Lacys were developed to be an all-around working dog. Our new series, Lacys at Work, explores the numerous jobs the breed excels at.
What is agility?
This modern dog sport is all about speed and accuracy. Modeled after equestrian show jumping, the goal of the handler and their dog is to complete a set of obstacles in the fastest time without any disqualifications. The most common obstacles are the bar jump, tire jump, tunnel, chute, teeter, A-frame, dog walk, weave poles and pause table. Courses are designed to test the team with tight turns, close obstacles, distance work and much more. In addition to standard agility, some organizations offer classes like jumpers, gambler’s choice, juniors and relays. But whether or not you want to compete, agility training is a great way to challenge your Lacy both physically and mentally.
How do agility dogs work?
The most important quality of a winning agility team is obedience. Dogs must run through the course without a leash, treats or toys. A close connection between the dog and their handler is extremely important. They must be in constant communication via hand signals and voice commands to successfully navigate a challenging course. Dogs also need to be accurate in order to earn a qualifying score for their round. To earn credit for the dog walk, A-frame and teeter, they must touch the yellow contact zones at the beginning and end of the obstacle. When negotiating the weave poles, the dog must enter to the right of the first pole and proceed through the entire series without missing any. They also must negotiate the tire correctly, jumping through the center ring, and cannot knock down jump poles. Speed is icing on the cake. Of the dogs that complete the proper course with no faults, the fastest round wins.
Why do Lacys make good agility dogs?
The Lacy has the complete agility package. Extremely athletic and energetic, they can easily negotiate obstacles and make tight turns. Lacys quickly pick up new tasks and are smart enough to think through complex exercises. Most importantly, they aim to please their owners and are very driven to work. If anything, these dogs can be too eager and too fast in the ring. Their incredible speed is an asset, but you need a solid handle on your Lacy to keep them on course and hitting their contacts. Solid distance training is vital since it’s pretty tough to keep up with a Lacy on a mission. But their superior intelligence and working ability make these dogs prime agility prospects. Put in the proper groundwork and you’ll earn many clean runs and blue ribbons with your Lacy.
Where can I learn more about agility?
There are many books, magazines, DVDs and web sites for agility enthusiasts. Susan Garrett has published some great material, and the book Shaping Success is a very helpful overview of training. Clean Run magazine is available as a monthly print or digital subscription. They also have special editions that focus on specific issues, such as contacts and focus, that give handlers a broad perspective on unique training challenges. All of these items can be purchased at the Clean Run bookstore. Their site also has a comprehensive list of agility clubs and trainers that you can search by name or location. Finding a local group and signing up for classes is the best way to get started.
When it comes time to compete, the United States Dog Agility Association is the premier agility organization. They are responsible for setting the standards used in international trials. As such, they have the toughest obstacles and most difficult courses. The USDAA focuses on ability, not pedigree, and will award titles to both mixed and purebred dogs. Another major organization is the North American Dog Agility Council. They have a more laid back approach and are a good place for beginners to start. The United Kennel Club also sponsors agility competitions. Despite being a purebred registry, any dog is allowed to compete in UKC trials. They are known for tighter courses that emphasize training over athletic prowess.
If you have any questions about training your Lacy for agility or finding a suitable club in your area, stop by the National Lacy Dog Association bulletin board.