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What is Agility?

PearsonAgility is a performance competition where handler and dog must work together to run an obstacle course that the dog has never seen before.

Belgian Tervuren tend to be highly successful in agility competition. Their structure and drive make them natural competitors in this event. The obstacle skills required by the dog include:

  • Jumping variously configured bar and panel jumps
  • Going through open (rigid) and closed (collapsible) tunnels
  • Weaving between a series of upright poles
  • Walking across a seesaw
  • Walking across a raised, narrow board, like a bridge (dogwalk)
  • Climbing up and down an A-Frame roughly 5 feet high.
  • Downing or sitting atop a table

In addition to obstacle skills, the dog and handler must also have a basic set of handling skills. Such skills include the dog working on both sides of the handler and the handler being able to cross in front of the dog, behind the dog, sending the dog ahead of him/her and working at a distance from the dog.

All this must be done according to a sequence and in an arrangement that differs on each occasion. In competition, completion of the course is timed and contains deliberate "challenges." The dog relies on the handler's voice, and body language to know which obstacle is to be taken next. This requires an exceptionally close rapport and teamwork between handler and dog, as well as strong planning skills on the part of the handler.

Agility trials are sponsored by the American Kennel Club (AKC), United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) and North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC) and Canine Performance Events (CPE), as well as a few other organizations. In AKC competition, events are separated by level of difficulty, types of obstacles, and size of dog.  Any and all breeds may compete, and are separated only by size because of the jump heights. Belgian Tervuren mostly compete at the 24 inch jump height, but those less than 22 inches tall at the shoulder jump 20 inches. The levels of difficulty are Novice, Open, and Excellent. Three classes are offered :

  • Standard, which includes the contact equipment (Teeter, Dogwalk, and A-frame)
  • Jumpers with Weaves (JWW), which consists only of jumps, tunnels, and weave poles.
  • FAST (Fifteen And Send Time) which is based on gathering points upon the assigned point values of individual obstacles. In order to qualify, the dog and handler team must gather a certain number of points as well as successfully perform a designated “distance challenge” in the time allowed. 

These classes are also offered as a Preferred class which means the dogs jump one height less than their normal jump height and have 5 additional seconds (3 in FAST)  to complete the course. Handlers often chose to enter the Preferred class for younger or older dogs since there are less athletic demands on the dog. Handlers are required to show in classes designated "B" when they have previously titled a dog at that level. Handlers without that experience may show in the "A" classes.silafregienjump

The following AKC titles are awarded upon successful qualifying scores in three trials:

  • Novice Agility (NA)
  • Open Agility (OA)
  • Agility Excellent (AX)
  • Master Agility Excellent (MX) for 10 qualiying trials after achieving the AX
  • Novice Fast Title (NF)
  • Open Fast Title (OF)
  • Excellent Fast Title (XF)
  • Seperate titles for Jumpers with Weaves have the letter "J" appended to the above titles.
  • Separate titles for the Preferred classes have the letter "P" appended to the above titles.

The following are Master and Championship titles

  • Master Agility Excellent (MX) - requires 10 qualifying scores after achieving the AX
  • Master Agility Excellent Preferred (MXP) - requires 10 qualifying scores after achieving the AXP. A numeric value will be added to the MXP title for every 10 qualifying scores in the Master Excellent Preferred Class.  (MXP2 = 20 MXP qualifying scores, MXP3 = 30 MXP qualifying scores, etc)
  • Master Agility Excellent Jumpers (MXJ) - requires 10 qualifying scores after achieving the AXJ
  • Master Agility Excellent Jumpers Preferred (MJP) - requires 10 qualifying scores after achieving the AJP. A numeric value will be added to the MJP title for every 10 qualifying scores in the Master Excellent Jumpers Preferred Class.  (MXP2 = 20 MJP qualifying scores, MXP3 = 30 MJP qualifying scores, etc)
  • Master Agility Championship (MACH) - requires achievement of a minimum of 750 championship points and 20 double-qualifying scores obtained from the Excellent B Standard Agility class and the Excellent B Jumpers With Weaves class. The numeric value in the MACH title will reflect the number of times the dog has achieved another MACH (MACH2, MACH3, etc).
  • Master Excellent Fast Title (MXF) – requires XF plus ten Exc B legs
  • FAST Century Title (FTC) – requires MXF plus 100 Exc B legs. The numeric value in the FTC title will reflect the number of times the dog has achieved another 100 legs (FTC2 = 200 legs, FTC3 = 300 legs, etc)
  • Triple Q Excellent (TQX) - In April 2010, the AKC created the Triple Q Excllent title. This title requires ten triple-qualifying scores in Standard Agility, Jumers with Weaves and FAST. A triple-qualifying score is obtained by earning passing scores in Exxcellent B level of Standard, Jumpers, and FAST, all in a singel day of competition!  
  • Preferred Agility Excellent Title (PAX) - requires 20 double-qualifying scores obtained from the Preferred Excellent B Standard Agility class and the Preferred Excellent B Jumpers With Weaves class. The numeric value in the PAX title will reflect the number of times the dog has achieved another PAX (PAX2, PAX3, etc)

