What are the AKC agility rules? They’re guidelines that set standards for skill levels, size, eligibility, and equipment. It also lays out standards for the events themselves. The handbook published on the AKC site is over 75 pages, so if you’re seriously thinking about competing in AKC agility, you should become familiar with the details. Here’s an overview of AKC agility guidelines.
A dog must be 15 months or older to compete in agility. Entrants in AKC agility trials must have AKC registration, AKC limited registration, Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege (for purebred dogs who are otherwise ineligible for AKC registration), or AKC Canine Partners listing (for spayed/neutered mixed-breed dogs). Dogs that are deaf or blind may not compete.
Agility covers a variety of events that test skill, agility, and the ability of the dog and handler to navigate a course correctly together. The most common events are:
• A-Frame: Two panels, usually wood, that form the up-down of an A. The dog must run up then down the frame.
• Seesaw: Like a see-saw on a playground, except the dog must run up the seesaw and then down again once it shifts.
• Pause Table: A table the dog must jump onto and stand for a given amount of time. Height of the table varies by size class.
• Open Tunnel: A tunnel with two open ends and rigid structure so the dog can see through the entire tunnel.
• Closed Tunnel: A tunnel with one open end and one "closed" end with no rigid structure so the closed end falls flat and dog must push through the tunnel.
• Weave Poles: Upright poles the dog must run through in alternating pattern, like car drivers on test roads weave through cones.
• Bar Jump: Jumping over bars, not unlike Olympic runners jumping over hurdles.
There are a few other events similar to these involving other kinds of jumps. These are the events most commonly seen.
Dogs are divided into classes both by skill and size. Skill-based classes are, from lowest to most advanced:
• Novice Agility Standard and Novice Jumpers with Weaves (JWW): These categories are further divided into Division A and Division B. Division A is for dogs that have never won an AKC agility title, or dogs working with a handler who has never won a title. Division B is for dogs who have earned the title for the novice category or dogs whose handler has won a title.
• Open Agility Standard: Dogs who have earned a Novice Standard or Open Standard title but not yet earned a qualifying score for an Excellent Standard title.
• Open Jumpers with Weaves: Dogs who have earned a Novice or Open JWW title but not earned a qualifying score for an Excellent Standard title.
• Agility Excellent “A” Standard: Dogs who have earned an Open Agility Standard title or an Agility Excellent Standard title, but haven’t earned a qualifying score for a Master Agility Excellent Standard title.
• Excellent JWW “A”: Dogs who have earned an Open JWW title or an Excellent JWW but haven’t earned a qualifying score for a Master Excellent JWW title.
• Master Agility Excellent “B” Standard: Dogs who have earned an Agility Excellent Standard title and dogs who have earned a Master Agility Excellent Standard title.
• Master Excellent JWW “B”: Dogs who have earned an Excellent JWW title or earned the Master Excellent JWW title.
Sizes classes are:
Dog's Wither Height
11 inches or less
14 inches or less
18 inches or less
22 inches or less
Over 22 inches
At owner discretion
Owners may register their dogs at a size class higher but not lower than the one the dog falls into. To determine size class, the dog must be measured by an AKC official. The size class determines the height of jumps, pause table, and other events in the agility trials.
Equipment (Collars and Leashes)
Collars: Dogs may wear a collar when they run an agility course but are not required to. If the owner opts for a collar, it must be a rolled leather or flat buckle collar with nothing attached, like tags. The collar may have the dog’s name and other ID on the collar, such as an embroidered name, but no awards, titles, or ads are allowed. Slip leads, choke chain collars, and harnesses are allowed on event grounds but not on the course. Prong collars, electrical collars, training collars, or head halters are not allowed anywhere on the event grounds.
Leashes: Dogs may be on leash up to the start line and must enter and exit the course on leash. While running the course, the dog may not be on the leash. The leash must be stored in a designated area while running the course, and may not be left on the ground or on the ring barrier.
A great way to get started in agility is at home. Agility courses for dogs are great for trying out agility at home. Even if you don’t continue into competitions, it’s an excellent way to vary your dog’s exercise and to provide mental stimulation. The training that goes into teaching your dog how to run the course is also an opportunity for bonding. Click here to order your own agility course for dogs.
What are the AKC agility rules? Complex and specific, but well worth knowing if you are serious about competing with your dog in agility. It’s a sport that is gaining in popularity for good reason.
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Photo credit: Alessandrio Musicorio