border collie dog doing agility weaving poles on grass outside

What You Need to Know About Dog Agility in NZ


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Got a Kiwi dog who’s bouncing off the walls, just desperate to put that energy to good use? The practice of dog agility in NZ is growing fast, with over 1,000 competitors within the country. It’s suitable for both old and young (the people we mean, not the dog) as well as varying levels of fitness and physical ability.

On top of that, dog agility is a great way to:

  • Give a high energy dog a productive outlet for all that enthusiasm
  • Help improve the bond between human and dog
  • Test and strengthen basic dog training and obedience
  • Encourage beneficial exercise for dogs (and humans!)
  • Help build confidence in dogs

So if you want your dog to do agility in New Zealand, where do you start? We’ve gathered everything in one place, from how to get to your first competition to where you can train your dog for agility in New Zealand.

You won’t be winning at Crufts without some guidance at first, so let’s start with training facilities for dog agility in NZ.

mini schnauzer dog agility competition going over red A frame obstacle outside in sun

Dog agility training in NZ

Before you do dog agility in NZ, it’s recommended your puppy or dog already has basic obedience training. They should be able to sit, stay, and come when called, for instance. Otherwise you’ll have a hard time progressing to the more demanding agility training!

For this reason, many dog agility training facilities in New Zealand ask that your dog be a year or older and have already completed obedience training as they’ll need to rely on this while off-lead.

You’ll start with a basic or beginner course and then work your way up to more advanced agility if you and your dog see fit. If you’re not at that stage, start by finding a good puppy school in NZ.

Here are some dog agility centres around NZ you can look up as a starting point.

Dog agility NZ North Island (Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Waikato)
Dog agility NZ South Island (Christchurch, Blenheim, Queenstown)

How competitions work

There are two main types of competition you can enter as a newbie to the dog agility world in New Zealand, Ribbon Trials and Championship Events. Regardless of the show, you’ll usually find there are a few different classes separated by height, difficulty, and type of agility training.

The two main types of competitions are:

  • Ribbon Trial – Ribbon trials are informal events rather than registered shows. They’re usually held by local clubs, are laidback and lower pressure, and are a good way to dip your toes into the world of dog agility in NZ. At ribbon trials, there’s always an Elementary class \for beginner dogs and handlers. You can enter on the day of the event.
  • Championship Event – A championship show is a higher level event. These are the ‘big deal’ shows and usually there are prizes to be won. Typically, people use Ribbon Trials as practice and to gain experience before entering Championship shows. To enter, handlers must belong to Dogs New Zealand (NZ’s official kennel club) and be registered with one of its member clubs. Entries to Championship Events usually close a couple of weeks beforehand.

So, the unspoken rule? Enter Ribbon Trials first, until you’ve gained some competition experience and want to tackle Championship Events.

border collie jumping big red and white jump outside on agility course

What classes are there at agility shows?

When you’ve entered a show you’ll normally find two types of agility too.

Jumpers, as the name suggests, consists mostly of jumping obstacles as well as tunnels. Standard agility includes other equipment like weaving poles, A-frames, see-saws and more.

Standard Agility levels
  • Elementary – a simple course of 10 to 15 obstacles.
  • Starters – 13 to 18 obstacles, which must feature a set of 12 weave poles.
  • Novice – 15 to 18 obstacles, always including weave poles and “contact equipment” (raised obstacles the dog must run over, touching the “contacts” at the entry and exit of the obstacle).
  • Intermediate – a difficult course of 15 to 20 obstacles, with additional obstacles being introduced at this level.
  • Senior – the hardest level; 15 to 25 obstacles with all equipment to be used to test dog and handler.
Jumpers levels
  • Jumpers C – simple course of 15 to 18 obstacles.
  • Jumpers B – a more complex course of 15 to 20 obstacles.
  • Jumpers A – the hardest course, with 15 to 25 obstacles.

In both Standard Agility and Jumpers, dogs in NZ are divided into height categories. Sort of like how boxers compete in weight categories. Dogs are measured once they’re 18 months and again at two years old once they’re fully grown. The four categories are:

  • Micro (up to 325mm)
  • Mini (326 to 430mm)
  • Midi (431 to 520mm)
  • Maxi (over 520mm)

Regardless of the height category a dog falls into, the course remains the same. However, the jump height and length is adjusted. So a micro dog could do a Jumpers A class and the course would be very complicated, but the jumps would be smaller than a Maxi dog doing the same class.

Usually each height division competes against themselves, so all Mini dogs would only compete against other Mini dogs. If there aren’t enough entries, height divisions will compete together but the size of obstacles will still be adjusted.

golden retriever dog in NZ jumping through agility hoop in blue

Dogs who excel at dog agility in NZ

Almost any type of dog can do agility – as clearly shown by the NZ TV show Dog Almighty (which PD Insurance sponsored).

However, just like sports for humans, certain dogs are more suited to it than others. At the highest levels you’ll typically see a lot of Border Collie and Golden Retriever dogs. The working breeds are often very good at agility. And so too are Jack Russells!

But as long as your dog doesn’t have physical or health issues, they can do some agility. We have exercise guidelines by dog breed you can use as a starting point so you can better understand how far they’re likely to go. Your Great Dane is unlikely to keep up with a New Zealand Huntaway dog, for example.

And certain dog breeds do have conditions you’ll want to keep top of mind. For instance, IVDD in Dachshunds might cause a problem with lots of jumps and running. And snub-nosed breeds such as Bulldogs or Pugs may find the exercise too difficult.

So as with everything dogs, use your discretion to decide whether your dog can handle the demands of agility and if so, to what extent.

Dog insurance for your agile best friend

Your future dog agility NZ star (or confirmed couch potato) could very well benefit from a pet insurance plan.

Whether they take a fall after conquering the A-frame or chew up the sprinklers in your garden, your dog insurance cover helps pay for medical bills in their – and your – time of need. Your PD Insurance plan can include cover for things like surgery after accidents and during illness, vet hospitalisation, medication and more.

Read about how Harvey the Miniature Schnauzer racked up pet health costs well into the thousands of dollars from a few seemingly-innocuous incidents one after the other.

With us you’ll get FREE pet insurance for one or more months when you sign up with us online. Click below to start today.

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