To get started in Agility, see the Getting Started link on this page, or contact one of the agility clubs listed at the Clean Run Agility Info Center.

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Getting Started

Whether you want to try it just for fun or you intend to compete in agility trials, you need to consider a few things before you jump into agility with your Terv.

The Dog

First, make sure your Terv is physically able to run, jump, twist and turn without injuring himself. Have someone knowledgeable about structure (as it relates to agility) evaluate your dog for structural soundness. A dog with a poor front assembly or lacking adequate shoulder angulation (two common problems) will not withstand the rigors of repeated jumping and turning.

Assess your Terv’s weight. If he weighs more than 2.5 times his height at the withers, he may be too heavy for training or trialing. Keep in mind that most conformation ring dogs as well as most pets may tend toward the heavy side, so don’t be surprised if breeders, handlers, pet owners and even your veterinarian think that a dog in ideal condition for agility competition may be too thin in their opinions. Consult someone with extensive experience to determine the optimum weight for your agility prospect.

It’s also a good idea to get a veterinarian’s approval before starting any physically demanding regimen with your Terv. Your vet may want to x-ray your dog’s hips and elbows to make sure they show no signs of dysplasia. X-rays can also determine if a puppy’s growth plates have closed. Your vet may want to listen to the heart to make sure there are no abnormal sounds. She may also want to check the eyes for problems with the retina, lens, or cornea. Ideally, these exams should be performed by board-certified experts in their respective fields.

Next, consider your Terv’s socialization history. If he’s been properly exposed to novel environments, he should have little problem adapting to a class or trial situation. On the other hand, if he’s not comfortable in strange places or in the presence of unfamiliar dogs or people, you may be better off starting with some private lessons while you work on acclimating him to new environments. Agility can be a great confidence builder for some dogs but only if the dog is not adversely stressed as he is trying to learn the skills.

Finally, take some time to learn about how dogs learn. Click here for How Dogs Learn via Operant Conditioning. Experiment with different techniques to teach him a couple of tricks. Make note of what things motivate your Terv and what things tend to turn him off. Agility is a partnership between dog and handler, and part of that partnership involves finding out what works for your dog and what doesn’t. He’ll be your best teacher on that matter if you’ll only “listen” to what he’s telling you (via expression, body language, etc.).

Teach your dog how to play with you. At a trial, your game is the only legal ‘training aid’ that you are allowed to bring in to the agility ring. Carefully choose the game so that you are an integral part of it and the dog always returns to you to engage in the game. Be careful not to throw the dog away by allowing the rewards to go away from you.

When To Start Training

Most experts agree that puppies should not engage in forced strenuous physical activity until their joint bones growth plates have closed. In Tervuren, this may not happen until after 18 months of age. Your veterinarian can confirm growth plate closure via radiographs.

There are certain skills that you can teach your dog before he even sees agility equipment. First and foremost is a reliable recall. You cannot progress in agility if you can’t trust your dog off lead. Click here for Susan Garrett’s Recall article .

Since, most of your time on an agility course will be spent running (rather than performing the obstacles), teach your dog how to run with you (on both your right and left sides) on the flat (no obstacles) without crossing your path or jumping up on you. Incorporate turns and crossing maneuvers as you progress.

Teach your dog to send away to a target. In a way, agility is a series of directed sends to the target obstacles.

