While Whippets may be best known for their participation in racing events, the truth is that they are very versatile dogs and can excel in a wide variety of events, including Agility trials. The best feature of Agility trials is that the handler and dog have to work together towards a common goal and appear together in the event. In this article, we'll take a closer look at what tasks are included in an Agility trial and how interested owners can learn more information about this exciting event.
In an Agility trial, a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in which they are racing against the clock but are also judged on accuracy. Each obstacle course is different, as they are designed by the judge before each event, and no dog will run the same course twice. The courses are designed to be just difficult enough that a dog couldn't complete the course without the direction of the handler, and the handler's job is to study the course before an event begins to determine the safest and fastest route for his dog, which he must run off leash and without the aid of toys or treats.
In North America, there are six associations that sanction Agility trials, including the American Kennel Association, the United States Dog Agility Association, and Agility Association of Canada. The USDAA and AAC trials are run under the same rules as international organizations and are generally considered to be more difficult than other rules, but Whippets that are healthy should be able to compete on any course. Dogs are usually grouped together by similarity to breed or size, in order to be compared fairly. There are also different classes of Agility, from Standard, which features a variety of obstacles, to Jumpers, which consists mostly of jumping obstacles. Most associations also have Veterans groups for older dogs and Junior groups for younger handlers.
While every obstacle course will be different, there are a few obstacles that are similar in every organization. Many courses will include an A-frame, which is usually two platforms leaning towards each other that the dog must climb over, a Dog Walk, which is usually about four feet off the ground, a Teeter Totter, which the dog must walk over, a variety of tunnels that are either collapsible or solid, and a variety of hurdles that could be bars, a small wall or a small body of water. Miscellaneous obstacles include a pause table, where the dog must rest for a certain amount of time between obstacles, and weave poles, which the dog must negotiate by weaving in and out of a series of poles in a line.
Agility trials are very popular around the country and those that are interested should make their first step by attending an Agility trial to see how they work in person. They are also a great place to make contact and meet other handlers from your area. You can also join a local all-breed kennel club or Whippet club that participates in dog events and may even offer training classes.