Dog Agility is a fast-growing sport. Considered a novelty in the 1970s, it now has events shown on national television and seen by people worldwide. A lot of training, practicing, and traveling goes into the competition process. You’ll find that those who compete in dog Agility are truly passionate about the sport. But that doesn’t stop many who compete now or are considering it in the future from wondering if they can win more than a shiny metal or plack.
So, can you make prize money in dog Agility? You can, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find prize money that covers the expenses of competing. Although winning a world championship may bring in a few-thousand-dollar payday, it costs far more money to train and compete to get to the world championships. A dog cannot possibly be expected to pay back all of the money its owner invested in equipment, training, transportation, lodging, and fees.
One popular Agility competition that does pay, is the $10,000 Dog Agility Steeplechase® organized by the USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association). This national jumping competition has four divisions (12″, 16″, 22″ and 26″) and a total of $10,000 in prize money on the line. Sounds pretty good, huh? Not so fast…the 1st Place winners in each division only get $1,000 each.
So Why Bother With Dog Agility?
Dog Agility is not a sport that dog owners participate in because of the money. They do it for the love of the sport and to have fun with their dogs.
Additional Benefits of Agility:
- Getting to burn off your dog’s excess energy safely
- Dog gets to learn to trust you more
- You and your pup get great exercise
- You get to socialize with other dog owners
- You get to take your dog somewhere where dogs are actually allowed and welcomed (a rarity these days)
- You get to develop and grow the bond with your dog
If you’re ready to get started with Agility Training or want to learn more about the sport, this book is an excellent place to start.
- comprehensive and helpful information
- handy to have for referencing and furthering your knowledge of your pet
Types of Dog Agility Competitions
Many people just getting started with Agility are surprised by the different types of Agility that exist (I know I was!). Not all dog Agility competitions are alike. There are five major types.
- Standard Agility: You and your dog go through a set obstacle course and the one who gets through the fastest wins.
- Jumping: This is mainly a dog version of a horse show jumping class, only no one rides the dogs. 🙂
- Gambler’s Choice: Another timed event where you and your dog pick the obstacle order you want to follow, which is a lot harder than it sounds.
- Snooker Agility: This is a Gambler’s Choice based on the rules of the snooker billiards game and is for experts only.
- Three-Dog Relay: This involves a dog Agility team requiring you to join up with two other dog and owner combinations to compete.
You have to start on the ‘small stage’ in order to qualify for the nationals, gradually going up the competition ladder. Some local competitions will offer prize money for winners, but some will not. This varies year by year depending on the economy and number of entrants in the competition. A competition that offered prize money last year will not necessarily offer any this year.
Some Basics About Dog Agility Competitions
Dog Agility came about initially as an experiment during an intermission at the Crufts dog show. Things have evolved since then but basically, the same rules apply – the team that goes around the obstacle course in the fastest time wins. Dogs are separated into height groups because dogs with longer legs have a HUGE advantage over toy dogs – even the athletic Jack Russel.
Common obstacles include:
- The Tire Jump: A freestanding, sturdy life-saver shaped hoop to jump through.
- Panel or Bar Jumps: They look like jumps for horse shows but are much smaller.
- Broad Jump: A jump that requires the dog to jump further, rather than higher.
- Pipe/Tube Tunnels: A round tunnel that stays up by itself for the dog to run through.
- Tunnel Chute (Collapsible): A soft-sided tunnel that vaguely resembles a long blanket that your dog has to open with his or her nose and then go through even though the tunnel does not stand up.
- A-Frame: An A-shaped solid-backed ladder that a dog runs up one side and down another.
- Dog Walk: Consists of (2) ramps and a platform in the middle. The dog runs up one ramp, across the platform, and then down a ramp back to the rest of the course.
- See-Saw (Teeter-Totter): This is a mini see-saw that a dog walks across, pausing in the middle for the teeter-totter to lower down like a ramp for the dog to run off of. This takes tremendous balance and trust on the part of the dog.
Learn more about agility obstacles, here.
If you are aiming for the big time, then you need to register your dog with the governing body putting on the competition. Registration is usually a one-time fee of about $50. This does not include the costs of entering each class for each event. Here’s more information on the most popular Agility organizations in the U.S.
- AKC Agility (American Kennel Club)
- USDAA Agility (United States Dog Agility Association)
- NADAC Agility (North America Dog Agility Council Club)
Before Getting Serious About Agility – A Vet Check
Before you rush off to join a dog Agility club or invest in some Agility obstacles, make sure your dog can handle the great physical demands being asked of him or her. Puppies in particular need to be careful of too much jumping while their bones are still growing. Too much activity can cause hips dysplasia and other problems down the road.
Agility requires jumping and climbing as well as running about. Dogs with a past history of lameness or problems like a torn ACL should never be asked to compete or to do any obstacle that requires jumping. Some obstacles, like going through a tunnel chute, are okay. Dogs with hearing, vision or balance problems should not be asked to ever compete in Agility.
Is Your Dog Well-Socialized?
Another problem that eliminates some dogs from ever competing is that they hate other dogs. If your dog attacks other dogs or cannot stop barking at other dogs, then competition is out of the question. Learning to tackle dog Agility obstacles in the back yard is okay and may even help to build your fearful dog’s confidence.
Competing in Agility means getting close to other dogs and other people. Even though it’s just you and your dog during the actual competition, there is a lot of waiting around with other dogs and other people. It can’t be avoided. Any dog sport demands not only healthy dogs but friendly dogs. Otherwise, it won’t be a sport for much longer since it would be too dangerous for the spectators, the judges or the other competitors.
Cost of Agility
The top-level of dog Agility training and competition can be quite expensive. A typical dog Agility course has between 14 and 20 different obstacles. Each piece of professional equipment costs anywhere from $1,000 to $7,000. This is where Agility clubs make so much sense for those wanting to get started in the sport. With many Agility clubs, you have access to their Agility course and equipment for a small monthly fee or per session rate.
It’s not just the obstacles you have to pay for, there are other expenses as well:
- Training classes for you and your dog
- Travel expenses to and from competitions
- Dog crates and extra equipment just for traveling
- Entrance fees to pay in order to be allowed to compete
- Vet fees to make sure your dog is healthy enough and has all required shots and health certificates to be allowed to compete
- Time off from work in order to compete
We talk more about the costs of Agility in this article.
Finding Dog Agility Classes
Agility is a sport where you need to learn by doing and not by watching videos or reading books. Because of the costs involved, it doesn’t make sense to plunk down $20,000 in a course and discover your dog will have nothing to do with it. It is recommended that any dog owner with a healthy and well-socialized dog take Agility classes before buying any equipment or joining an Agility club.
The good news is that because dog Agility has become so popular, there are classes offered in many states and near big cities. They may be offered by vet schools, professional dog trainers or in parks where dogs are allowed. The bad news is that these classes are not free. Expect to pay at least $200 for a beginner’s course.
That’s A Wrap!
Although some money can be made in dog Agility competitions, it is usually not enough to cover the expenses of competing. Enjoy dog Agility for the fun with you can have with your dog. Do it to help keep yourself and your dog fit. Do it for the social aspect or to meet other dog owners. Do not do it for the money, or you will be bitterly disappointed.
Last update on 2021-07-23 at 16:36 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API