The timed events begin at 9 a.m. each day and should end at about 3 p.m., depending on how many dogs are entered, said veteran handler Diane Allen.
The North America Dog Agility Council sponsors the competitions, which are open to spectators free of charge.
Allen, who lives in Moab, will be entering her border collie Bracken. She said any breed of dog that is at least 18 months old may be entered, but the herding dogs tend to be easiest to train.
“They’re athletic, they run the hills and round up livestock,” she said. “It’s deep in that breed’s brain. Anybody who can teach a husky to do agility has my admiration.”
Although a dog’s running speed is important, Allen said the handler must uphold his or her part of the process by communicating quickly what is wanted next.
“It’s definitely a team sport,” she said.
The sport can help a dog’s self-esteem, Allen added.
“A lot of dogs start out shy or a bit aggressive,” she said. “It can build confidence in them. They get rewarded because they are having fun.”
The length of the course a dog runs can vary between 12 and 20 jumps, depending on whether the animal is a novice or experienced agility contestant. Most runs last between 30 and 50 seconds, Allen said.
She said owners can teach novice dogs to do the jumps in a fairly short amount of time. However, honing a dog’s agility skills to cut seconds off of each run takes time.
“You can teach them to jump and do the obstacles, but as in any sport there are the fine details,” Allen said.
She called the slalom course one of the most popular events with spectators, saying, “Everybody loves to watch the dogs in the weave poles.”
Another event requires dogs to run through a long tunnel. “It’s total insanity,” Allen said with a laugh.
She said children who attend the agility contests must be accompanied by an adult, and cautioned that anyone wanting to pet a dog should ask the owner first. Spectators should leave their own pets at home, Allen said.