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Agility [ əˈdʒɪlɪti ] ( English for maneuverability , dexterity , agility ) is a dog sport in which the dog has to overcome a course consisting of several obstacles in a fixed order and within a given time. The dog handler shows him the way with body language and audio signals, but is not allowed to touch any obstacles or the dog. Agility promotes the harmonious cooperation between humans and animals and is established worldwide.


At the 1977 Crufts Dog Show , Briton Peter Meanwell was asked if he could organize a break filler. He was inspired by equestrian sports and developed a jumping tournament for dogs as a competition. Together with two dog clubs, he invented and built a suitable course by inventing other equipment in addition to jumps and defining an initial set of rules.

In addition to jumps with a pole or brush, there was a tire, a climbing wall, a tunnel, a slalom whose poles had a flag at the top like in skiing, a table as a start, in the middle and as a finish, a seesaw and a catwalk - the Cat Walk at that time was called and was only appropriately renamed Dogwalk in the following year. In addition, there was a turning bar and a window jump, which was quickly abolished due to the risk of injury.

In these two clubs they practiced alternately over the year under different conditions, and in the following year there was the first presentation of these two teams at the Crufts 1978. The enthusiasm of the audience was so great that it was decided to continue the event next year; now even elimination fights were necessary in advance in order to be able to present the three best teams. This new sport quickly became a sure-fire success and spread around the world.

Agility came to Germany in the 1980s. The first European championship took place in 1992 in St Vulbas in France. In 1994 in Arnhem (Netherlands) Germany took part for the first time. In 1996, the participation of the USA and South Africa turned the European championship into a world championship. Parallel to the world championships, where only FCI pedigree dogs with papers are allowed, there are international competitions for mixed breeds , such as the European Open. These tournaments are administered by the world association for canine, the FCI. In addition to these events, there are other smaller associations that also organize international events.


Basic principle

Scheme of an agility course, consisting of several hurdles, catwalk, table, tunnel, long jump, seesaw, A-wall, tires and slalom. For example, the start would be in the upper left corner and the destination in the lower left.
A complete run in the highest performance class A3 in a competition. The use of the guide hand by the dog handler is also easy to see for the layman.

The dog runs through a course made up of up to twenty-two different obstacles , led by the handler . A distinction must be made between the "A run" and "jumping". In addition to simple jump hurdles , the A run also has contact zone devices that are missing when jumping. The team (dog and handler) must master equipment such as tunnels, long jump and slalom in the specified order as quickly as possible and without errors.

This sport is suitable for most dogs. However, very large dogs are rare, on the one hand for health reasons, on the other hand because they have little chance in competitions. At tournaments you can see agile dogs, often from the group of herding dogs . The dogs must have a good basic obedience and must not have any damage to the musculoskeletal system.

The most important thing in agility is having fun and being active. It must therefore be ensured that the dog is healthy and not overwhelmed. Supporters of this sport emphasize: "Agility is fun!"

The dog runs free on the course (without collar and leash) and must not be touched by the dog handler during the run. It is conducted exclusively via the handler's audio signals (voice) and his body language . The obstacles in the course are numbered and must be completed in this exact order. The course is set up differently in each test. The planning lies with the judge, who later evaluates the individual human-dog teams. Missed obstacles or obstacles taken in the wrong order lead to a disqualification of the team for the respective run. If the dog stops in front of an obstacle or if it breaks sideways, this is called a refusal (details can be found in the respective examination regulations); the dog has to overcome this obstacle before moving on to the next one. After three refusals, the team will be disqualified. Defects in behavior by the dog or misconduct by the dog handler (e.g. mistreatment of the dog or disregard of the judge) lead to the team being excluded from the event after the judge has made a corresponding decision.

