Agility is one of the most fun and fastest-growing dog sports. In agility, your rottie follows an obstacle course, running against the clock. He climbs over A-frames, wiggles through tunnels, and leaps over jumps. It is exciting to watch and even more exciting to participate in. Unlike obedience, agility is constantly changing and provides variety. Many dogs that hate the strictness of obedience love agility because while there are some obedience requirements, they aren't as strict. Any dog may participate in agility provided he is healthy and has no physical defects such as deafness or blindness.
Agility's popularity is evident by the number of sanctioning organizations. These include the AKC, UKC, ASCA, USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association), and NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council). Each has its own particular style when it comes to agility.
Rottweilers can participate in a wide range of agility training exercises.
AKC offers a variety of titles in two categories: standard class, and jumpers with weaves. It allows only purebred dogs either with regular registration or ILP registration. NADAC offers a faster version of agility based on British rules. NADAC offers juniors' and veterans' classes as well as standard, jumpers, and gamblers courses. ASCA offers competition to all dogs under NADAC rules.
Agility made its debut at the Crufts Dog Show in England in 1989. It was simply an entertainment demonstration, but it so wowed the crowd that it became a sport in no time.
UKC offers a version of agility based on control and preciseness. UKC offers Agility I, Agility II, and Agility III courses. UKC equipment varies considerably from AKC, NADAC, and USDAA in their Agility II division. USDAA offers a faster version of agility based on British rules. USDAA offers standard, jumpers, relay, and gamblers courses. USDAA offers a champion program and a slower performance program. It also offers a junior handler class.
Deciding on an Organization
With as many agility organizations as there are, you may wonder which one is right for you and your rottweiler. Your choice is mostly a personal decision as there are no “good” or “bad” organizations listed here. Each has its merits and shortfalls. USDAA and NADAC offer variety through their many classes. They are fast-paced and allow mixed breeds as well as purebreds. If you're interested in control rather than speed, UKC agility might interest you. If you want to earn AKC-recognized titles with your rottie, then the AKC format makes the most sense.
Your choice of organizations may depend on your locale. Some organizations may not be as prevalent as others. AKC and USDAA have larger numbers of trials throughout the United States, but they may or may not be prevalent in your area. Contact each national organization for agility clubs in your area.
There are several “varieties” of agility, including jumpers or jumpers with weaves, gamblers, relay, and standard. You certainly won't get bored if you try all these fast-paced games.
Try out various organizations before deciding on just one. You may find that more than one style of agility fits both you and your rottweiler perfectly. In this case, you may have a multititled agility dog! Many agility handlers have put agility titles on their dogs from more than one organization.
Your rottweiler will need to learn how to negotiate the obstacles before you two can compete. Although some forms of obstacles vary, there are still obstacles that are common to agility. These include the following:
A-frame: The A-frame is made of two six- to nine-foot ramps that meet to form a structure with a peak at the center, three to four feet wide at its base. Your rottweiler must climb the A-frame to the peak and climb down it, touching the contact areas on the way down.
Closed tunnel: The closed tunnel has an opening at one end (usually a barrel) with an eight- to twelve-foot long chute made of silk or parachute cloth that lies flat at the other end. Your rottweiler will have to enter the open side of the closed tunnel and push his way through the chute to complete the obstacle.
Dog walk: The dog walk is a single plank that runs between two ramps. It is a tall obstacle, similar to a catwalk. Your rottie must climb up the dog walk, cross the plank, and descend the ramp, touching the contact points on both sides.
Hurdles: There are a variety of jumps, with or without side wings, that your rottie may have to jump.
Pipe tunnel or open tunnel: The pipe tunnel is a tunnel that can snake into various patterns. Most dogs love tunnels and your rottweiler will enjoy this fun obstacle.
Seesaw: The seesaw looks like a playground teeter-totter without the handlebars. Your rottie enters the seesaw on the downside, crosses the seesaw, and tips the plank. He must touch the contact zones on both sides.
Table: This is a square table that looks like a large end table that can be set to the various jump heights. Your rottie must hop on the table and sit or lie down on it, depending on the command.
Tire jump: This is a jump in the shape of a tire. Surprisingly, the tire is difficult for dogs because they must jump through instead of over it.
Weave poles: Weave poles are made of one-inch PVC. They are set up in groups of six to twelve poles placed anywhere from eighteen to twenty-five inches apart in a straight line. Your rottweiler must enter the weave poles and weave through them.
Finding an Agility Training Class or Club
Should you train with a professional agility trainer? Unless you wish to spend the money to purchase or build expensive agility equipment, the answer is probably yes. Professional agility trainers have spent the money to obtain agility equipment that you and your dog can use. You and your dog can learn agility correctly through a class and benefit from the trainer's experience.
Most agility training classes are offered through obedience trainers or training clubs. Ask your veterinarian, clubs that sponsor agility trials, or other agility handlers where there are good agility instructors. Once you obtain a list, visit those instructors while they are teaching a class. You should visit the training session without your dog to determine if you like and approve of the class and the trainer's style of teaching.
Another example of agility exercises rottweilers can participate in.
There are two types of agility classes. Both types have their own sets of advantages. One is a regimented class, where everyone in the class works on a particular object or handling technique. The handlers learn a specific technique or obstacle from the trainer. This method is good for beginners and those who need to learn new handling techniques. The other is a drop-in-type class where the individual handlers work on whatever each person feels her dog needs practice with. This is good for those who need to practice certain techniques that they've already learned or work on an obstacle that the dog is having problems with. While beginners can learn new obstacles in this environment, it may be more difficult than learning in a regimented class setting.
If you are just starting out, try an agility fun day to find out if agility is something you would like to do. Then look for a regimented class. You can always attend drop-in classes to work on practicing certain obstacles or new techniques you've learned.
As you and your dog become more proficient, look for a variety of classes in different facilities. You can learn different training techniques and gain different insights as to how to train your dog. Not only that, but your dog will become comfortable with different equipment and different settings — something he will need to do if he is at a trial.