by Wendy Beard

When you say the word “Agility”, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t “Berner”, it’s Border Collie, Sheltie, or Terv [Wendy has two Belgian Sheep dogs too]  Agility with a Berner is different.  It’s a challenge.  It’s frustrating.  It’s fun like you’ve never had before. The best thing of all (though it might not seem like it at the time) is that it makes people smile. Or is that just because it’s Boris?

Boris going up and over the dog walk

To get your Berner started in agility you need lots of patience and a steady supply of cheese. Gouda works well. Berners catch on pretty quickly as to what’s required of them. Attention work is very important in agility; for all dogs, not just Berners, and a reliable recall and a solid stay is a must. Well, okay, a semi-reliable recall using a fistful of cheese as bait and a five second wait will do in a pinch… 


An agility course consists of a sequence of obstacles which must be taken in the prescribed order and in the direction indicated by the judge. The aim of the game is to take every single obstacle without fault and complete the course under the time set by the judge who designed the course. The dog must jump at a height determined by the dog’s height at the withers. All dogs over 21” must jump a height of 26” – however, in AAC (Agility Association of Canada) competition there is a “special” class which allows dogs to jump one height category lower, and also have a lower A-frame of 5’ instead of the standard 6’2”. Obstacles which may be on the course are single jump, double and spread jump, tyre, tunnel, chute (looks like a windsock lying on the ground), dogwalk, see-saw (aka teeter-totter), weave poles and A-frame. One clean round, under course time, will earn you a “Q”. Three of these will earn you a title and move you up to the next level of competition where the courses are tougher, times are shorter and there is less leeway for making mistakes. (see the website of the ADSC for a diagram of a course layout and photos of equipment.)

Darlene McCuaig-Balkwill and Sascha's Salaine, CDX "Sally" (photos by Wendy Beard)

The ultimate accolade in AAC is the ATChC. Agility Trial Champion of Canada. I believe that two Bernese Mountain Dogs have achieved this lofty status in Canada. Even if you don’t aspire to Championship level, why not give agility a try. It’s a partnership between owner and dog. Quality time spent together. The opportunity to be totally humiliated in front of friends and strangers alike. Want to know more about it? This website explains everything you ever wanted to know about agility. 

Happy Jumping!

Agility Association of Canada (AAC) Titles: 

ADC - Agility Dog of Canada 

AADC - Advanced Agility Dog of Canada 

MADC - Masters Agility Dog of Canada 

MJDC - Masters Jumpers Dog of Canada 

MSDC - Masters Snooker Dog of Canada 

MGDC - Masters Gamblers Dog of Canada 

MTRDC - Masters Team Relay Dog of Canada 

ATChC - Agility Trial Champion of Canada 

For dogs competing in the Specials and Veterans category, the titles are the same, but prepended with "S" or "V" 

Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) Titles: 

AGN - Agility Novice 

AGI - Agility Intermediate 

AGX - Agility Excellent 

AGM - Agility Master 

There are no Special or Veteran classes in CKC agility. All dogs run the same course, but the maximum jump height is 24" and the height divisions are slightly different to AAC classes.