Introduction to UKC Agility

by Cheryl May, copyright 1998

While there is no substitute for reading the official UKC agility rules and regulations, I've highlighted some important points that might be helpful for beginners to know.

If you don't have a copy of the UKC rules, you can order them by sending a check for $6 to United Kennel Club, 100 E. Kilgore Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49002-5584. You'll get rules for agility, obedience and conformation events all in one book. I highly recommend ordering a copy of the rules for any organization in which you compete.

Check In
When you arrive at the trial, find the registration table and check in. You will be given either stick on labels (most common) or an armband. If you are given stick on labels, place them on the front of your shirt at chest level.

Judge's Briefing
The judge will have a few instructions for handlers. These will usually be presented at the beginning of each class, before the course familiarizations. If you see a group of people gathered around the judge, get up and go see what is happening.

Course Familiarization
Each class, Agility I, II and III, will have a familiarization walk through at each height level before the actual class runs. Keep alert for your height division and class. There are three height divisions: Div. 1 jumps 8 inches; Div. 2 jumps 14 inches; and Div. 3 jumps 20 inches. If you miss the walk through, you will be at a real disadvantage when it is time to run the course, so please be alert and ready.

In UKC, you are allowed to take your dog through the walk through but he must be on lead. The judge will be watching the familiarization runs, and there are several things to keep in mind:

* While you may let go of the lead while your dog goes through a tunnel, through weave poles, etc., you are required to take up the lead again between obstacles. If you donUt pick up the lead, many judges will deduct points from your score. This is done under "additional deductions." Under no circumstances should the dog be allowed to perform as if it is actually running the course. I actually give my dogs a "stop" command to give me a chance to grab the lead.

* Only one attempt is allowed for each obstacle. If your dog refuses an obstacle and you try to get him to do it again, the judge is entitled to deduct points from your score. This also is done under "additional deductions."

Or you may choose to walk the course without your dog. In UKC, you may only walk through once - with or without your dog - so if you go without your dog, be sure to analyze the course as you walk through.

Entering the Course
Keep track of the handler numbers as they are called and be ready to enter the course when it is your turn. Once the gate steward tells you that you may enter the course, proceed to the designated spot with your dog on lead. Remove the lead and position the dog in front of the Start Gate. Be sure you place the dog far enough back that his nose isn't protruding past the starting line. (Time starts when the dog's nose goes past the start line.)

Starting Your Run
Look at the timers and at the judge. Be sure everyone is ready before you tell your dog to start.

Food and Toys
No food or toys may be carried on course. If you wish to give your dog a food treat or a toy after his run, please find a spot away from the ring to place these items. If you place it too close to the ring, it can be a distraction for other dogs (and if it is food, it may be eaten before you get back with your dog.)

Collars and Leads
In UKC, the dog is required to wear a buckle collar. You may leave your lead at the start gate, or (UKC only) fold it up and put it in your pocket. I don't recommend carrying your lead because it's a bad habit that can get you expelled from the ring in other agility venues.

Running the Course
In Agility I, three attempts are allowed to complete each of the 13 obstacles.

Major Faults
If an obstacle is done incorrectly, resulting in a major fault, the judge will call out "Fault," and you must do the obstacle over in order to receive credit for it. If you choose not to repeat the obstacle when given the opportunity, you will not receive a qualifying score. Each major fault requires a 5-point deduction. A typical major fault is missing a contact zone.

Minor faults
Lesser errors may result in deductions of 1-3 points each. Common minor faults include running past the entrance to an obstacle (run-by); refusals; stopping while moving between obstacles; running off course; failure to respond to handler's commands to return to an obstacle for a repeat attempt.

IN UKC ONLY: Handlers are not permitted to extend their hand or any part of their body over the edge and directly above the surface of any part of any obstacle EXCEPT the DOWN SIDE of the A-frame. Nor may you call the dog in a manner resembling a recall.

The 13 obstacles on the Agility I course include the A-frame, Closed Tunnel (chute), Dog Walk, Open Tunnel, Teeter-totter, Hoop Tunnel, and 6 hurdles, all worth 15 points each, and a pause table, worth 20 points. To earn a qualifying score, your dog must successfully complete each obstacle.

Obstacle Knock-Down
If the dog knocks down an obstacle, the performance is non-qualifying.

In Agility I, it is the handler's choice whether to have the dog sit or down on the table. However, once you have given the command to the dog, the dog must do whatever you first told him to do.

The judge will tell you during the judge's briefing which side the dog must enter the table and which side the dog must exit. Important: if the dog gets on the table on the wrong side, DO NOT take him off and put him back on on the correct side. Leave the dog there - the deductions will be less than they will be if you take him off and put him back on. On the other hand, if the dog is unable to stop after entering and its momentum carries it off the table, and he enters from the opposite side, he MUST be taken off and brought back around for a correct entry. The judge will call "fault" if you need to bring the dog back to the correct side. Also, keep your hand away from the table - your hand must not be over the top of the obstacle.

Don't touch your dog or the obstacles. Don't block your dog from making an error. Don't extend your hand over any obstacle except the down side of the A-frame, where anything, other than touching the dog or the obstacle, is permitted. Don't call your dog to you over obstacles.

Do consider your dog's safety. Do what you must to protect your dog. If you feel your dog is in danger, help him. There's always another dog show. Do have fun.

You will earn a U-AG I title after you and your dog have earned three qualifying scores of 170 out of 200 at three trials. The U-AG I title is listed before your dog's name.

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