With a solid foundation of these three skills (recall, run with, and send), your Terv is well on his way to Independent Obstacle Performance, that is he will be better able to perform each obstacle with confidence and competence regardless of his handler’s position.

Other necessary skills that can be taught before introducing your Terv to agility equipment are sit, down, stand and release. The stand is useful because all dogs need to be measured to determine their jump heights. Sit and Down are the two control positions judges can ask for on the pause table. Your dog will need to remain in the assigned position for 5 seconds after which he can be released to the next obstacle. A dog who promptly responds to commands can save valuable seconds on course. A dog who will remain in position until released allows the handler time to get into position (such as in leading out at the start line) and will not incur faults for leaving a table or contact obstacle too early.

agility3Choosing An Instructor

Look for classes that use positive, reward-based, and motivational training methods. Force and punishment have no place in teaching your sensitive Terv how to play the agility game. Often, force or punishment-based training methods will backfire and create a dog who shuts down on the agility field.

Good instructors and classes will spend more time in the lower levels building a strong foundation of skills. Beware of classes that are merely glorified ‘run-thrus’ (get through a course by any means possible – good, bad or ugly). Before you commit to a class, observe a session to see if the methods used are right for you and your dog.

Agility is a game that we, the trainers, choose to play with our dogs. Make sure that they have fun too! Go to the Agility Info Center and Cleanrun to find information on agility clubs and schools.

Equipment

Most serious agility competitors have their own equipment, if not an entire set then at least a few key obstacles. There are several companies that sell agility equipment. Some agility organizations sell plans for obstacle construction.

If you do not yet have your own contact obstacles, you can get your dog used to running over wooden planks and platforms. Some can be flat on the ground. Some can be raised a few inches off of the ground. One could have a little bit of wobble to it. If you don’t have weave poles, you can stick a few wooden dowels or tomato stakes into the ground. Jumps can be as simple as sticks propped up on tin cans. Play tunnels sold by toy stores can accommodate most Tervs.

Recommended Resources

On the WWW:

Books:

  • Jean Donaldson’s "The Culture Clash"
  • Pam Reid’s "Excel-Erated Learning"
  • Sheila Booth’s "Purely Positive"
  • Jane Simmons-Moake 3 books: (obstacles, sequences, advanced…)

Videos:

  • Jane Simmons-Moake 3 videos
  • Greg Derrett handling videos
  • Ivan Balabanov video “The Game”

 

History of AKC Agility

A Short History of AKC Agility and the ABTC Ranking Systems

The first AKC agility trial was held on August 11, 1994 in conjunction with the Houston KC AstroWorld Series of Dog Shows.  Dogs were allowed to grandfather in to the higher class levels if they had equivalent titles from other agility organizations until March 1, 1996.

From 1994 through 1997, only the Standard class was offered.  It was split into three levels:  Novice A and B, Open, and Excellent. On February 1, 1998, the Jumpers with Weaves (JWW) class became a recognized class.  Dogs were allowed to enter JWW at their current level in the Standard class.  When JWW became official, no wrong courses were allowed at any level.  Excellent A JWW could have time faults only, but Excellent B required a score of 100 to qualify.

The MACH titles came effective as of February 1, 1999, and at that time, the Excellent Standard class was split into A and B divisions.  I believe up until 1999, the AKC only published the scores   they didn't publish the dogs times, so it was sometimes difficult to determine actual rankings within the class other than the placements.

In the beginning, a score of 85 was required to qualify in all classes.  In Excellent, no refusals or run outs were permitted, but you could have two wrong courses (5 faults).  Table faults were only 2 points off for each occurrence, and time faults were 3 seconds for each full second over time.

In 1999, when the Excellent Standard class was split into A and B, the qualification requirements changed.  Excellent B was only allowed time faults, and the wrong courses were reduced to one allowed in Excellent A.  You could still qualify with a score of 85 in either class, but only scores of 100 in Excellent B counted towards MACH points or Double-Q's. 

Then in 2003, the rules were changed again so that a qualifying score in Excellent B required a perfect score of 100, and Excellent A was allowed time faults only.  At that time, the table fault was increased to 5 pts.

