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Agility Trials October 2-4

The Blue Ridge Agility Club (BRAC) will host a dog agility* trial on the weekend of Oct 2-4, at the Smokey Mountain Event Center (formerly the Haywood Co. Fairgrounds), in Waynesville.

Action will begin just after 8am each day, continuing until about 4pm. Complete information about the trial is contained in a document called a “Premium”, which can be downloaded from the club’s website, .

Agility competitors will recognize that Western Carolina Dog Fanciers Association usually puts on a trial at this time and location, and they would not be wrong. That trial has been a fixture of local dog sports for years, and it will be back next year. In the meantime, BRAC has taken on the trial, and trial chairman Bill Lang hopes “to provide an event that lives up to the high standard set by WCDFA over the years.”

The trial will be run under the framework of the American Kennel Club (AKC). Although it is primarily associated with dog conformation, AKC sponsors a wide variety of dog sporting events, from Barn Hunts to Rally to Nosework competitions. While conformation events focus on the dog’s structure, not its performance, and Nosework specifically prevents the human from helping, agility is unique in being a true team sport. A successful agility run requires both team members to pull their weight, with the handler signaling the course and the dog executing the course plan.

Clear, timely cues from the human must mesh with precise jumping and turning from the canine to run “clean” – successful completion of each required obstacle, within maximum time limit. Dog/handler teams compete in classes based on the dog’s height at the withers (shoulder), running an obstacle course specifically set up for dogs of their size. The dogs run the course at their handler’s direction, running, jumping, and turning, weaving and crawling as needed to complete the course in the fastest possible time. The obstacles they encounter can include teeter-totters, chutes, weaves, A-frames, tunnels, jumps of all kinds. Each new course, set up by volunteers, can include some or all of the above obstacles in just about any order. Handlers are given a chance to walk the course prior to their competitive run in order to decide on the best place to position themselves to give the needed clear direction to the dog. Experienced human competitors

Dogs must respond to their handler’s directions, which can be given only by voice, hand signals or body language. No treats allowed! Class winners are decided by the fastest time through the course without faults. These include such things as missing an obstacle entirely, knocking down a fence rail, or missing a weave gate. Before the runs for each class, handlers are allowed to walk the course to plan where they should station themselves as the dog runs the course so they can be in the best position to give directions

Covid-19 has impacted agility events just as it has almost all other areas of life. Competitors will deal with traffic control measures aimed at avoiding close encounters, and masks will be required at all times except when actually running a course. Under the rules in effect at the start of September, BRAC is discouraging spectators, in keeping with State guidelines. If North Carolina is able to relax its status by trial time, spectating in reasonable groups, maintaining social distancing, may be possible. BRAC will publicize new information as it becomes available.

Future area agility events will depend on the pandemic, of course. The next scheduled agility trial is slated for Dec 11-13, at the T. Ed Garrison Arena, Pendleton, SC. At the moment this facility is closed, along with all of Clemson University, so we will make a decision as more information becomes available.

*Political candidate agility trials, on the other hand, will be visible and audible on all electronic media and in dozens of print media daily through November Experienced human competitors will usually admit that missed obstacles are most often the result of human, rater than canine, error (100% of canines would probably agree. Faults can be caused by the handler being in the wrong place, or not giving clear directions to the next obstacle on the course.


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