The team has a predefined standard time to complete the course. “However, the standard time is only to be seen as a default and the speed must not be seen as the main criterion. An agility run should be balanced between skill and speed. If the results are the same, the decision is made in favor of the dog with the fewer faults on the obstacles. Only in the case of the same number of errors on the obstacles is the better time taken into account in the ranking. "

Completing the course requires a high degree of skill in humans and dogs. Especially in the high performance classes, even minor handling errors by the dog handler or a brief inattention by the dog can easily lead to errors that can lead to disqualification. However, it is precisely this need for precise teamwork that makes up a large part of the appeal of this sport for the active. The team adapts very well to each other. Everyone observes the other and pays attention to tiny tips from their sports partner. This interaction affects the entire human-dog relationship and influences it positively.

Leadership Techniques

In contrast to other dog sports, in agility the dog is led alternately on both sides of the body; This means that the walking distance of the leading person can be shortened and the dog can master the course more quickly. In contrast to the sometimes similar tournament dog sport , the dog does not run at the same height as the human, but hurries ahead of him or stays behind him for a short time without losing contact. The dog handler tries to keep an eye on the animal at all times, even if he has to change the leading hand, i.e. the dog comes to the other side of the dog handler's body. To do this, the team uses certain techniques of change:

  • With the Belgian change (change in front of the dog) the leading hand is changed in one turn in order to maintain eye contact with the dog. This change saves time on the course, because many dogs start to run faster when the handler turns and the dog's path (curve radius!) Is shortened.
Example: Initial situation: dog behind to the left of the handler;
Goal: 90 ° right turn and change of the dog to the right side;
Execution: The handler turns 270 ° to the left.
A special form of this change is the hinky turn (also hinky change), which was named after Hinky Nickels .
  • The French change (also called blind change or Japanese, change in front of the dog) is used to change the leading hand by turning the body , in which case eye contact with the dog is temporarily lost. This change saves time on the course, as you don't change the running direction if you are far enough in front of the dog.

Depending on the conditions on the course, it is sometimes necessary to switch behind the dog (classic / conservative switch; back cross ). The dog is sent ahead over an obstacle and its running line is crossed behind him. The change behind the dog is usually only used when no other change is possible, as many dogs cope with the sequence more slowly.

Changes are supplemented by numerous turning techniques, which serve to lead the dog on the same leading hand after a change of direction without slowing it down or hindering it. This includes, for example, the Ketschker Dreher (named after Jürgen Ketschker ), in which the dog first runs head-on towards the dog handler, who then turns away (turning against the dog) so that the dog around him and then into the handler's back runs, which is also the crucial point to be trained on this turner. Its advantage is the very tight arc that the dog runs through it, which is extremely fast.

Contact zone obstacles

The contact zone obstacles are of particular importance. These obstacles have marked areas, the contact zones , which the dog must touch. They were conceived to slow the dog down and thereby reduce the stress on his joints. The dog may not jump up or down in a wide set. The contact zones are color-coded and the color is also applied to the sides so that errors can be better recognized. The combination “yellow obstacle with red contact zones”, which was often used in the past, is the worst choice, as the dog can hardly perceive this color difference ( see color perception in dogs ). Newer obstacles therefore mostly use blue as the color for the obstacle, the contact zones are often red. Contact zones must not be white, brown or black.

Size and performance classes

Depending on the regulations, the start is in 2 to 4 size classes, into which the dogs are divided according to the height at the withers :

Mini and Maxi ( IRJGV in Germany)
Small, Medium and Large (FCI and IMCA international, VDH in Germany, SKG in Switzerland , as well as ÖKV and ÖHU in Austria )
Toy, Mini, Midi and Maxi (IFCS)

In the different size classes, the height of the obstacles is adapted to the size of the dogs in this class.

Depending on the dog's performance level, they start either in one of the three performance classes or in the senior or beginner class. The difficulty is increased by a slightly higher height of the obstacles, but above all by a more demanding course construction. In the high performance classes it is quite common that there is another behind an obstacle, which, however, must not be overcome after it. The course can also lead straight past obstacles. Here a clean leadership technique and extreme concentration of both team partners are required.

