Agility is a sport where the dog is timed as they run through an obstacle course off leash. The handler is in the course with them and will direct them using voice and/or hand signals through the obstacles however they cannot touch the dog or offer any incentive to the dog such as food or a toy. Dogs are judged on the time it takes them to complete the course with points added for any penalties accessed during the run.
To be eligible to compete in these events your Golden Retriever must:
- Registered with the AKC
- Regular or Normal AKC purebred registration
- Enrolled in the AKC Canine Partners program (a program for mixed-breed dogs and dogs ineligible for AKC registration)
- Enrolled in the PAL program (Purebred Alternative Listing)
- Be a member of a Foundation Stock Service (FSS) recorded breed
- 15 Months or Older
- Up to date on vaccinations
Courses typically have between 14-20 obstacles, which can include tunnels, weave poles, tire jumps, seesaws, and pause tables where the dog must stop for a set amount of time. Courses are non-trivial… a dog would not be able to navigate it without their handler. There is no set course layout, the event judge will design the course and submit it for approval.
All courses must have clearly designated start and finish lines and all obstacles/ jumps must be clearly and sequentially numbered. The course layout for each class must be conspicuously posted at least one-half hour before the start of the class. Handlers will be permitted to walk through the course without their dog so they can plan their strategy. Since the dog will (hopefully) be running full speed it is important that the handler has a plan for what their path will be as well as their dogs. Occasionally the judge will make available a chart of the course.
The A-Frame is constructed from two panels, the top surface of which is constructed from wood or other fabricated material that can be properly surfaced. The panels are 35 to 49 inches wide, and their length is within 2 inches of 9 feet. Panels shall be flat and straight, and connected so as to eliminate gaps large enough to fit a dog’s foot or toe.
The Dog Walk consists of a center section and two ramp sections, the surfaces of which are made from wood or other fabricated material that can be properly surfaced. All sections are 12 inches wide and all are 12 feet long.
The Seesaw consists of a plank (or panel) made of a wood or fabricated material that can be properly surfaced and is supported near the center by a base that acts as a fulcrum. The plank is 12 inches wide with a 1-inch tolerance, and 12 feet long.
The top of the Pause Table is a 36-inch square, plus or minus (+/-) 2 inches, with a non-slip surface. The vertical edge of the top of the table top must be 3 inches or greater in height and it is required that the table edge and table top be of a color in contrast to the running surface and ring gating.
The Open Tunnel is a flexible tube of durable material that is capable of being formed into curved shapes. The two openings are round with a height and width of around 25 inches with 4-inch rib spacing required. Its length is 10 to 20 feet and it is secured in position to prevent a dog from moving it.
A series of 5 to 12 upright poles, each about 3 feet tall and spaced about 24 inches. The poles will be striped with a contrasting color so as to be visible to the dog.
Bar Jump/Double Bar Jump/Triple Bar Jump
Bar Jumps consist of 1-3 bars that are supported by bar supports that are mounted to uprights. Uprights must be displaceable.
Ascending Bar Jump
The Ascending Double Bar Jump consists of two ascending bars 5 feet in length where the back bar is positioned at the jump heights specified for the Bar Jump. The front bar is set 4\” lower than the back bar. Triple jumps are always ascending.
The Tire Jump consists of a tire (or a circular object that resembles a tire) suspended from a rectangular frame.
The Panel Jump uses six cross-boards to give the illusion of a solid wall from the jump height to the ground. Specifications for the board supports and uprights are the same as for the Bar Jump. The cross-boards are 4 to 5 feet long, 3 to 4 inches wide, and no thicker than 1 inch.
The Broad Jump is composed of four 8-inch sections and four corner markers. The sections are constructed from a top piece and two side pieces. The length of the sections are to be between 4 and 5 feet long, and they may be of different lengths. To improve visibility, either the center of the sections or both ends must be marked with a color-contrasting band that is at least 3 inches wide. The sections are of varying height, and they shall be arranged in ascending order.
