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Grade 1 (Elementary)
For owners, handlers or dogs which have not gained a first place in an Agility Class or three first places in Jumping Classes at Kennel Club licensed Agility Shows. previously qualified out of Grade 1, (Elementary) are not eligible for this class.
Grade 2 (Starters)
Open to dogs which are not eligible for Grades 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and have not gained a first place in an Agility Class or three first places in Jumping Classes at Grade 2 at Kennel Club licensed Agility Shows, or elected to progress on points from Grade 1. N.B. Owners, handlers or dogs previously qualified out of Grade 2 (Starters) are not eligible for this class.
Wins at club matches don't count towards progression and wins in special classes don't count either. Although wins at limited shows now count towards progression they only do so if the show hasn't put 'special' against the class. It must be a standard Kennel Club class to count. If you aren't sure ask the show secretary.
Class entries for grade 1 and 2 vary across the country but most clubs are reporting a drop in entries. Usually when you and your dog have got to a standard where you can win out of grade 1 you'll find that the classes in grade 2 are the same or very similar and you'll win out quickly from grade 2 as well.
Some people stay in grade 1 and 2 for years. This isn't because they're bad handlers or find the training too difficult it's usually because they have very special dogs. They may have dogs that love agility but aren't quite fast enough to win or they may have taken on a difficult dog that other people have given up on.
Some handlers spend hours, days, months and years of their life taking on difficult rescue dogs and making their lives as varied and interesting as they can be. They are all absolute stars if they're able to cope with going to a show and competing in front of a judge. A clear round is a bonus. Well done if you have a dog like this and a special well done if you get a clear round. It isn't easy. Being successful isn't always about winning.
What to expect on a grade 1 and 2 course
This absolutely depends on the judge but none of them are horrible enough to make a course impossible to run for a grade 1 dog. You may find a course where you can handle the dog from one side all the way round but this is unusual. At some point in the course you will most likely have to change sides.
The jump spacings now have to be at least 5 metres between each obstacle and not more than 10 metres.
Here's Jilly at a show in Barnstaple on a typical grade 1
and 2 graded
As you can see the course is very straightforward and is more or less what they call straight up and down. There is only one change of side. It's after the first tunnel where we change from handling on the right to handling on the left. Handling is on the left from there on to the end of the course. Jilly isn't belting round but she's going at a steady speed and is very accurate. There are no spins or twirls and I'm releasing her quickly off the contacts. It was fast enough to win.
Here's Sasha in a grade 1 and 2 jumping class when she was nearly ten years old. She's still over excited, loving every minute, doing some twists and turns but fast enough to win the class. I love my loopy girl Sasha.
On this course there is also one change of side. We start handling on the right and change sides behind the tunnel. There wasn't much option but to change here although I try and avoid it at tunnels if I can. The course has more twists and turns than the agility course.
Other Combined Classes
Sometimes in grade 1 and 2 you'll come across a combined course that also covers grade 3 or 4 so that the schedule will read something like
Large Jumping grade 1 - 3 combined.
These courses are always easy enough for a grade 1 or 2 dog to cope with and if you have a little experience there's no reason why you shouldn't beat the grade 3 dogs or get a place. Here's Jilly coping well with a grade 1 to 3 jumping class.
I wasn't sure how to handle the change of side at jump 3 so I asked my trainer to show me the exact footwork and positioning needed. On this particular course you wouldn't want your dog going over jump 3 in a straight line or heading towards the wall as you have to turn right after jump 4. It's always handy to have someone to help you out when course walking if they know you and your dog. The rest of this course was very straightforward.
Steeplechases and Helter Skelters
These courses are absolutely brilliant for building confidence in a young dog and for giving handlers confidence as well. You may find them at Kennel Club shows but they will be special classes and a win won't count towards progression. It will count towards your confidence though.
Steeplechases are always found at UKA shows and there is a separate progression system for them where every clear round or place counts.
Often these classes cover several grades at Kennel Club shows but the beauty of them is they're fast and flowing and they have no weaves. Mostly it's just jumps and tunnels.
Here's Sasha on a grade 1 to 3 steeplechase course.
..and Here's Jilly over the same course.
Spot the difference? Sasha does a twirl before the last jump and it costs her half a second. Jilly was quicker. The course was straightforward and fast and flowing.
The helter skelter is very similar to the steeplechase although you can expect a circular route on this one. Here's Jilly having a go at a grade 1 to 7 helter skelter. I got into the wrong position at a tunnel but otherwise it was a lovely run.
Lower jump heghts
At the moment the Kennel Club are offering lower jump heights for all dogs. You may not find these available on every schedule but if they are offered you'll need to think about what best suits your dog. Ask your trainer for their advice if you can't make up your mind. Your trainer watches your dog and can probably see better than you can what height they look comfortable on. You can also get someone to video you so that you can see for yourself how your dog is jumping and make your decision then. Once you've entered the show and it's past the closing date you can't ask to change heights.
Good luck in grade 1 and 2. See you in grade 3.