Agility made its debut as an entertainment for spectators at the Crufts Dog Show in 1979; it has since become the most rapidly growing dog sport in England, Western Europe and North America. Spectators continue today to get caught up watching the dog and handler's enthusiasm in their athletic race against the clock.
In competition, the obstacles are arranged in various course configurations, always unique from trial to trial, that offer levels of challenges appropriate to the class and experience level of the dogs competing. The handler must direct their dog around the course in the sequence that has been predetermined by the judge. At the entry levels of competitions, courses contain few complications and are more of a test to prove the dog can competently perform the equipment within a reasonable amount of time. As the dog and handler earn their way into successively higher levels, the courses increase in complexity and begin to require split second timing and coordination between the handler and dog in order to accomplish the course within the 'Standard Course Time' (SCT) established by the judge.
The obstacles used in agility have been designed with both safety and spectator appeal in mind. All jumps have easily displaceable bars so that the dog should not experience injury should he misjudge and take down a jump bar. All obstacles that the dog must physically scale have 'contact' zones painted on the equipment; the contact zones enforce safe training techniques since handlers know that dogs will be faulted unless one or more feet are in the contact zones when ascending/descending these contact obstacles. All contact equipment surfaces are roughened for good traction in both dry and wet weather
Although agility training is best started with a young adult dog, some agility training can be appropriate for young puppies; this includes tunnel work, jumps lower than elbow height, and basic control training. Contact equipment work (i.e. A-frames, Dog Walks, and See-saws) should be delayed and/or kept very low until the puppy has developed the necessary physical coordination to negotiate a plank suspended above the ground.
Serious jumping and weaving work should be put off entirely until the puppy is much older. Puppy agility NEVER physically stresses little puppy bones. Puppies are so eager to learn and so happy to please. They really pick things up quickly. But the key to a successful training session is to keep the lessons SHORT and POSITIVE