Jump wings must be between 16- and 36-inches wide. Wings must be between 26- and 42-inches tall and can be angled. Wings may either be freestanding or attached to the upright of a jump. It is recommended that wings be placed at the rear of the triple bar jump
The class and level of the event will determine the following:
- Number of obstacles
- Required obstacles
- Allowed obstacles
- Not allowed obstacles
- Approach Angles & Challenges
The AKC has a course design checklist to help judges ensure their course setup is correct:
Agility Height Divisions
The equalize the competition between dogs of different heights there are different height divisions where the height of the jumps and time to run the coarse are adjusted according to the dogs size.
- 8 Inches: For dogs 11 inches and under at the withers.
- 12 Inches: For dogs 14 inches and under at the withers.
- 16 Inches: For dogs 18 inches and under at the withers.
- 20 Inches: For dogs 22 inches and under at the withers.
- 24 Inches: For dogs over 22 inches at the withers. Dogs may not be entered in this class if they are 22 inches and under.
- 24 Inch Choice: Dogs may be entered at this height at their owner’s discretion if their measurement is 22 inches and under at the withers.
Agility Jump Height Card – All competing dogs must have a jump height card. For dogs between 15 months and 2 years of age they will be measured once and will receive a temporary card. At 2 years of age they will be measured twice (or 3 times if the 1st 2 measurements put them in different height classes) and will be issued a permeate height card.
To earn a qualifying score, a dog must complete the course with the minimum defined standards for time, faults, and points and without receiving any non-qualifying deductions. If the dog goes over the time they will lose points based on the class/level they are competing in. At the master level they must be under time to qualify.
Course Time Deductions
- Novice – 1 point for every second over the course time
- Open – 2 points for every second over the course time
- Excellent – 3 points for every second over the course time
20 seconds over the course time means the dog cannot receive a qualifying score.
Faults – Point deductions
- Refusal/Run-out – Runs past obstacle or refuses at 1st to enter the obstacle
- Wrong Course – Doing an obstacle out of order
- Pause Table Fault – Does not pause long enough on the table
- Bar Fault – Displacing a bar going over a jump
- Handler or dog knocking down any obstacle or jump that is either presently being performed or will be performed.
- Handler jumps over, goes under, or steps on top of any obstacle.
- Displaces the top bar(s) or panel of a jump or breaking apart the tire jump.
- Failure to clear the span of the Broad Jump.
- Missing a contact zone (except missing the upside of the A-Frame or Dog Walk is not faulted).
- Seesaw fly-offs.
- Failure to complete all obstacles that are part of the course.
- Running the wrong course and not correcting the run before crossing the finish line.
- Handler touching any obstacle prior to completion of the course.
- Contact between the handler and the dog that aids the performance of the dog.
- Any contact of dog and handler at the Pause Table, Weave Poles, and contact obstacles.
- Exceeding the refusal maximum for a given class.
- Exceeding the wrong course maximum for a given class
Handlers can be excused by the judge at any time for inappropriate actions including: unsportsmanlike conduct, excessive handling, training in the ring or exceeding the fault limit.
There are six separate title classes. Three regular classes, the preferred class, and two optional classes.
This is the regular agility class. This class will have ‘contact obstacles’ where the dog must place a paw in the yellow contact zone. Contact obstacles include the A-frame, dog walk and the seasaw. The standard class will also have the pause table where the dog must jump up on and ‘pause’ for a certain amount of time. The other obstacles required are: weaves, tunnel, chute, double, broad and panel jumps, and the tire.
Jumpers with Weaves Classes
The JWW classes remove any obstacle that ‘slows’ down the dog. The course will be primary composed of jumps demonstrating it’s speed. The dog walk, A-frame, sea-saw, and table ARE NOT allowed. A set of weaves and a double bar jump is required. The rest of the obstacles are optional but will consist mainly of different jumps.