As the sport of agility has matured and changes to the AKC regulations have occurred, it has been necessary to change the method used for the ranking system from time to time, in order to reflect the current state of competition.  In the beginning, a modified Delaney-type system (from obedience rankings) was used, which ranked the dogs based on the number of dogs defeated.  However, it was felt that this system did not adequately compare dogs competing in different regions of the country, where class entries could vary greatly.  It also favored Novice dogs, where the class levels were bigger, since most dogs were just getting started in agility.  Beginning with 1996 and up through 6/30/01, only Open and Excellent scores were included in the rankings.  From July 2001 through 2005, only Excellent A and B scores were included in the rankings.  Beginning with 2006, only Excellent B classes will be included.

From 1997 through 2002, the ranking method was changed to use a more Shuman-like system, with points awarded on a sliding scale relative to the score.  Only Standard class scores were used for the Top Ten Rankings for those years.  With the new scoring rules coming into effect for 2003, some other method was needed to differentiate dogs with the same number of qualifying scores.  Thus, the qualifying score (100 pts) was used as the basis for points, with additional points added for each full second under the Standard Course Time (SCT).  Along with this change, JWW classes were also included in the rankings, and the total points from both classes were used to determine the rankings.

As training and handling methods have improved and dogs  times have gotten faster, it was felt that the speed component of agility competition needed to be reflected more (given more weight) in the rankings.  After much review, it was decided for 2006 to reduce the qualifying points from 100 to 10, while keeping the speed points for seconds under SCT.  Based on the average of the top 30 dogs in 2005, this should give an equal weight to speed and consistency for the average Belgian Tervuren (See attached chart below).  The ABTC Agility Committee feels that this system will recognize and reward those dogs that are both accurate and fast, and that can prove they can consistently demonstrate both those elements of excellence in agility performance.  This method will also allow equal comparison between dogs competing in different parts of the country, without giving preference to placements or dogs defeated, which can both vary by geographic region.

Analysis of Speed to Qualifying Ratio

Assume each dog competes in two weekends. The first weekend, each dog qualifies in Std once and JWW once, but on different days.  The next weekend, they QQ one day, but don't qualify in either class the next day.

The points were calculated by using the top 30 dogs from 2005, and figuring their average speed points per run for both the Standard and JWW classes.  The points from the top and bottom of the scale were used for the slow and fast dogs, and the group average used for the medium dog.  This analysis was also calculated with adding in different amounts of bonus points for Double-Q's, but it was felt that this method without the bonus pts gave the most balanced ratio between awarding points for speed and consistency for the average dog.

 

 

Q Pts – 10/Q

Std

JWW

Total Spd Pts

Total Points

Slow Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wknd #1

20

4

1

5

25

 

Wknd #2

20

4

1

5

25

 

Subtotal

40

8

2

10

50

Medium Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wknd #1

20

12

6

18

38

 

Wknd #2

20

12

6

18

38

 

Subtotal

40

24

12

36

76

Fast Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wknd #1

20

22

13

35

55

 

Wknd #2

20

22

13

35

55

 

Subtotal

40

44

26

70

110

 

 

2006 Rule Changes

A few AKC rule changes were made that took effect September 1, 2006.  The minimum age to compete was increased from 12 months to 15 months.  The minimum number of required obstacles in the Novice class was increased from 13-15 to 14-16, and the number of allowed wrong courses in Novice decreased from 2 to 1.  The table count was changed to a cumulative count of 5 seconds (ie:  if a dog breaks the sit or down position without getting off the table, the count resumes from where it left off, instead of starting over).  The 26” class was added, and the Standard class course times were slightly decreased (increased yards per second from 3.0 to 3.1 YPS for Exc 20”-26”). 

The Preferred Agility Excellent (PAX) title was added, requiring 20 double-q’s in the Excellent B Preferred classes (Std & JWW), but no speed points.  The PAX title will be followed by a numeric designation indicating the number of times the dog has met the requirements of the PAX title.  (The preferred classes were added effective Sept. 1, 2002.)  The first Belgian Tervuren recorded as earning the PAX title was CH MACH2 Charmant Ami River Of Dreams VCD2 RAE PT PAX XFP, owned by Barbara Behan of WA, on September 5, 2008.

FAST Class - 2007

The FAST (Fifteen and Send Time) class became effective on January 1, 2007.  This is a class requiring course strategy and timing for the accumulation of points (80 maximum), with a distance sequence of 2-3 obstacles to be performed that may include obstacle discrimination or a change in direction at the higher levels.

