Agility competitions test a dog’s fitness and the handler’s ability to train and direct the dog over and through certain obstacles. The handler must direct the dog verbally or with signals, without using a leash or touching the dog. Each course is different and the handler familiarizes himself with it during a brief walk-through prior to the competition. Sometimes the handlers are provided with a course map as well.
A completed run that passes the minimum defined standards for time, faults, points, etc., is referred to as a qualifying run. Of the qualifiers, the dog who completes the course in the least amount of time is the winner.
Dogs are divided into categories based on height and experience and sometimes age. Handlers may also be divided into groups by age. Blind and handicapped dogs are usually disqualified since the courses are dangerous for them. Some agility competitions exclude mixed breeds, but many do not require the dogs to be purebreds.
Dogs can begin training for agility at any age, although care must be taken in dogs younger than a year so as not to injure their developing joints. Novice handlers can learn the sport by participating in classes offered at a club.