Fifteen and Send Time (FAST) Class
The FAST class is an additional test of strategy skill, accuracy, speed, strategy, and timing and distance handling, to demonstrate a dog’s athletic ability and willingness to work with its handler in a fast-paced atmosphere over a variety of agility obstacles. The Fifteen and Send Time class uses fifteen (15) point valued obstacles and/or obstacle combinations. The course will include a “Send Bonus” or distance element that will award a bonus of twenty (20) points if completed successfully, and is identified as the “Send Bonus.” Six of the fifteen (15) point valued obstacles must be single bar jumps (typically winged) valued at one point each. Winged jumps are assumed to have a value of one point unless otherwise denoted by the judge. Nine (9) additional obstacles on the course will be assigned unique values from 2 through 10 by the judge.
To allow a greater variety of dogs to be able to compete in agility the AKC has a preferred class. This class has jump height 4 inches lower than the regular classes along will more time allowed to complete the course. The titles awarded for this class have a ‘P’ appended to them.
Time 2 Beat (T2B) Class
This is an optional agility titling class is meant to challenge the handler and dog to set a clean efficient line with an emphasis on speed and accuracy. The dog that sets the quickest time in each jump height will set the time to beat for that jump height. There will be a single class level and all dogs with any skill level (e.g. Novice, Open, Excellent, Master) will compete on the same course. The required course size is 6,500 square feet.
These optional titling classes are designed to challenge dogs and handlers at an increased speed and skill level above those set for the Master level classes. Handlers/dogs will need to negotiate courses that require varied approach angles, spacing, and obstacle discriminations to be successful in these classes.
Agility Levels within the Classes
For the three regular classes there are also levels within the class:
- NOVICE – Dogs beginning in agility. There are 13 to 15 obstacles on this course. The focus of the Novice class is on performing the obstacles with minimal handling technique.
- OPEN – Must have completed the novice level. There are 16 to 18 obstacles on this course. The focus of the open class is on more difficult obstacle course performance with more handling skill required.
- EXCELLENT – For the dog that has completed the open level. There are 18 – 20 obstacles on this course. The focus of the Excellent A & B class is to provide the opportunity for dogs and handlers to demonstrate their superior skills in moving quickly and efficiently 5 GEAGL2_01_07 1/30/07 7:40 AM Page 5 6 with close communication and teamwork through challenging agility courses. The Excellent B level is the class where handler-dog teams can earn the title, Master Agility Champion (MACH), in the Regular Classes.
Agility Course Test (ACT)
The Agility Course Test (ACT) is an entry level agility event designed to introduce and welcome beginning dogs and their handlers to the AKC sport of agility.
There are two levels of ACT events – ACT1 and ACT2. ACT1 is designed for the beginning level dog to show beginning sequencing and performance skills. ACT2 requires an increased skill level shown by the additional obstacles to be performed.
In addition to showing their dog’s entry level skills, exhibitors will learn to fill out an AKC entry form, check-in at the ring, taking their dog in and out of ring, handling their dog while being judged and other information that will help them when they move on to AKC agility trials with their dog
Junior Agility Showmanship
The AKC has a junior agility program to help introduce children to the sport of agility. While Juniors are judged by an official AKC Judge, it’s the quality of their presentation that is judged, not the dog.
- Child must be between 9 and under 18 years old
- Must obtain a Junior Number prior to the event
- Must be able to control their dog at all time
- Dog must be owned or co-owned by the junior, parents, uncle, aunt or a permanent member of the juniors household
- Dog must be at least 6 months old and up-to-date on all vaccanations
Junior Classes and Divisions
- Novice – Has not won three 1st place awards
- Open – Has won three 1st place awards
- Master – Has won 10 Best Junior wins with competition
- Junior, Intermediate, Senior Classes – Each regular class may be farther divided
- Junior – 9 to under 12 years old
- Intermediate – 12 to under 15 years old
- Senior – 15 to under 18 years old
- Best Junior Handler – Club: The junior handler placed 1st in each class is eligible
- Reserve Best Junior Handler – All Breed show: must offer. Club: Optional
- First Prize – Rose
- Second Prize – Brown
- Third Prize – Light Green
- Fourth Prize – Grey
- Participation Ribbon for Novice Class – Light Blue
- Best Junior – Rose and Green
- Reserve Best Junior – Rose and Grey
Additional Agility Resources