New to agility?

Since agility was first introduced at Crufts 1978, its structure has remained almost the same. It's a form of dog competition, where the dog's fitness and the handler's ability to train and direct the dog over and through certain obstacles are tested.

It is fast, furious and a firm favourite with competitors and spectators alike. Your dog does not have to be a pedigree dog to take part, but it must be registered with The Kennel Club on either the Breed Register or the Activity Register.

If you decide that agility is a suitable activity for you and your dog, your next step is to receive some expert training. Whichever competition you choose, your dog will be a happier pet for being trained.

What is agility?

Agility is an action–packed rollercoaster of excitement for you and your dog. It's made up of various obstacles for your dog (not you!) to run through, jump over, and weave in and out of – and all against the clock! Not only does agility test your dog’s fitness, it also measures your ability as a handler to direct your dog through the course.

What do I need to know to take part?
  • Your dog must be registered with The Kennel Club, either on the Breed Register or on the Activity Register
  • Competitors taking part in any event licensed by The Kennel Club must familiarise themselves with The Kennel Club rules and regulations beforehand
  • Dogs can only enter agility shows once they turn 18 months of age and, for small, medium and intermediate dogs, once they have been officially measured and placed in the correct height category. Obviously large dogs do not have to be measured. Read further information on agility measuring
  • There are seven grades of competition from 1 to 7, with beginners starting at grade 1
  • For safety’s sake, it is recommended that dogs do not start training on equipment until they are at least 1 year old
  • Make sure you buy an agility record book, you will need this to have your dog measured and for recording your competition wins and clear rounds
  • No previous experience is necessary, so get started by using Find a Club
When can I start training my dog?

Preparing your dog to compete successfully will take a little longer than the formal requirements. It is essential that your dog is fully socialised and that you have effective control at all times, especially as your dog will be competing off lead. For safety's sake, it is recommended that dogs do not start training on equipment until they are at least 1 year old.

How can I find a training club?

Plenty of regular practice is essential when preparing for agility competitions, but supervised training at an agility class is just as important. There are a number of training clubs across the country. Find one near you by using our Find a Club service.

My dog is docked. Can I still compete?

Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has clarified that dogs with docked tails may take part in all agility shows in England and Wales, including those where the public have paid for admission. There is no change to the position in Scotland, where legally docked dogs have never been banned from events where the public pays to enter.

The clarification confirms that ‘legally docked dogs’ taking part in agility qualify for an exemption from a general ban on the showing of docked dogs. It means that working dogs do not have to be excluded from the various agility shows which are held within larger events such as country fairs, where the public pays for admission. They are also able to participate in agility finals at events such as Crufts, Olympia and Discover Dogs.

The Animal Welfare Act banned the docking of dogs’ tails after 6 April 2007 (after 28 March 2007 in Wales, and 30 April 2007 in Scotland). In England and Wales (but not Scotland), docking is still allowed for certain types of working dog – essentially Spaniels, Terriers and hunt, point and retrieve (HPR) breeds – if carried out by a vet who has been given specific evidence that the dogs will be used for certain types of work, primarily as gundogs.

The Act also banned the showing of dogs with legally docked tails at shows in England and Wales where members of the public pay an admission charge (in Scotland there is a total ban on docking but no prohibition on showing dogs with docked tails). However, there is an exemption (in England and Wales) if the dog is shown ‘only for the purpose of demonstrating their working ability’, even where the public pay an entrance charge.

The clarification from Defra reads: ‘As you are aware, there is a ban on the showing of docked dogs at events to which members of the public are admitted on payment of a fee, however, there are exemptions from this ban. The ban does not apply to certified docked working dogs being shown only for the purpose of demonstrating their working ability (e.g. in agility trials). A certified docked working dog cannot be shown for any other purpose.’

Dogs which were docked earlier than 6 April 2007 (or the equivalent dates in Wales and Scotland) are unaffected by the legislation and can be shown at any type of show. Illegally docked dogs may not be entered in any Kennel Club event.

Information from Defra as of 30 September 2009.

What types of agility shows are there?
  • Agility matches are restricted to members of the show society only
  • Limited agility shows are restricted to members of the show society, competitors from a certain area, certain breeds, or, numbers of class entries, overall numbers of entries or other limits agreed by The Kennel Club. Limited agility shows may have three standard progression classes
  • Open agility shows are just that, open to all who wish to take part and may be capped by the total number of dogs in a class (the minimum cap/limit is 250 dogs per class)
  • Premier shows are those that hold Kennel Club qualifiers for Crufts, Discover Dogs or Olympia. They will also have standard qualifying classes
  • Championship agility shows are those that hold a championship class which is divided into three separate rounds. The winner and 2nd-placed dogs are awarded an Agility Certificate and a Reserve Agility Certificate
What types of agility classes are there?

