Zest has qualified for Olympia

Me and Zest have had an excellent few weekends not only winning into G5 with a number of wins but also qualifying for Olympia, one of the biggest agility events of the year alongside Crufts. Olympia is held in December and is mainly a horse show but hosts agility finals on each day of the show. We are both looking forward to it but have lots or preparation to do but knowing she is eating the very best diet is a great start to our prep. Here is what we have been up to:




Lots of people who first start doing agility see it first at Crufts or Olympia and start looking for classes. But as a newcomer to dog agility it can be very tricky to know what a good class looks like. Many people start looking for a fun class to begin with but these should be started with caution. Bear in mind the following points for all agility classes:


  • Agility should always be done on a well padded or soft surface. Classes are commonly run in equestrian centres or on grass and some are even indoors on wall padded astroturf. Be cautious of any classes run on surfaces that are hard or slippery, these types of surfaces put additional pressure through your dogs joints which can cause long term damage.
  • Dogs should NEVER jump on a lead, not only can this cause an unnatural jump action but what happens if the lead becomes caught on the equipment and puts force through your dogs neck. If your dog needs to be on a lead then consider a great foundation class where you can build a bond with your dog so you will no longer need a lead.
  • Equipment should be stable and have no unnecessary protrusions. Beware of classes where the equipment looks homemade or has exposed brackets or elements that your dog could become caught on. Not all homemade equipment is unsafe but I have seen a lot that is.
  • Training should be positive reinforcement only. Agility is about your dogs speed, confidence and fun. Confidence grows from not being afraid to make mistakes or try new things. Training using positive punishment, doing something the dog doesn’t like, following a behaviour you didn’t like will only make the dog slower to offer to try and ensure success. This includes the use of things such a pebble bottles and water sprays.
  • Young dogs should not be completing agility equipment. Be cautious of classes that encourage dogs under 1 year to be completing equipment. There are some things such as jump bumps and straight pipe tunnels which can be done earlier but full height contacts and weaves should be left until later in the dogs development. Your vet should be able to give you a good idea when your dog’s growth plates might be closed. Starting a high impact activity before your dog’s growth plates are closed can have a negative impact on their joints.
  • A good class will allow you to observe a class before signing up. I always encourage people to come along without their dog to start with to watch a class before signing up. You can find out a little about the class and see if it is suited to you and your dog.


Most people start agility as just a fun thing to do with their dog but it is a very addictive hobby , there are many people that have come to train with me having started agility in a “Fun” agility class. These classes can include some of the less than desirable behaviours mentioned above but some, not all, are incapable of preparing you for the world of competitive agility. Those people who came to me from “Fun” agility classes are very often difficult to train, there are sometimes behaviours which have been taught that make competitive agility very challenging. It is often easier to teach a dog from scratch than reteach a dog that has been taught “Fun” agility. All agility should be fun, and not all “Fun” agility classes are bad, most competition trainers will accept people who have no desire to compete they will also likely train them the same as their competitive students. When taught in the same way as competitive agility it should provide the safest and most fulfilling agility experience for your dog. If there is even a tiny possibility that you may want to compete in the future then you will want to look for classes that consider all of the above as well as:


  • All Equipment should be KC regulation. There have been many changes to the equipment since agility began and a competition level trainer will be aware of these. If in doubt you can check the equipment regulations here: https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/24818/judges_guide_to_agility_equipment.pdf . A few tell tail signs of good equipment are: rubberised contacts, well secured tunnels held with pegged fixings or sandbags and solid metal weave base.
  • You won’t be completing an agility course in the first few months. At a good agility class you should expect to work on the foundations of your dogs learning, building up their understanding and confidence in layers. Stay away from classes offering that you will have completed all equipment in the first few lessons. It often takes over a year to complete all the obstacles in a course. Don’t be in a hurry as an agility trainer it took me longer than a year to train my young dog to complete all the obstacles and I think she is looking great now.
  • Class sizes should be between 4 and 8 people for a 1 hour lesson. The cost should also be representative. For a top level agility trainer on a weekly basis you are probably looking at between £6 and £10 per lesson in a group of around 6. This pays for the venue and equipment, the trainers time and for them to continue their learning so they can offer the best training.
  • Your trainer should have experience of competition at a reasonable level. People aspiring to compete should look for trainers who can offer the skills to help them reach that level. Most of these trainers will be competing themselves or have competed at a high level in the past. I would be looking for a class where the trainer has competed at G5 level or above at kennel club shows or at Championship level at UKA shows. Ideally you would be looking for someone who has competed at Crufts or Olympia as these are the flagship events for British agility. Of course like coaches in many sports some may not compete themselves but they should have a number of students competing at a similarly high level.


I hope this will help you to find the best place to start agility with your dog, in both a safe and brilliantly fun way. Remember that everyone started somewhere and was once a beginner.


Love and Licks


Nicola and Zest

Zest has qualified for Olympia