What you should know about AKC Agility Courses

If you’re new to agility you’re probably wondering how to make sense of certain phrases and terms you’re hearing. Here’s a basic 101 on AKC Agility Trials. There are 5 different courses, 11 height or jump divisions and 5 different competitive (title) classes.

AKC provides a 101-page guide of the rules for Agility Trials (also called competitions). Here’s a summary of key points. However, if you plan to compete in AKC Agility Trials, you should download and read the rules.  (You can use the link to go to the download page.)

Types of Agility Courses

Agility courses include Standard courses, Jumpers with Weaves (JWW), Fifteen and Send (FAST), Time to Beat (T2B) and Premier.

Standard Courses

Standard courses have between 14 and 20 different obstacles, including jumps, tunnels, weave poles and contact obstacles. The exact number of obstacles and flow of the course is based on the dog’s title class and jump height. Courses also have Standard Course Times (SCT) and maximum times. Times are based on the jump division and course layout. Conditions for a “Qualifying” run are dependent on the title class (Novice, Open, Excellent & Master).

Standard courses have “Regular” and “Preferred” jump divisions. Dogs are measured at the withers, located at the top of the front shoulders.

The following height and jumping guidelines are for dogs jumping in the regular division.

Dogs measuring 11 inches and shorter will jump 8 inches. If a dog’s height is between 11 and 14 inches, it will jump 12 inches. When a dog’s height is between 18 and 22 inches, they jump 20 inches. And dogs measuring taller than 22 inches jump 24 inches. There is a final category called 24C (choice). Dogs shorter than 22 inches may compete in the 24C class.

Dog’s HeightRegular Jump HeightPreferred Jump Height
11 inches or shorter 8 inches 4 inches
11 to 14 inches 12 inches 8 inches
14 to 18 inches 16 inches 12 inches
18 to 22 inches 20 inches 16 inches
22 and above 24* inches 20 inches

Dogs competing in the preferred divisions will jump obstacles 4 inches lower than their counterparts in regular divisions.

Dog going over a jump during an agilty trial.
A dog performing a jump at an agility competition.

Jumpers with Weaves (JWW)

Jumpers courses consist of 14-20 obstacles made up of jumps, tunnels and weave poles. Course layouts and times change based on the dog’s class. As with standard courses, “Qualifying” conditions are based on the dog’s title class.

Jumpers courses have the same regular and preferred divisions and classes as standard courses.

Dog running through the weave poles.
A dog running though the weave poles during a trial.

Fifteen and Send (FAST)

FAST courses have the same jump divisions and title classes as Standard and JWW courses. But here’s how FAST is different:

FAST courses consist of 15 obstacles. The judge assigns point values (0-10) to each obstacle. Additionally, there is a distance element called a “Send.”

The send is a series of 2 or 3 obstacles. The handler must send the dogs to complete the obstacles while the handler stays 5 to 25 feet away. The judge finds the exact distance, which is then clearly marked on the competition floor. 

The dog and handler earn points for each obstacle completed in the send. They also earn 20 bonus points if they successfully complete the element.

The handler must begin at the start obstacle and choose the route the team takes to complete the course. The team earns points for each new obstacle completed. If the dog doesn’t successfully complete an obstacle, they don’t earn points for it.

This course is designed for speed. It has a standard course time and a maximum time.  The dog must cross the finish before the first horn, or they will lose points for each second over time.

To successfully complete a FAST course (and Qualify), the team must complete the send and cross the finish line before the maximum course time (second horn). The team must also achieve a minimum score based on each title class.

Time to Beat (T2B)

T2B is another fast-moving course with 17 to 19 obstacles. Dogs compete based on jump divisions. This course doesn’t have different rules for title classes. All classes compete based on jump height. The judge names the specific order obstacles must be completed in.

The winner is the fastest dog in each jump division. All other dogs successfully completing the course will earn points based on how close they are to the winning time.

Successfully completing the course means:

  • the team completes all obstacles in the correct order,
  • the dog doesn’t knock a jump bar to the floor,
  • the dog completes contact obstacles correctly, and
  • the team does all this in under the maximum course time. 

Premier Courses

Premier courses are a new challenge added to the competitive offerings in January 2020. The floor layout contains similar obstacle setups as a standard course. However, they will have 19 to 21 obstacles placed in positions more challenging than Master Standard courses. The course involves stronger handling and teamwork skills.

Similar to T2B, Premier courses are run based on jump divisions. Dogs compete based on those divisions without regard to other title classes.

To successfully complete a Premier course, the dogs must finish faster than the maximum course time, set by jump divisions. The course must also be completed error-free.

Final Thoughts

Competing in your first agility trials involve long and exhausting days. But the rewards of competing with your dog … celebrating the bonding and teamwork between you … is incredibly fulfilling.

I hope you find this page helpful as you begin your journey into the world of dog sports. If you do find it helpful … share it with friends.

Leave us a comment about which information you found the most helpful. Or … Let us know what questions you still have.

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