Since the Grand Prix's inception in 1988, the tournament has grown to include more than 150 qualifying events each year that are held across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Spain, Japan and other parts of Southeast Asia. The local qualifying events lead to regional championships and the World Championships. The Dog Agility Masters® team championships is a pentathlon event, which is promoted internationally, and the Dog Agility Steeplechase® championship features speed in jumping competition and carrying cash prizes, with more than $40,000 paid out in the series throughout the year. The Biathlon features technical handling challenges on a standard agility course and a jumpers course, with the sum of their scores determining the biathlon champion. Championships for all four tournaments are held as signature events at USDAA's Cynosport® World Games each year.

USDAA leads the sport in training of judges. Offering comprehensive training programs for judges is vital to the advancement of sport, offering consistency in interpretation and application of the rules and understanding and application of course design principles to assure courses at each level of competition present the appropriate challenges, which is important to assure safety in this physical sport.

How can I get involved?

Locate a Group in your area so that you can try dog agility first-hand. You may also like to attend an agility test or demonstration scheduled for your area, which you can find by visiting our Event Calendar. Browsing through USDAA Official Rules and Regulations will also prove helpful in further explaining the philosophies and programs offered by USDAA.

Does my dog have to be registered with USDAA in order to compete?

Dogs must be registered with the USDAA in order to compete in USDAA events. Competitors with dogs 18 months of age or older (14 months of age or older in the Intro Program) are eligible to compete. You may register your dog online, or register by mail by obtaining a registration form through our web site via the Forms & Documents Library or by making request via Email and providing your postal address. If registering by mail, send the completed form along with the applicable fees to USDAA, P.O. Box 850955, Richardson, TX 75085-0955.

If you are unable to register online and wish to register a dog at the same time that you enroll for competition at an event, you may complete the form and send with applicable fees to the event host group, along with your event entry form. Registration forms may also be included in the Agility Test Schedule (aka, premium list) for each event.

The fee is $30.00 for registration, with a discounted rate of $24.00 for online registration. A separate registration is required for a dog and handler under age 18 to participate in the Junior Handler Program.

I have received my temporary registration card, what should I do now?

After receiving your temporary dog registration card, please review it closely for accuracy and report any corrections to USDAA immediately. It is best to communicate these in writing to assure proper corrections are made. You can email corrections to: CompetitorServices@usdaa.com, or mail to USDAA, PO Box 850955, Richardson, TX 75085.

Also, be aware that all registration cards are issued reflecting a dog's Championship Program jump height ONLY, to provide a common point of reference for all dogs. If you enter the Performance Program (or Junior Handler Program, if it is a junior handler registration), you will enter your dog in one height class lower than that indicated on your card.

Temporary cards with a recorded height making a dog eligible only for the 24" jump height may be returned after checking for accuracy if the dog is 18 months old so that a permanent card may be issued. If your dog falls into this category, you have never had your dog measured or the height turned in is a best guess, we recommend having the dog measured at least once to be sure that the dog is eligible only for the 24" height class.

Please note that assumptions may have been made for some registrations:

  1. If you have not reported a height for your dog, your dog has been listed for the 24" height class. To enter another class, you must provide us with a height.
    1. A restriction has been placed on your card if you did not report a birth date for your dog or if your dog is not of age for competition (18 months). You must report a birth date to remove the restriction if your card shows no birth date. If you incorrectly listed your dog's birthdate during registration, proof of correct date of birth must be provided when requesting this correction.
    For more information, refer to Appendix D in USDAA Official Rules & Regulations.

    Once I have my temporary registration card, how do I get a permanent card?

    On the back of the card is the Judges Certification form. To be permanently carded, a dog must:

    • be in the 24" class, or
    • have been measured by three different judges from the "Advanced" and/or "Masters Approved Judges List, at least one of which is designated as a "certified measuring judge' (CMJ).
    To determine if a judge is a CMJ, consult the test schedule or premium list for a specific event, or contact the USDAA office.

    If the dog is under the age of three and any of its measurement are within one inch of the cutoff height (e.g., 11"-12" for the 10" height class; 13"-14" for the 14" jump height, and so on), the dog must be re-measured by a CMJ after reaching the age of three to establish its permanent height. If the CMJ determines that the dog should jump a height different from that previously determined, another CMJ shall make an independent measurement. If the two CMJ's do not agree, a third CMJ shall measure the dog, and the two CMJ's in agreement shall determine the official height. If none of the original three measurements are within the one-inch range, then a permanent card may be issued prior to age three.

    Upon meeting the foregoing conditions, return the original card to the address listed below and a permanent height card will be issued by USDAA. By doing so, you will no longer have to 'measure-in' at an event, provided you present the permanent card at check-in. Height measurements at a show are only good for that show until the temporary registration process described in Appendix D is complete.

    consult Appendix D in USDAA Rules & Regulations for any questions regarding the measurement process. Queries should be directed to:

    USDAA - P. O. Box 850955 - Richardson, TX 75085-0955 - (972) 487-2200 or via email to: CompetitorServices@usdaa.com

    Once I have my permanent card, what do I do with it?

    You should carry your card to each event to show to the event secretary (or other designated individual) at check-in. This will enable them to visually validate your number against what they have recorded in the event records. Transcription errors in dog registration numbers are the number one error in event results reporting. So whether the secretary (or their designee) asks or not, it is in your best interest to have them check it to confirm that your registration number is recorded properly at all local events.

    Do you have any questions that aren't answered above or elsewhere on our web site?

    Click HERE to submit your questions via email.

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