Health problems

The entire left forefoot is in contact with the ground after jumping over a hurdle

The health risks associated with the Agility represents H. C. Schamhardt, a veterinary -based biomechanics of the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, out. A dog is not automatically protected from overload in agility. When jumping, for example, the forefoot , i.e. the hand, is overstretched ( normally the dog only walks on the toes, see anatomy ). When the dog jumps off an obstacle, the entire forefoot touches down and the wrist is hyperextended. In photos of the jumping phase, it looks like the paw has been broken. But it turned out that this belongs to the normal movement repertoire. When landing, the load is many times higher. As a remedy, it is suggested to reduce the distance between the hurdles, which slows the dog down; in addition to increasing the hurdles, which makes the jump angles steeper and leads to a physiologically more favorable posture for the dog. Jumps in connection with turns hold particular overload potential. In the long term, this overloading of the joints can increase the risk of osteoarthritis , which is associated with permanent pain. The crossbars on the contact zone obstacles, which can lead to paw bruises, are further dangers. This criticism was taken into account in the new regulations: the rocker no longer has any crossbars, nowadays the strips on the A-wall and bridge have to be flatter and rounded, the angle of the A-wall is now a little flatter. Schamhardt is also pushing to increase the slip resistance of the contact zone devices. It should also be noted that the main dangers of overuse are not in competitions with their comparatively short exercise periods, but in training, where the intensity and duration of exercise are usually much higher than in exams. This means that dogs that practice agility are actually competitive athletes and their training should include physical therapy that improves warm-up before training and competition and provides relaxation after the performance phase.

Tournaments according to VDH examination regulations

Agility tournament - view of the event area

Conditions of participation

The prerequisite for participation in official tournaments is the passed companion dog test and proof of rabies vaccination . Furthermore, the dog must be identifiable by a chip or a tattoo. The dog handler must be a member of an association affiliated to the VDH. Furthermore, a liability insurance should exist. Foreigners must be in an FCI affiliated association, the dog does not need a companion dog test.

Size classes / performance classes

In order to reduce the stress on dogs, we start in three size classes:

Small (S) shoulder height, withers less than 35 cm
Medium (M) 35 to 42.99 cm
Large (L) from 43 cm

In order to start according to performance, 4 performance classes have proven themselves, which are designated with A0 to A3. There is also a class for seniors.

A0 the lowest performance class, minimum age 18 months
A1 the middle one
A2 the middle one
A3 the highest
Seniors, minimum age 6 years (in Austria under the ÖKV: Oldie, minimum age 7 years)

For the ascent from A0 to A1 you need either one or three excellent runs with one within class at 3 excellent, which have been evaluated by at least two different judges. Voluntary relegation to the A0 is not possible. For the promotion from A1 to A2, 3 V0 are required (excellent without fault), among 2 different judges. From the A2 to the A3, 5 V0 placed under 2 different judges are required. It is possible to relegate to the next lower class after a qualification, after which the qualification requirements for starting in the higher class must be met again.

To reduce the stress on older dogs and still allow them to participate in tournaments, the senior class was introduced. From the age of 6, dogs can start in the senior class, but do not have to; stepping over is at the handler's discretion. After that, however, it is no longer possible to start in other examination classes. In the senior class the obstacles are lower, and there are no slalom or tire obstacles.

Agility, A runs

All obstacles can be used (A0 without seesaw and without slalom). There is a standard time, the exceeding of which is punished with time errors (one point time error per second; tenths and hundredths of a second are converted into tenths and hundredths of error points). Exceeding a specified maximum time leads to disqualification. Errors and refusals are deducted with a point formula. According to the new regulations, from 2012 between 15 and 22 obstacles, including 15 hurdles, will be set up, with obstacles that are used multiple times being counted multiple times. A combination is no longer allowed, hoops and long jump must be positioned so that the dog can approach these devices in a straight line.


No contact zone obstacles are used in this competition. Otherwise, all other devices are used. The procedure corresponds to that of the A runs. The required running speed is usually higher than in the A run.


Games are not subject to any fixed set of rules and can be designed by the organizer as required. Games do not fall under the FCI rating.

The obstacles according to the FCI regulations in detail

Preliminary remark on the height information

The height of the obstacle is determined according to the size of the dog. For training purposes, it makes sense to be able to set the obstacles over an even larger area, but also more finely. The dimensions given below are the values ​​for competitions.



