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A Brief History of Agility

The first widely-documented appearance of dog agility was as entertainment at the Crufts dog show in 1978. John Varley, a committee member from the 1977 show, was tasked with coming up with entertainment for the audience between the obedience and conformation competitions in the main ring. Varley asked dog trainer Peter Meanwell for assistance, and they presented a largely jumping-style course resembling something from the equestrian world to demonstrate dogs' natural speed and agility. Many obstacles recognizable to modern handlers were already present at that demonstration, including the 'Over & Under' (A-frame/tunnel combination), 'Tyre Hoop' (tire), 'Weaving Flags' (weave poles), 'Canvass Tunnel' (collapsed tunnel) and 'Cat Walk' (dogwalk).

In the United States, several people experimented with dog agility based generally on the British rules. The first exhibitions took place in the early 1980s. The pivotal founding groups were the NDCA and the USDAA. Today, the NDCA has merged with the United Kennel Club leaving the USDAA as the dominant force in the U.S. world of agility.

In 1988, almost no one had heard of dog agility in the United States, while meanwhile in England it had become an extremely popular sport, drawing hundreds of spectators. By 1989, however, when the USDAA Grand Prix of Dog Agility was first filmed for TV, nearly 2000 spectators attended the final round. Just a year later, attendance neared 4000.

The AKC's first agility advisory committee met in August 1993 and started the process of creating its own agility rules and standards. When the AKC entered the field, each competition had only one standard course. The first AKC sanctioned agility match was held in 1994, at the Houston Kennel Club show held at the Astroarena in Houston, Texas. Sanctioning by the AKC made the rapidly growing sport nearly explode in the United States, as AKC handlers began exploring USDAA and NADAC competitions as ways to expand their agility experience. A few years later, AKC introduced its own version of the Jumpers course, which included weave poles as did the International rules but which NADAC and USDAA did not include.

Today there are a variety of registries that sponsored sanctioned Agility trials - American Kennel Club (AKC), United States Dog Agility Assocation (USDAA), North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC), Canine Performance Events (CPE), Dogs On Course North America (DOCNA), United Kennel Club (UKC) and Teacup Dog Agility Association (TDAA).  

Dog agility is a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. Dogs generally run off-leash with no food or toys as incentives. The handler can touch neither dog nor obstacles, except accidentally. Consequently, the handler's controls are limited to voice, movement, and various body signals, requiring exceptional training of the animal.

In its simplest form, an agility course consists of a set of standard obstacles, laid out by an agility judge in a design of his own choosing on a roughly 100 by 100 foot (30 by 30 m) area, with numbers indicating the order in which the dog must complete the obstacles.

Courses are complicated enough that a dog could not complete them correctly without human direction. In competition, the handler must assess the course, decide on handling strategies, and direct the dog through the course, with precision and speed equally important. Many strategies exist to compensate for the inherent difference in human and dog speeds and the strengths and weaknesses of the various dogs and handlers.


SICDTC hosts a few Agility Trials annually in Staten Island and New Jersey where handlers from all over the Tri-State area pay entry fees and pre-enter their dog to compete for titles and ribbons.  Please see our “Calendar of Events” page for additional information.

 SICDTC has a variety of top Agility instructors from the Tri-State area who teach at our facilities Agility classes from Beginner through Masters level.  Agility classes, as with Obedience, are a progression of skills taught in order to be successful in sanctioned competition.  Skills like weave pole entries, rear crosses, front crosses, contacts, jumping, start lines stays are just few examples of what the dog needs to know.  The handler also needs to learn skills in order to accurately read a course and plan a winning strategy for their team.


Some information about our Agility classes:


  • All Agility classes are by pre-registration only
  • Classes are for 1 hour and 8 weeks in duration 
  • Current class fee is $175.00 for non-members/ SICDTC members pay a discounted amount after meeting the membership requirements.  Fees are non-refundable and not transferable once the session begins.
  • Beginner Agility Classes have a pre-requisite in place for all students.  Novice through Masters students should register for a class according to their dog’s skill level.
  • Beginner Agility Classes are filled from the waiting list.  SICDTC members or non-members who are interested to be placed on the waiting list for the next session of Beginner Agility classes should call the SICDTC main number 718-761-8048 and leave a message in the Agility Voice mailbox with your contact information.
  • All  Agility Classes are outdoors at the field running from April to December
  • If you wish to e-mail the Agility Director about any matter, please click this link Agility Director, otherwise please leave a message on the Agility voicemail box as stated above

Below is a brief description of some our Agility classes and requirements.  Please refer to the Agility Class Schedule page for additional information.

 Beginner Agility

Introduction to all Agility equipment and the beginning of Agility Foundation Work will be taught at this level 

Pre-requisite:   Completion of Beginner Obedience I and II with a reliable recall, a stay command and control on leash Exceptions to this pre-requisite may be considered if you have earned Advanced Agility Titles on prior dog(s), but this must be discussed with the Agility Director.

Intermediate Agility  

This is the next level and continues to work on obstacle familiarity and proficiency and to build on the initial Agility Foundation work.

 Pre-Req:  Completion of Beginner Agility work

Novice Agility

This level is where the dog and handlers continue to build on their skills prior to competition.

 Pre-Req:  Dog and Handler must have completed all Beginner and Foundation Training.

 Open / Advanced Novice Agility

This level is where the dog and handlers continue to work on more advanced skills necessary to compete at the Novice and/or Open Level in actual trial events.

Pre-Req:  Dog and Handler must be have completed all prior levels and ready to compete

 Masters/Excellent Agility 

This highest level is where the dog and handler are able to work on polishing their skills on advanced course work while competing in trials.

Pre-Req:  Actively trialing at agility events at the Excellent/Masters Level


Other Agility Classes can be offered and are subject to demand.  Please check the Agility Schedule Page for additional information.