In the dog community, Jack Russell terrier agility is well-known, a fact that surprises nobody who has come into contact with the breed. Its natural athleticism coupled with its innate intelligence is a powerful combination that makes the Jack Russell breed one of the most agile in the dog world.
Of course, there is also the fact that Jack Russells are breed precisely to be agile on the field in the pursuit of the red fox during fox hunts. Their legs must be able to run fast while their bodies must have the ability to squeeze into tight fox dens to flush out their prey. Even when fox hunts are not on the agenda, the agility abilities of the Jack Russell are hardwired into their systems so much so that owners must find ways to allow expression of such a natural talent. Otherwise, destructive and aggressive behaviours like excessive barking, growling, biting and jumping on people take its place.
Agility as Trials
When we speak of Jack Russell terrier agility, we are also talking about the trial events where the dogs are made to traverse various sets of obstacles placed in maze-like form. These obstacles usually include tires, tunnels, see-saws, upright poles and the so-called dog walks. The Jack Russell participants are rated based on their speed and accuracy in completing the obstacle set before them.
Other dog breeds also have their own agility trials. What distinguishes Jack Russell agility is the presence of on-lead agility, which is considered as the introduction of the canine and its human handler to the sport. Basically, if the owner has yet to compete or practice with agility equipment, then on-lead agility trials is the right venue to have a shot at the award.
Owners can choose between two levels of the Jack Russell terrier agility trials – novice and advanced. While the advanced level is reserved for the veterans of the competition, the novice level is intended for the first-time competitors, whether the term applies to the human handler or the canine itself. Also, the novice level is reserved for Jack Russells who have never scored a 190 in any agility competition.
A note on the use of a leash in on-lead agility competitions for Jack Russells: It is only used to prevent the terrier from running away from the obstacle course, no more, no less. The human handler must never use the leash to force the dog through the obstacles, otherwise, points are deducted. As such, it is important that the human handler has trained the Jack Russell to obey the basic commands like “down”, “sit”, “come” and “stay” before the competition has started.
Agility Rules during Competition
As can be expected during competitions, there are rules to be followed in Jack Russell terrier agility trials. The following is not an all-inclusive list of the requirements, rules and regulations of these competitions:
- The Jack Russell must be one year of age and older
- Collars will vary – flat buckles with six-foot leads in on-lead class while no collars are allowed in the off-lead category
- Leash corrections are not allowed in on-lead classes
- Foods, toys and training devices are not allowed within 10 feet of the ring, all of which can help the handler in improving the dog’s performance.
- Specific rules apply on the obstacle course with corresponding deductions for violations of the rules. For example, the tire jump must be cleanly executed – no running under and between the tires, no banking and no touching the tire. Or on the dog walk and the see-saw, the dog must place at least one paw on the up and down contacts before leaving the obstacle.
Depending on the organizer of the Jack Russell terrier agility competition, the categories will include classes in novice and advanced on-lead, starters off-lead, Agility I to III off-lead, youth agility on-lead and off-lead, and games classes. When training for any of these classes, we highly recommend adopting the following safety tips:
- Flat buckles must be used instead of the slip and choke types
- Keep the training sessions as short as possible to safeguard the health of the terrier
- Be consistent in the commands used for each part of the obstacle.
- End the training sessions with praise and possibly treats, which will motivate the Jack Russell to do better on the best sessions.
Efforts for the improvement of Jack Russell terrier agility levels will pay for itself in the good physical and mental health of your pet.