Jump over a hurdle with bars

The hurdles consist of the side parts and the bar. The rod may only lie loosely, it must fall down when touched. Besides pure rod hurdle various other forms exist: broom hurdle , Viaduct and walls ; the same dimensions apply, and in each case the hurdle ends with a drop bar.

Hurdles are the most common obstacles in the agility course. The rods, which vary in height depending on the size class, must be jumped over by the dog. A release is an error that is scored with error points, the jump is not repeated.

The regulations provide for 3 heights:

  • L: 55-65 cm
  • M: 35-45 cm
  • S: 25-35 cm

The width between the posts should be between 120 and 150 cm.


Jump through a hoop

The tire must be jumped through, jumping next to the tire, but inside the frame is considered a refusal, the obstacle must be repeated. In contrast to the hurdles, touching the tire while jumping is not considered a mistake. Skipping or jumping through at the wrong time will result in disqualification.

The tire must be closed at least in the lower part to protect against injury. It is suspended in a height-adjustable manner by chains or similar devices; fixed, rigid suspensions are not permitted. To ensure stability, the floor struts must be about 2 m long (1.5 times the length from the floor to the top edge of the tire).

The FCI recommends using a foldable tire, also known as a safety tire. This tire breaks into two parts when a load occurs, for example a dog runs into it. Only such a tire is used at FCI World Championships. The VDH has also made safety tires mandatory since January 1, 2014.

Diameter of the tire: 45 to 60 cm, thickness of the tire ring 8 to 18 cm,
distance from ground / tire center:

  • L: 80 cm,
  • S and M: 55 cm.

Long jump

Long jump

The long jump consists of two to four elements, which are set up in ascending order at the same distance, unpaved. To limit this, posts 1.2 - 1.3 m high are set up at all four corners of this obstacle. The lowest element of 15 cm is at the front, the highest at the back. The long jump must be mastered within the boundary bars. Knocking over an element is a mistake; the obstacle does not have to be repeated. Running past, jumping out in front of the rear limiting bar or jumping across in the transverse direction is a refusal, the device must be repeated. Skipping at the wrong time or against the direction of travel will result in disqualification.

Height of the elements: 15 cm to 28 cm with corresponding intermediate sizes.
Width: front element 120 cm; the other elements can be the same or increase in length, the rearmost element may be a maximum of 150 cm wide.
Depth: 15 cm, slightly beveled.

Length of the total obstacle:

L: 120 to 150 cm (4 elements)
M: 70 to 90 cm (3 elements)
S: 40 to 50 cm (2 elements)
Note: in some countries such as B. Austria there is an oldie class. B. the long jump for oldies medium and small is set to only 35 cm in length.


Slalom in different running techniques
Dimensions in slalom

The slalom course consists of 12 poles that are 3 to 5 cm thick. The length of the rods is 100 to 120 cm, the clear width between the rods is 60 cm.

The dog must enter the obstacle to the right of the first pole. Wrong entry is a refusal, leaving in the wrong place and skipping a pole are mistakes. The obstacle must either be repeated correctly from the point of failure or from the beginning, otherwise disqualification will result.

Contact zone obstacles


The contact zone obstacles include the catwalk, the sloping wall and the seesaw.

Evaluation of contact areas

At the beginning and end of the obstacle, the dog must touch the respective contact zone with at least one paw, otherwise the obstacle will be assessed as a fault. Skipping the obstacle or overflowing in the wrong direction or at the wrong time will result in disqualification.

Catwalk / passerelle


The catwalk consists of three elements: the two ramps and the middle section. One ramp contains the ascending contact zone, the other the descending one. The ramps are provided with 20 mm wide, 5 mm to 10 mm high rounded strips, which are attached at a distance of 25 cm to facilitate the ascent. The lower part of the ramps is marked in a different color over 90 cm to indicate the contact zone. The contact zone surface must extend 10 cm beyond the corresponding strip. The entire catwalk must have a non-slip surface.

