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Golden retriever on the agility A-frame


'Agility' is the ability to move quickly and easily with good coordination. We might say that a person in the Olympics is very agile or shows good agility.

In order to demonstrate the agility of dogs, we use an obstacle course. We use the word 'Agility' for this sport that many people and their dogs enjoy.

To do any sport, dogs need to be well-behaved. They need to know how to follow directions.

Running an obstacle course gives a dog lots of exercise. Dogs get to meet other dogs and you'll have fun making new friends.

Dog jumping an agility hurdle
Agility weave poles

In agility, dogs learn to control different parts of their bodies.

These are the weave poles. A dog learns to travel in and out between each pole. This takes a long time to learn, with the dog starting out walking very slowly in between each pole.

A dog must learn to look to it's owner for direction. He can't just run ahead and go off on his own. Agility is fun, but very disciplined.

Traveling through an agility tunnel helps dogs to learn that new activities can be safe and fun. A dog learns early that going into dark places like a tunnel is not so scary.

Agility tunnel with fox terrier running the course
Border collie jumping through a tire

Agility helps dogs develop good balance and control of their actions. Muscles and hearts become strong.

Jumping through this tire jump takes good energy, strong legs, and good aim!

Agility can help your dog gain confidence the same as when you play sports or perform in a play.

This is a dog walk. Dogs learn to climb up one side, walk on a bridge, and then go down the other side. To do this, dogs have to be comfortable with heights.

Terrier going over agility A-frame


Below is a very special story from one of our visitors at How to Love Your Dog. Katie told us all about her agility dog, Dusty, and what it is like to train an agility dog. Read on - you'll love her story!
My name is Katie and I am 13 years old. I began doing agility with my Golden Retriever, four-year-old Dusty Snickerdoodle, when I was 11. My parents gave me my own dog when I was 9, and I chose a Golden Retriever. I knew that I wanted to do a competitive dog sport with Dusty, but couldn’t find the right one. I discovered agility on Animal Planet. It is perfect for Dusty: He is fast, strong, and lives to please me. I knew that this was the sport for us.

I have been Dusty’s only trainer and handler for his whole life. I began his early agility training in the backyard when he was around 6 months old. I used anything I could find to make jumps and tiny obstacles. Using lots of food and hugs, I trained Dusty to go over the jumps happily. By the time he was a year old, he could run short jump sequences off-leash. I enrolled him in a group agility class shortly after his first birthday.

With the help of our trainer, as well as more food and hugs, I taught Dusty to soar over jumps, race through tunnels, climb over the A-frame, zoom across the dogwalk, and snake through the weave poles. He loved to do those obstacles, but he hated the teeter-totter. Our trainer and I tried everything: putting food at the end, pushing him up, helping him tip the board, racing ahead, calling him over. Nothing seemed to help. He would leap onto the miniature teeter in my backyard, but the big teeter at class scared him to death. Since the teeter and dogwalk look similar to a dog, he started avoiding the dogwalk as well. Finally, I discovered his love of whipped cream and squirt cheese. I would squirt piles of whipped cream and cheese up the teeter, and he happily licked it up. While he is still slow on the teeter, he always does it and he races across the dogwalk like he used to.

Dusty learned to run longer courses while on the leash. A few months after we began training, we entered a special show called a show-and-go in which we were allowed to use a leash. Although he was still having a teeter problem and I had to push him up the teeter, we both had a lot of fun. I started running him on a lighter leash, and finally off-leash. It was a slow process. We entered the more advanced class at our training center, and I began to hope that our trainer would allow us to compete soon.

Dusty’s first competition was in February 2002, a year after we’d begun training. He was doing very well at lessons, but in the show he ran off the course to “visit” people quite a few times. Most Golden Retrievers go “visiting” at their first show, but Dusty continued to visit at our second show. And third. And fourth. He still goes “visiting” occasionally if I do not stay right next to him.

Our first clean run (a perfect run) was in June 2002. He got a first place, and I was so happy! At the next show, all four of his runs were perfect. On July 28, 2002 (Dusty’s third birthday), we got our Novice Agility title.


Dusty and I have always competed against adults, and we have done very well. He has won 14 blue ribbons and we have the following titles: AKC Open Agility and Agility Excellent Jumper; USDAA Agility Dog; NADAC Novice Agility and Novice Jumper; ASCA Regular Standard Novice and Jumpers Standard Novice.

Agility has been great for Dusty and me. It has made our relationship much stronger and taught me how to be a good dog trainer. My goal is for Dusty and me to be the first junior handler and Golden Retriever team to earn the USDAA and AKC champion titles. We are always working on running faster and being more accurate.
I would recommend doing agility to anyone with a dog. It is a lot of fun to train your dog to run the course. Competing is thrilling, although I always get nervous. There is nothing like the connection that I feel with Dusty on the agility course. Dusty is a real agility dog.
Thanks very much to Katie, age 13, for this wonderful story!

There are several parts to an agility course, or obstacle course for dogs. It's a lot of fun. Your dog must be carefully trained so that he doesn't hurt himself. Here is a short video of Bailey working in beginner's agility, sometimes called a Confidence Course:


More Videos!

Miniature Dachshund

Now watch this 12 year old Miniature Dachshund try agility for the first time! Click here!



Bonnie's face

Here's a video of a 14 week old Collie puppy learning the obstacle course. Click here!



The American Kennel Club (AKC) kindly provides the following activities for download. You may print any pages you want.
There are a lot of fun things to do!

The links below will open in a new window and take you to the AKC website. When you are finished, just close the window and you'll be right back at How to Love Your Dog.

New Activities for kids about dogs. Agility Obstacle Course Fill-In

New Activities for kids about dogs. Agility Obstacles

New Activities for kids about dogs. Agility Matching




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Thanks to K9 Creations for the Agility Animation.