Measuring Up…In Agility

Today’s post comes from guest contributor, Laura McNay Hiatt – Matador Beagles, owner of BISS GCH AGCH MACH14 Matador MG Lone Star, “Roubaix”, sire of of Hanne’s 2020 litter. Laura adds her perspective on height (see previous post) as it pertains to agility.

As Carrie has already explained the difference in the two varieties of Beagles as it pertains to the AKC standard, I will touch upon why I look at the height of my Beagles as it pertains to the agility ring.  Some people may not share the same concerns as I do, so these reasonings are purely from my personal viewpoint with my personal dogs.

Competition in the agility ring is broken down into jump heights.  What jump height your dog will be required to jump is based on the height of the dog at the it’s withers, or top of the shoulders.  This measurement is taken by a judge at a trial using a measuring wicket.  This wicket varies from the wicket used to check a dog’s height in the conformation ring, as a wicket used to measure an agility dog is very precise in the measurement down to 1/8”.  Since I mainly compete in AKC agility, I will focus this blog towards that organization.  However, there are multiple organizations (i.e. USDAA, UKI, NADAC, ASCA, CPE) whose jump height requirements vary from AKC’s.

In AKC agility, the jump heights are 4”, 8”, 12”, 16”, 20”, and 24”, in divisions known as Regular or Preferred (more explanation of the difference between the two divisions can be found at akc.org/pdfs/rulebooks/REAGIL.pdf).  The main jump heights that Beagles compete in are the 8”, 12” and, occasionally, the 16” class.  It has been my observation that most people who run a Beagle in agility would prefer it to have to jump 12” in the Regular division.  In order for a Beagle to jump in the 12” class in the Regular division, the height of the dog at the withers cannot exceed 14”.  Every so often, you will see a person with a Beagle that runs in the 8” Regular classes.  These Beagles must measure 11” and under at the withers.  While there certainly are Beagles out there that measure that small, this is not a common occurrence in the agility ring.  For the Beagles that measure over 14” at the withers, they are required to compete in the 16” class Regular classes.

As my Beagles start to grow and mature, the 14” height starts to become very important to me, especially if the Beagle looks like it is going to be a bigger boned, heavier bodied dog.  And by heavier bodied, I mean how muscular the dog’s body type is. If a dog’s height is right on the line between jump heights at 14”, I believe it is much easier on the dog’s body (in terms of wear and tear and potential injuries over the span of a dog’s career) to jump 12” and not have to jump 16”. There have been, and are, plenty of Beagles that jump 16” with no problem.  Most of these Beagles, however, are closer to that 15” measurement (or over) that separate the two Beagle varieties.  If a Beagle is close to (or over) 15” at the withers, then I would not be concerned about jumping that dog in the 16” height class.  It is the Beagle that ends up measuring just a hair over 14” that I am concerned about.

I will use my own dog, Roubaix, as an example of why I look at the 14” measurement so closely.  Roubaix measures 13.75” at the withers, and has been that measurement since he was 10 months old.  Roubaix is a bigger boned, heavier bodied dog.  He carries a lot of muscle when he is in peak performance condition.  On the conformation scale, Roubaix is considered a small 15”, but because he is so muscular and bigger boned, he presents much larger than his 13.75”.  Breed people are shocked at how small he really is once they see him in person.  On the opposite side of that coin, Roubaix also weighs in at about 27 lbs., which is HEAVY for a competitive agility dog that jumps 12”.  To put his size in perspective, most of the dogs that Roubaix competes against in the agility ring at 12” are Shelties, Miniature Poodles, and Miniature Schnauzers, just to name a few.  While those dogs are usually fairly close to his same height, those same dogs generally weigh about HALF of what Roubaix does.  When my fellow competitors learn how much he weighs, they are shocked at how heavy he is, because of how fast he is when he runs the courses.

Today’s agility courses can be very technical in their design, often requiring the dog to jump and turn very tightly, slowing down and then accelerating out of turns to get to the next obstacle.  This is very stressful on a dog’s body from a purely physical standpoint.  I believe a dog that measures 14” will always have an easier time maneuvering obstacles that are lower than it’s shoulder as opposed to higher (a 2” lower jump at 12”, rather than a 2” higher jump at 16”).  Roubaix is a very powerful dog, but because of his body type, he really has to adjust his body to jump and turn on course efficiently without sacrificing his speed.  He covers a huge amount of ground flat out running in a straight line, but he really has to adjust when it comes to jumping and turning his body very tightly. It is in that adjustment that the lighter boned and weighted dogs have an advantage over my Beagles, IMO.  I always compare running Roubaix against some of the smaller, lighter breeds to driving a big truck vs. a smaller sports car.  Sure the truck is going to get where it’s going, but that truck just can’t turn and accelerate like a Ferrari can!

Now imagine Roubaix having to add in another layer of stress on his body and speed by putting the jumps up 4 more inches.  Sure he can do it, but at the cost of speed and efficiency during competitions in the short run, and the overall wear and tear on his body in the long run.  It is for these reasons that I personally would prefer my Beagles to stay under 14” for the agility ring.  And if they are going to go over 14”, then I hope for a measurement closer to that 15” cut off that Carrie spoke of.

Again, all of these opinions are just that…my opinions based on my personal observations and experiences in 10 years of training my Beagles for agility.  I always have the end game for my dogs at the front of my thinking if I am going to compete them in the agility ring.  My agility dogs have careers spanning upwards of 8-10 years, if I am lucky.  And the less stresses I can put on their bodies over the course of those 8-10 years, the less chance there is of injuries, etc., which is always a good thing! 

See Roubaix in action on YouTube: https://youtu.be/01VslhHzRPM


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