The first Belgian Tervuren to earn the Excellent and Master Excellent FAST titles was Mercy (ADCH C-ATCH MACH2 Snowflower Mercy By Moonlight VCD3 MXF), owned and handled by Linda Knowles of CA.  Mercy completed the MXF on October 20, 2007.

 

TQX Title - 2010

The Triple Q Excellent title became effective January 1, 2010.  This requires 10 triple qualifying scores from Exc B Standard, Exc B JWW, and Exc B Fast classes on the same day.  The AKC used a 2/01/10 date to record all the dogs that had completed the requirements before the title became effective.  Two Tervs were listed as having earned the title - MACH4 Basquelaine-Montage Secret Passage RN MXF TQX (Merlin), owned by Marti and Ray Wiseman of PA, and CH MACH8 Sensation's Lambeau Leap VCD3 RE HSAds HIAds HXAd MXF TQX (Brooks), handled by Sue Fregien of WI.

Sept., 2010 Rule Changes

A number of performance and rule changes were made effective on September 1, 2010.  The table performance was changed from requiring a sit or down position to just 4 feet on the table for a cumulative count of 5 seconds.  The upside contact of the dogwalk was no longer scored, and the tire was lowered by one jump height from the regular bar jump height.  The performance of the weaves was changed in all levels so that all poles had to be completed from beginning to end without interruption – if a pole was missed, you now had to start back at the beginning, and only 3 attempts were allowed.  The biggest change that affects the rankings was that the standard course times for the 24” class were slightly decreased (but not the 26”) – from 3.1 YPS to 2.9 YPS for Excellent Standard, and from 3.75 to 3.55 YPS for JWW.  For the first time, dogs competing in the 20” and 24” had different standard course times.  This adds 2-4 seconds to the standard course times for the 24” dogs, depending on course distance and whether it is Std or JWW.

July, 2011 Changes

Effective 7/01/11, the multiplier for MACH pts for placing first (2x) and second (1.5x) was dropped.  This helps to equalize the points earned for dogs running in large 20” classes vs the 26” class, which may only have a couple of dogs in them, so qualifiers in that height division almost always get placements.  This affects the points being earned for the top 5 dogs in a breed for the AKC Agility Invitational (which uses a July-June time period ranking).

The equivalent title for the MACH was also added for the Preferred classes - the PACHtitle – same requirements as the MACH (750 speed pts and 20 double-Q’s), but in the Preferred classes.  It was made effective 7/01/11, but dogs were grandfathered in that met the title requirements previous to that date (all points earned previously calculated without the placement factor).  The first Tervuren PACH title was earned by PACH Lamborghini De La Lune MX MXJ MXP6 MJP7 PAX2 OFP, owned by Catherine Blackburn of KY, with an effective date of 5/15/10

Time 2 Beat – 7/01/11

A new class was added effective 7/01/11 – the Time 2 Beat (T2B) class – a combination class of Std and JWW similar to the Steeplechase class in USDAA – no table, dogwalk, or chute tunnel, but the weave poles must be included and at least one contact of either the teeter or A-frame or both (if just one is included, either the contact or the weaves must be used twice).  Dogs at all levels (Novice, Open, Exc.) compete on the same course and in the same class, in the Regular and Preferred divisions.  Points are awarded by a scale according to the percentage of the run time to the first place dog’s time (dog with the fastest time in each height/division class).  Refusals and run-outs are not scored.  Fifteen qualifying scores and 100 pts are required to earn the T2B or T2BP titles.  Once the title is earned, the points and qualifying scores are reset – no carrying points forward to the next title like the MACH.  Numeric designations will be used to record the number of times the dog has earned the title.

The first Terv team to earn the T2B title was Julie Hill of LA with MACH Chiron Incyta More Smarts CD MXF T2B (B) on 1/21/12

2012 Changes 

  • January, 2012 - Chute tunnel reduced from 12 ft to 6-6.5 ft in length.  Weave poles expanded to 24” apart (previously 20-24 allowed).
  • July, 2012 – Lifetime Achievement titles (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Century) for ExB classes go into effect.  Each level requires 25 qualifying scores in the Excellent B classes (for FAST, the counting starts after the Master title is earned, not the Excellent title).  Individual titles for each class – Std, JWW, and FAST.    

 

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