By Kelley Morrison
The sport of agility is not one normally associated with the bullmastiff breed. However, Bullmastiffs CAN do agility and those that do, LOVE IT! Agility is an athletic event that requires conditioning, concentration, training and teamwork. Teams (one dog and one human) run an obstacle course racing against the clock.
AKC Agility is broken down into several different classes:
1. Standard Class: Includes jumps, weave poles and objects such as the a dog walk, a-frame and teeter.
2. Jumpers with Weaves Class: Consisting of a series of jumps, weave poles and tunnels
3. FAST Class: which stands for Fifteen and Send Time. This class is designed to test team strategy, skill, accuracy, speed and distance handling.
4. T2B Class: Stands for Time To Beat: This class tests the team for accuracy and speed as the team with the fastest time and clean run wins.
Each of the classes offers Novice, Open, Excellent and Masters titles with the exception of Time to Beat. After completing your Excellent Standard and Jumpers titles, the teams compete for their Masters titles and ultimately for their MACH which is the Master Agility Championship. And yes, there have been several Bullmastiffs who have achieved their MACH.
Every year the AKC holds an Agility Invitational event where it invites the Top 5 of every breed to compete. Team Rogue was honored to represent the Pacific Northwest in 2012 and has again been invited to represent our region in the 2013 invitational.
Other terrific clubs offer different venues in agility including NADAC, USDAA and CPE. CPE is very popular with many agility teams as it includes games like Snooker, Wild card and Colors.
Some tips for getting started with your bullmastiff in agility:
1. Get a vet check from your veterinarian, explaining that you are intending to run agility with your bullmastiff. They should have x-rays done for hips and elbows etc. Your vet should evaluate the dogs structure and advise you as to whether your dog is fit to run agility. Dogs that are too straight in front, short in the front, short legs, or very heavy chested may not be the ideal candidates for agility.
2. Find an instructor that has worked with large breed dogs, working dogs, or preferably Bullmastiffs. You need to find an instructor that understands the dogs structure, that a bullmastiff can’t turn on a dime, stop on their contacts and the stride needed to safely execute all of the obstacles etc. A instructor that has worked with giant breed dogs can teach your team to run agility safely and without injury.
3. Keep your dog LEAN! A lean bullmastiff will run faster, perform better and minimize the possibility of injury.
4. Always consider running your bullmastiff at preferred jump heights. This height is normally 4 inches lower then your measured jump height. It will take a tremendous amount of pressure off the front of your dog when they land and will allow you a longer agility career for your team.
5. Talk to other bullmastiff owners who run agility. We are always happy to share our training tips with fellow bullmastiff teams!
For more information go to: https://www.akc.org/events/agility/