Height: 120 to 130 cm
Width of the running surface: 30 cm
Length of the elements: 360 cm to 380 cm



In the rest position, the seesaw must be on the ground on the side from which the dog comes. The balance is adjusted as follows: A 1 kg weight is placed on the high end of the seesaw. This side must now tip to the ground within 3 to 4 seconds and swing back when the load is removed. The tilting properties can be adjusted using counterweights.

Width: 30 cm,
Length: 360 to 380 cm, with non-slip covering. Contact zones as on the catwalk are 90 cm each, no strips.
Height: 60 cm.

A wall

A wall

The sloping wall (also called A-wall) consists of two inclined planes that form the shape of an "A". This creates an entrance and an exit, each with a contact zone in the lower part. The contact zones are 106 cm long. The battens and the non-slip covering correspond to those on the catwalk.

Width: below 90 to 115 cm, above 90 cm.
Height for all size classes: 1.70 m (senior height 1.50 m)



The tunnel should be able to be fixed to the ground when in use and must be passed through in the specified direction. Anyone who chooses the wrong entry will be disqualified. Skipping or running through at the wrong time will also result in disqualification. The dog handler must be particularly careful here, as the tunnel seems to have a special attraction for many dogs.

Diameter: 60 cm
Length: 300 to 600 cm

Blind tunnel

Fabric tunnel: solid and bag-like part, open on both sides

This obstacle, also known as the blind tunnel, is in two parts. It consists of a fixed part as an entrance and the flexible fabric part. The entrance is inverted U-shaped made of solid, torsion-resistant material, followed by the flexible part. The material should be soft and made in such a way that even small dogs do not get tangled in it. With the bag tunnel, make sure that the dog does not get caught in the fabric bag. The course helpers must be particularly careful here that the wind does not twist the sack and that the sack is re-laid after each run.

Height: 60 cm
Opening at the bottom: 60 to 65 cm
Length (fixed part): 90 cm
Length (flexible part): 250 to 300 cm

Obstacles that are no longer in use


The table

In the examination regulations of the VDH and FCI from January 1st, 2018, the table is no longer listed and therefore no longer an official obstacle in agility.

Recently, the table was rarely seen in tournaments. The rule for this obstacle is as follows: After jumping on the table, the dog must wait 5 seconds before being allowed to jump again at the handler's signal. Jumping off too early is a mistake and the dog will have to complete the table again.

The table must be stable and have a non-slip surface.


L (Large): 60 cm
M (medium): 35 cm
S (Small): 35 cm

Table surface, square:

Side length: 90 to 120 cm


In the early days, the water ditch was a long jump as part of the range of obstacles. The dog had to jump over it without stepping into the water. It no longer appears in the new regulations, primarily because of its difficult to handle structure.

Literature on the subject

  • Brigitte Lau: The fascination of agility. Verlags-Haus Reutlingen Oertel and Spörer, Reutlingen 1999, ISBN 3-88627-229-X .
  • Werner Damm: Agility for advanced learners. Leading successfully with body language. Kynos Verlag , ISBN 3-938071-01-X .

Web links

Commons : Agility  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Crufts Catalogs - 1978 1.pdf. (PDF) In: Retrieved December 2, 2016 .
  2. FCI General Committee: Specifications for the Agility World Championships. (PDF) In: Agility World Championship. Federation Cynologique Internationale, May 1, 2013, accessed December 2, 2016 .
  3. Agility examination regulations of the VDH from 2012.
  4. Brigitte Lau: Fascination Agility. Drive promotion, motivation and motivational aids. Öertel + Spörer, 1999, ISBN 3-88627-229-X .
  5. dhv Instructor Guide ( Memento from March 27, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) 7.1 Agility requirements and basic structure. P. 5 (as of 2008)
  6. different changes compared (videos)
  7. Aukje Swarte, Marco Mouwen, Ronald Mouwen: Load in agility. ( Memento of August 8, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Article based on the lecture by H. C. Schamhardt at the conference "Injuries in Agility" on December 7, 1995.
  8. ^ Federation Cynologique Internationale: Table no longer in examination regulations. (PDF) In: . Federation Cynologique Internationale, January 1, 2018, accessed December 27, 2018 .
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on September 4, 2008 .