Agility competitions are not as complex as they are look. In terms of their exhibition structure they are actually comparable to a tournament. They do have an order to them that is the same at every show. The shoe is usually launched with a Judge’s Briefing where the judge summarizes how the class is judged.
After the judges briefing the handlers of the dogs walk the course with a time limit (without the dogs) to familiarize themselves with the layout of the obstacles. Most trainers will walk or run the course several times looking for potential challenges for themselves and their dogs.
Agility dogs run their courses naked, (which means no collar and no lead). This prevents the dog from catching on a piece of equipment and possibly having it collapse. It also ensures that all cues from the trainer are vocal or signals and there is no physical directing of the dog.
The Judge usually tells the handler when they may begin the course. The Timer starts the stopwatch as soon as any part of the dog crosses the start line and stops when any part of the dog crosses the finish line.
If your dog makes a mistake it is a called a fault. Common course faults include: missing a contact zone, incorrect weave entry, non-completion of an obstacle, weaving off course (taking an obstacle out of sequence), knocking a bar off, leaving a table before the judges count of 5, and exceeding the time allowed for completing the course.
Sitting next to the timekeeper is a Scribe who records any faults the dog may have which have been signaled by the judge with hand signals or by voice.
Once a run is completed the timekeeper shows the scribe the stopwatch and oversees the recording the correct digital read on the scribe sheet. A runner then takes the scribe sheet to the score tent for final calculation.
Final scores are then posted for competitors to view their placement. If they qualify they may perform another round of the same or a different course to qualify them for an agility title.
Each judge designs unique courses for each event run. One of the most interesting things about these dog courses is that rarely are two ever alike. Care is taken to make sure that the same course is never used twice. The judge is responsible for monitoring the final setup of the course to make sure it’s yardage matches up with standard international course time.
Dog agility course competitions are usually fairly elegant events and very interesting to watch whether you are new to this spectator sport or would like to get your own dog into a competitive show like this one-day.