How to get
Started in Agility

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I've had loads of emails over the years and many of them are from people asking how to get started in agility.  Here's some tips that I hope you'll find helpful.  

Join the club

The best way to start agility is to find a local training class.  If you look in Yellow Pages under "Dog Training" you may find a local club that accepts new members.  If not then try one of the dog trainers listed under this category.   They may not provide this type of training themselves but they will almost certainly know someone in your area who does.  Alternatively the Agility Net site has a comprehensive list of dog clubs and contacts up and down the country.  If you have an intelligent dog it will look up Yellow Pages for you.

One problem that agility folk find is that there are many more people wanting to train than there are classes available.  In some parts of the country you may have to go on a waiting list for classes and you could wait for some time before a place becomes available.  Sometimes agility gets a bit of publicity on TV, either at Crufts or on another doggie programme.  This always produces a rush of enquiries and clubs can guarantee that a lot classes will be full for a while.  Don't worry though.  Sooner or later all but the dedicated beginners will start to drop out.  Some people who start training find that their dogs or themselves are just not cut out for it and then your turn will come. 


One other thing to be aware of is that there are some clubs that are run exclusively for a few members only.  It's not that the club is trying to be unfriendly or exclude outsiders, but they may be a group of friends who have got together and pooled their resources to form a small club.  By registering as a club it enables them to put on Kennel Club licensed events and stage matches with other clubs.  They won't have the resources or facilities for training beginners so don't be offended if you are turned away.  

In the picture above members of Cornwall Agility Club enjoy a match.   Some of the members of this club also provide training for beginners whenever possible.

Where does it all lead to?

If you and your dog enjoy training then you might start to consider where it all leads to in the end.  Some people just enjoy the exercise and the fun that a weekly training class provides, while others may be persuaded to enter a local competition...just for fun.  BEWARE!!!!!  Once you go down this route it quickly becomes addictive.   

For some reason tearing round a ring trying to get a clear round in a faster time than the next dog can give you a buzz like nothing else on earth.  The dog knows it and so do you.  No matter how many times you've told yourself that getting up early on a Sunday isn't going to be your thing any more you just can't stop.  Once you've had your first run you want to do it again and again.  There is no known cure and you will be saddled with this for life.

What you have to do before you start competing

If you want to compete at Kennel Club licensed events and you have a dog that isn't on the breed register you'll need put your dog on the Kennel Club Activity Register. You may want to do this anyway as you might like to decide go in for other events such as obedience or flyball competitions or heelwork to music.  You can find more information and links on the Kennel Club website. 

If you want to compete at shows that are unaffiliated to the Kennel Club you will need to visit the organisation's website or contact the secretary to find out if you need to register and what rules apply.  For example one of the organisations that runs a number of shows throughout the year and are unconnected with the Kennel Club is Agility Addicts.  They have their own rules and progression system and if you visit their website there is an email address for enquiries. 

If you are registering with the Kennel Club you must read the agility rules and regulations.  The registration certificate says that you can now take part in all the various activities but this isn't strictly true.  Your dog must be the minimum age for competition (18 months for agility) and the dog MUST be measured and put into a height category.  See the Agility Bits page on measuring for more information.  Before you can do this you will need to order an Agility Record book from the Kennel Club website or ask your trainer if they have one.

The record book enables the dog's height category to be recorded and you will be also be able to  keep a record of your clear rounds, places and wins.  You get points for these and you can apply for a warrant when you have enough points.  You can also progress to higher grades when you have enough wins at jumping and agility. 

All dogs competing in small or medium classes and large dogs which have not competed prior to 1 January 2006 must be measured by a pair of Kennel Club official measurers before they take part in their first Kennel Club licensed competition.

You may be able to get your dog measured at your first show but to find out about this you will need to contact the show secretary and make sure that you are competing within the rules. 


Where to find out about shows

So you've got everything in place and you've reached a stage in training where your dog is going to be able to compete.  Do take advice from your trainer and other dog club members about this.  They will tell you when you and your dog are ready to go to a show.  You now want to find out what sort of shows are available and how you can enter.  To do this it's best to use the internet and go to a site such as Agility Eye.  They have a show diary, which lists the shows available for the year.  This may be added to throughout the year so it's worth going back and checking from time to time.

When you have found a show that you think you might be interested in have a look at the schedules page to see if the schedule is available yet.  If it is you will need to download both the schedule and the entry form.  Make sure you check the closing date for entries and get your entry sent in on time.

Another source of show dates and schedules can be found on the Agility Net site.   

Once you've done all that you can relax and thoroughly enjoy yourself with no question of nerves creeping in anywhere. 

What do you mean?  "Help! I'm terrified." 
You might come home with a few rosettes.  In the photo on the right Jamie proudly shows off his three rosettes and a medal.

OK then, I still get scared sometimes as well so you'd better have a look at Your First Run

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