Agility classes involve both jumping and agility courses. Each course features a variety of agility obstacles, however jumping courses do not require the dogs to undertake the see-saw, dog walk or 'A' ramp obstacles. Learn more about agility course obstacles.

An agility competitor and their dog advance from grades 1-7; grade 1 is the lowest level and grade 7 the highest. Competitors and dogs that are new to agility will be able to enter classes suitable for grade 1. As you and your dog improve you may be able to progress to the next grade. There are two ways in which a competitor can progress; the first is progression on wins and the second is through points progression. 

Other classes that are scheduled at an agility show may fall under the title of 'special classes'. Special classes are classes where the definition for eligibility to compete is not per Kennel Club regulations, the marking of the class differs from standard Kennel Club marking or the course design is non standard.

Classes such as these with unusual names like helter skelter, gamblers, time, fault and out, power and speed, ABC (anything but a Collie), any size and pairs  will be clearly defined in the schedule along with details of eligibility. Please note: you cannot claim Agility Warrant points or progress from special classes.

Progressing in agility

An agility competitor and their dog advance from grades from 1-7, with grade 1 being the lowest level and grade 7 the highest. There are two ways in which a competitor/dog can progress from one grade to the next.

Progression on wins

Progression through the grades can be achieved through a certain number of wins at the relevant grade. A certain number of these wins must be in agility (not jumping) classes.

Please see the table below for reference:

Grade

Total number of wins needed to progress (including agility class wins)

Minimum number of agility class wins needed to progress

1 to 2

2

1

2 to 3

2

1

3 to 4

3

2

4 to 5

4

2

5 to 6

4

2

6 to 7

5

3

Results from combined classes (where there could be up to seven grades in one class) will only count towards progression from the dog's current grade.

A 1st prize or other prize win is one gained in a standard class at any show licensed by The Kennel Club (i.e. special classes and invitational events are excepted). Only a 1st place with a clear round completed within the course time set by the judge will count towards grade progression.

If you progress on a win you remain at the same grade for 25 days after the win. Following this period, you will progress to the next grade. For any shows taking place after the 25-day period, it is the competitor's responsibility to notify the show secretary of a change in grade, in writing, a minimum of 14 days before the show.

Points progression

At the handler's discretion, a dog may progress to grade 4 by winning 100 points at each grade. A minimum of 50 points must be gained in agility (not jumping) classes in the relevant grade. If this method of progression is selected, the handler must ensure the show secretary signs the dog's agility record book at the first show entered at the higher grade. There is no time limit on this progression, however, once a dog has progressed, it cannot return to a previous grade.

Progressing in agility - frequently asked questions

1. Progression can be on points. Who is checking that I've got the right number of points to be in the class that I am?

All of The Kennel Club's activities rely on the truthfulness and integrity of competitors and it's in your best interest to keep your agility record book up to date. Once you've achieved the right number of points to progress to another grade, your record book must be signed by the society secretary at the first show entered at the new level. This means there's no going back to a lower level.

2. If I want my dog to progress on points, how do I collect my points?

The points are based on those used for the Agility Warrant. 100 points must be gained at each level to progress to the next grade, and 50 points must be gained in agility (not jumping) classes.

3. How will my dog ever have more than two runs if it is only eligible to compete in one grade?

You are reliant on societies' scheduling classes for you to enter. It is up to each individual society to decide which classes they want to schedule. You may end up with more choices by having classes open to various grades and they may be either combined or graded classes.

4. What is the difference between a graded class and a combined class?

A graded class may be open to one, or more, consecutive grades (up to a maximum of three grades) with separate results for each grade. A combined class is open to more than one grade with only one set of results for the whole class.

5. If I am eligible for grade 2, but win a combined agility class with grade 4 dogs competing, does this mean it is equivalent to having won a grade 4 class?

No. When you gain the required number of wins these progress you from your existing grade only - you cannot skip grades.

6. Does the course have to be set at the standard for the lowest eligible grade of dog?

The course design, and suitability, is entirely up to the judge who will take into consideration all the eligibility levels of dogs. 

7. I have won out of grade 2 but handle other people’s dogs that don’t do agility. What class can I do with them?

As the dog and owner have not won anything, the dog is eligible for grade 1, you as the handler are eligible for grade 2 and you can therefore compete with the dog in a combined grade 1-2 class only.

8. As a grade 2 handler, what would happen if I handled a grade 1 dog in a combined grade 1-3 class and it won? What grade would it now be in?

If you won the required number of combined classes, the dog would win out of its current grade (in this case from grade 1 to grade 2). 

Agility course obstacles

In agility there are a number of obstacles on each course your dog will need to jump, weave and traverse through. Learn more about agility course obstacles.

Next step - attending your first agility show

Attending your first agility show can be an intimidating experience, but don't be put off! Learn more about what to expect when attending your first agility show.