Agility dogs are categorised into 7 different grades according to their successes, and those of their handler.
Grade One (Elementary)
Grade Two (Starters)
Grade Three (Graduate / Novice)
Grade Four (Novice)
Grade Five (Novice)
Grade Six (Senior)
Grade Seven (Advanced)
By winning classes, your dog can work your way up through the grades from one all the way up to seven. You can "win out" of a grade by either winning three jumping classes, or one agility class.
Once you reach Grade 6, you need to win four classes to become Grade 7. At least two of these must be agility classes.
Staffie Jake was Grade 1 until August 2009 when he won Grade 1 Agility at Pembroke
and so moved up to Grade 2. Well done Jake!!!
Once you have 'won out' you continue to run at the same grade for a further 25 days, at which time you move up into your new grade. So, even if your dog is brilliant and wins constantly (we can all dream) it can take quite some time to work your way up through the grades!!!
What grade do you start competing at?
If you and/or your dog have never won any agility classes before, you will start at Grade 1.
Does winning out affect any other dogs I compete with?
If you are Grade 1 and win up to Grade 2, then all other dogs that you compete with will move up to Grade 2. The same will happen when you win out of Grade 2 up to Grade 3.
When you are Grade 3 upwards, anytime you win out it will only be the dog that has won who will move up through the Grades. Therefore, a handler might have a Grade 4 dog, a Grade 6 dog and a Grade 7 dog.
What about new or young dogs with 'experienced' handlers?
If you as the handler have ever achieved Grade 3 (or equivalent) or above with any dog of any height (not just the one you are running now) you will always start competing with subsequent dogs you own at Grade 3. This is to attempt to make the competition fairer for Grade 1 and 2 handlers and their dogs.
Sheltie Jake will start his agility career at Grade 3 because his owner has won higher classes with other dogs.
There are many discussions about whether Grade 3 should be split into two. One part for dogs who have worked their way up to that level from Grade 1. The other part for 'experienced' handlers bringing out new / young dogs or running dogs who have simply not won out of Grade 3 where they started.
The main difficulty with implementing this lies in the vast difference in entry numbers for classes held at shows in some parts of the country, where it might not be viable to have such a split. So for the time being this remains an active discussion point only!