Dog Agility FAQs

What is agility?

Agility is a sport in which a handler (human) directs a dog through an obstacle course. The sport was originally based on equestrian events, and is now enjoyed by dogs and humans around the world. There are a variety of events and games involving different combinations of obstacles. For example, a standard agility course will use nearly every type of obstacle, while a tunnelers course will be only tunnels, a jumpers course will be mostly jumps, and a chances/gamblers course will focus on handling from a distance.

Can any breed do agility?

Can any breed do agility? What about my mixed breed dog?

Yes, any pure breed or mixed breed dog can enjoy agility. The most important ingredients for success are a healthy dog at an athletic weight/fitness, and a strong relationship between handler and dog. Of course, some dog personalities and body types may be better suited to competitive success. But, most training groups (including K-9 Xpress) will not require you to compete if you choose not to do so.

Can my senior dog do agility?

This depends largely on the physical conditioning and overall health of your dog. Many dogs are able to enjoy agility into their senior years, but you should consult with your vet to determine if agility is safe for your senior dog. Please also communicate your concerns to Austin K-9 Xpress when you contact us.

Can my puppy do agility?

Puppies have soft bone plates in their joints that need time to solidify, much like the skull plates in human babies. For this reason, puppies are not allowed to compete in agility and should not be part of a training program designed for adult dogs. However, you can teach your puppy foundation skills like sit, stay, down, and come (recall). You can also teach clicker training skills from a young age, as well as coordination exercises. There are several reputable trainers in the Austin area that offer classes for puppies. We’d be happy to help you find one.

What about the weight of my dog and other health concerns?

For their own safety, severely overweight dogs should NOT do agility. Too much weight coming down on your dog’s joints can damage them. To determine if your dog is fit enough for agility, check your dog’s ribs. From a standing position, you should be able to easily feel your dog’s ribs while lightly running your hand over the dog. If you have to dig in to feel the ribs, your dog may need to lose weight before starting agility. If you’re not sure, consult with your vet. Many people don’t realize that what may be a healthy weight for a house pet can be too heavy for a canine athlete. Other health concerns should also be discussed with your vet. If your dog has had problems with its knees, hips, spine, breathing, or eyesight, agility probably is not the right activity for your dog. Some health concerns may still allow for limited agility training, but you should discuss this with a trainer as well as your vet before starting.

What about those dogs I’ve seen doing agility on TV – how long before my dog does that?

What you’ve seen on TV are probably National- or World-level competitions. You should think of the average agility team compared to the average jogger, and these televised events compared to Olympic events. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy significant competitive success with your dog if that is your goal, just don’t tell your relatives to set their DVRs yet!

What should I expect from a beginning agility class?

For the Austin area, most agility classes will be 6 to 10 weeks in length, and cost from $100 to $200. You should expect your trainers to have experience in agility, usually in the form of some competition experience or having trained at least one dog to an advanced skill level in agility themselves. You should expect the agility equipment to be sturdy and as safe as possible, and conform to the specifications of the sport. Most homemade equipment is fine, but pieces that are rickety or out of proportion are not. In addition, beware of trainers that make promises regarding the level of success you will enjoy after just a few weeks or months of training.

What kind of training does my dog need before starting agility?

Your dog should understand some basic obedience commands, particularly sit, stay, come, and down. If your dog doesn’t have a perfect stay, you can still join a beginner class, but you should continue to work on that skill. Some agility training facilities may require you to take their basic obedience training before entering an agility class, and this is not unusual. In fact, we have found that dogs with previous group class experience tend to be more successful in our beginner agility class. There is also a DVD that we recommend called “In FOCUS Foundation Work”. It is available on the Clean Run website and it is loaded with pre-agility foundation skills that you can work on at home!

I talked to someone at a training school that doesn’t offer agility, and they told me that I had to graduate from their classes before an agility place would let me train. Is this true?

NO – Your dog is not required to have a certificate in obedience, Canine Good Citizen (CGC), or other formal class in order to get started in agility. A basic foundation in obedience commands is always a good idea, and we have found that dogs with previous group class experience tend to be more successful in our beginner agility class. But beware of those who are just trying to sell you their product.

My dog can jump great heights at home – fences, shrubbery, etc. Can I get started at home?

Just because your dog is capable of jumping a 4-foot fence doesn’t mean it should. The ability to perform a physical feat should not be confused with what is best for your dog in the long-term. Agility is not about just physical prowess – successful communication with your dog is FAR more important. We recommend focusing on basic training and obedience games at home until you have enough experience in agility to understand the limits of what your dog should be expected to do. If you want to get started in a class before our next beginner agility class is available, check out the many “tricks” or “games” classes offered around town. (“Rally” classes are also very good!) Also, the “In FOCUS Foundation Work” DVD on the Clean Run website offers skills that can be safely trained at home.

Where is Austin K-9 Xpress located?

We are located in South Austin, just south of Slaughter Lane near Manchaca. There are lots of places to train in the Austin area, so if you live in another part of town, we will work with you to find a convenient and reputable place to train. You can also review the other organizations listed on our Links page.

How do I enroll in a beginner class?

We have a registration packet available on our website during enrollment periods, and we only accept registration for about six weeks prior to the start of each class. Registrations received outside the open registration period will not be accepted. Please check back on the website for information about the next enrollment period. We offer 2 beginner classes a year, one starting in October and one starting in February/March.

I already have some agility experience. How can I train with K9X?

If you are training a new dog, you’ll need to enroll in the beginner class. For dogs with some agility experience, you can probably start training with us immediately. Please email our Membership Coordinator to discuss your level of experience, and we’ll get you in a class that is appropriate for you and your dog’s skill level.

Do I have to join Austin K-9 Xpress to train with you?

People in our beginner classes are not required to be club members, and we allow people to train with us at other levels of agility for up to two months while deciding if they want to join the club. Those wanting to train with us beyond that time must become club members. Only club members may use our field outside of classes.

What are the requirements of club membership?

Club members pay $30 annually for membership, plus an additional $18 per month (or $50 paid quarterly) for classes and access to the field/equipment outside of classes. Members receive club news bulletins and get to come to club functions and parties. Members are also expected to attend meetings (6 held annually) and to help work at club-sponsored events like seminars, competitions, and field workdays.