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AKC Agility Invitational: What Is It & How To Compete

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog at an agility competition

AKC Agility Invitational: What Is It & How To Compete

Bringing together a vast assortment of dog breeds large and small, the AKC Agility Invitational is the perfect event to close out the year and celebrate the accomplishments of all our canine companions. The AKC Agility Invitational is a two-day affair in December following the AKC Junior Agility Championship, making for a long weekend of fun and friendly competition among dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Are you wondering how you and your four-legged friend can be part of this unique annual event? We’ll explain what it is and how to compete so you can plan your path to the podium at the next AKC Agility Invitational.

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How Does It Work?

The AKC Agility Invitational is an invite-only event in Orlando, FL that occurs annually in December. Invitees include the top five dogs in each breed based on points earned during the qualification period. The period runs from July of the prior year to June. The event welcomes pets from 200+ AKC-recognized breeds and All-American Dogs, the AKC’s term for mixed breeds.

The AKC Agility Invitational awards dogs in five jump height divisions — 8”, 12”, 16”, 20”, and 24”. There are five rounds over the two days, including the following classes:

  • Standard: Course featuring jumps, weaves, pause tables, and contact obstacles (A-frame, dog walk, seesaw)
  • Jumpers with Weaves: Does not include pause tables or contact obstacles
  • Hybrid: Standard course without the dog walk

The final round brings together the top dogs at each height division. Finalists receive ribbons, with the top finishers in each category taking home trophies and cash prizes.

All competition occurs at the Master level with 18–20 obstacles on the course. The rules, however, are more lenient than in typical Master-level competitions.

While Master levels usually allow zero faults to qualify, the AKC Agility Invitational allows various course faults like refusals, wrong courses, and missed contacts for 5-point deductions and course time overages, with three points deducted for each second over the course time. Dogs don’t usually get disqualified from too many faults, but they can get a zero score for not completing obstacles.

a lakeland terrier at an agility competition
Image Credit: Zelenskaya, Shutterstock

Who Earns Invitations to the AKC Agility Invitational?

The top five dogs from each breed earn the most points during the qualification period. Dogs accumulate points through double qualifications, where they qualify in Master Standard and Master Jumpers and Weaves at the same event, and by earning MACH points. MACH points come from every second under the Standard Course Time that a dog runs a Master level course.

Since agility as a sport attracts certain breeds more than others, the qualifying points and eligible dogs for each breed can vary considerably. Rare breeds and those that don’t typically compete in agility only need a few points to be eligible. Meanwhile, popular and athletic agility breeds often need a few thousand points for consideration.

Not all breeds will have five individual dogs that qualify. Some can come from Regular competition, and others from the Preferred class. The Preferred class has lower performance standards, like lower jump heights and more course time, to accommodate older or less mobile dogs that still like to compete. If a breed’s top five eligible dogs are from the Regular class, a sixth invitation goes out to the top Preferred dog. You’ll commonly see this among popular agility breeds like Border Collies, Shelties, and Papillons.

Basic Eligibility Requirements

Although the AKC Agility Invitational only invites the cream of the crop from each breed, every dog has to start somewhere. Before you can even begin competing on your way to the invitational, your dog must meet basic eligibility requirements, including:

  • Must be 15 months or older
  • Must be registered with the AKC or listed in the AKC Indefinite Listing Privilege (ILP)
  • Mixes can be registered through the Canine Partners program
  • Dogs can be desexed or intact, but females cannot be in season
Border collie dog doing agility training in the backyard
Image Credit: Kamil Macniak, Shutterstock

How Do You Qualify for the AKC Agility Invitational?

If your dog meets the basic requirements, you can begin your journey to the AKC Agility Invitational. Take an agility class at a local AKC club. Here, you’ll learn the obstacles, the fundamentals of agility training, how to walk the course, and tips for success. The AKC provides an agility club directory to search by state for agility clubs you can contact to get started.

Beyond the class, you should practice agility with at-home equipment while continuing obedience training and socialization. If your dog is ready after several classes and ample training, you can sign up for an Agility Course Test (ACT). The ACT lets you trial your dog before entering competition to test their aptitude. With the ACT Virtual Program, participants can work through the testing at home.

Newbies aren’t likely to earn eligibility for the AKC Agility Invitational, as it requires Master Agility Champion status. To get this, you must progress through the Novice, Open, and Excellent levels, gaining qualifications at each stage before moving to the next. MACH points needed to attend the invitational are only available at the Excellent level. It will take several events and a few years of competition for most dogs to become eligible for the AKC Agility Invitational.

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Agility may seem reserved for the select athletic few, but the AKC Agility Invitational welcomes all breeds with equal appreciation and fanfare. For owners, this annual event is a rare chance to meet hundreds of dogs representing over 150 breeds, providing a breathtaking look into the many magical sides of canine culture. Though it takes work, time, and dedication to get there, the AKC Agility Invitational can make championship dreams a reality for dogs from any walk of life.


Featured Image Credit: Vincent_Nguyen, Shutterstock

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