USDAA offers three competitive programs for the dog agility enthusiast -
- The "Championship Program", for those interested in competition under
standards congruent with international rules for competition in dog agility.
- The "Performance Program", for those interested in competition without
the more rigorous physical demands of the sport.
- The "Junior Handler Program", for school-age children and their pets, with
emphasis on team camaraderie and learning the basics in responsible pet ownership.
Each of these programs is described in more detail below:
The Championship Program is designed to demonstrate a competitor's training and competitive
handling skills coupled with an exhibition of a dog's natural agility pursuant to standards
of competition congruous with international standards for competition.
This program includes tournament event series where they compete head-to-head, as well as
title certification classes that measure performance throughout a competitor's career with
a specific dog as measured against a pre-defined set of standards.
The Championship Program is divided into three basic class types that are offered at three
different divisions based upon performance milestones attained in competition. These are
"Standard" classes are the classical form of dog agility, wherein a competitor must direct
their dog through an obstacle course that requires performance of each of the required obstacles
in the sport in a course sequence designed by a judge.
"Nonstandard" classes encourage and demonstrate more depth of training and the exercise of more
competitive skills within the sport and are offered in four basic classes
- Gamblers - to demonstrate proficiency in distance control and competitive strategy
- Jumpers - to demonstrate a dog's jumping ability and fluid working habit
- Relay - to demonstrate cooperative team effort and team sportsmanship
- Snooker Agility - to demonstrate versatility in competitive strategy
Each of these classes offers different strategies that challenge the competitor, bringing
together key elements of the sport, with an exhibition of a dog's natural agility and working habit,
thus demonstrating a competitor's training and competitive skills.
"Tournament" classes feature competitive spirit and excellence through head-to-head
competition and are open to all competitors, regardless of eligibility or prerequisites within
the titling classes.
Standard and Nonstandard classes are offered at three competitive "levels" for certification
("titling") purposes, based upon the degree of training and competitive skills exhibited in
competition - Starters, Advanced and Masters.
At the Starters level (the introductory level), a handler is charged with demonstrating their
skill in training their dog for basic obstacle performance and employing fundamental handling
techniques in competition on an abbreviated course.
On occasion, a group may offer a "Novice" class as an additional competitive division for
competitors who have earned title with other dogs, in order that experienced competitors compete
in a separate class from less experienced handlers. When such a class is offered, a competitor
must enter the "Novice" class if they have earned a title with any other dog in USDAA's
Championship, Performance or Veterans programs (Note: Veterans Program was discontinued in 1999).
Competition standards for the Novice class are the same as for the Starters class.
At the Advanced level (the second level), courses are longer and contain sequences that
require competitors to demonstrate a higher degree of training expertise and a wider range of
competitive handling techniques under a more difficult time standard. This is the level at which
competitors make the transition from the basics to the more proficient and technical aspects of
training and competition as seen in the Masters level.
At the Masters level, (the third and top level), course designs offer a variety of handling
challenges and tests integrated throughout the course. Time standards are further tightened,
requiring competitors to demonstrate the highest degree of proficiency in training and competitive
performance handling expertise consistent with that of international standards and competition.
Highlighted at this level is a heightened degree of confidence in performance overall, with
handler and dog working in a highly synchronized fashion, exhibiting quick and reliable
responsiveness to the demands of the course.
In measuring the accomplishments of a competitor, a certificate of achievement or "title" is
awarded at each level within each of the five "titling" classes. Each of these titles and rules
for eligibility are included in the Rules & Regulations eBook in the Forms and
The Performance Program is designed to demonstrate a competitor's training and
competitive handling skills pursuant to special standards of competition that place less
emphasis on the dog's physical capabilities through adjustments to the standards of
performance as follows:
- Jump heights are reduced to 8", 12", 16" and 22", as compared to heights of 12", 16", 22"
and 26" in the Championship Program;
- the A-frame is reduced to 5'6" from 5'11" in height for large dogs, thus diminishing the
incline of the scaling ramp;
- no spread hurdles are utilized; and,
- additional time (3 seconds) is allotted on course at each level as compared to the
The Performance Program includes title certification classes that measure performance throughout
a competitor's career with a specific dog as measured against a pre-defined set of standards and
beginning with the 2004 tournament season (beginning in autumn 2003), its first tournament event
The Performance Program "mirrors" the Championship in its structure. To distinguish the classes between programs, the levels of
competition in the Performance Program are called simply, Performance I, Performance II and
Performance III, which correspond respectively to the Starters, Advanced and Masters levels in
the Championship Program.
In measuring the accomplishments of a competitor in the Performance Program, a certificate of
achievement or "title" is awarded at each level within each of the four "titling" classes. Each
of these titles and rules for eligibility are included in the Rules & Regulations eBook in
the Forms and Documents library.
Junior Handler Program
USDAA's Junior Handler Program is for children eighteen years of age and younger.
It is a set of specialized classes designed to encourage youth involvement in the sport of dog
agility as a fun, recreational family sport and to teach responsible pet ownership The program
has been adopted in whole or in part in various state 4-H programs.
The Junior Handler Program offers certification in the standard agility class, though
additional types of classes (e.g., jumpers or relay) may be held in conjunction with Junior
Handler Program events. The class is split into four experience levels of competition designed
to foster advancement in training and to provide recognition for junior handler accomplishments
in dog agility - Beginners, Elementary, Intermediate and Senior.
Special standards of performance apply to the Junior Handler Program. At the Beginner level,
only the A-frame at 4'6" elevation, tunnels, table and hurdles are utilized, and the dog may be
on leash. The course is approximately one-half the length and number of obstacles as the Starters
level (Championship Program), the obstacles are configured in a simple loop design and the time
standard is set at 60 seconds. The Elementary level is a continuation of the Beginner level after
the first qualification has been earned, with the A-frame raised to 5'0" and no leash is permitted.
At the Intermediate level, the weave poles (limit of 6 poles) and the dog walk are added, the
A-frame is raised in elevation to 5'6", the course design becomes slightly more difficult
(i.e., may have a crossing pattern, or similar challenge) and the time standard is increased to
75 seconds to allow for the additional obstacles utilized. At the Senior level, the see-saw is
added, the A-frame raised to 6'0" for large dogs, additional hurdles are added and the course
design resembles one that may be utilized in the Starters level. Course time is set at two yards
Awards in the Junior Handler Program are custom JHP gold, silver and bronze medallions that
are awarded based upon their result as measured against the standard rather than as placements
in head-to-head competition. Those earning five or fewer faults receive a gold medallion,
fifteen or less but more than five faults receive the silver medallion, and all other competitors
finishing the round with a score receive the bronze medallion. A qualifying ribbon or rosette is
awarded for a zero fault round, which counts toward their titling requirement.
Each of the titles and rules for eligibility are included in the Rules & Regulations eBook
in the Forms and Documents library.