Agility Underground

I’ve heard several times now about the existence of an Agility Underground. This is, by my understanding, a group of people scattered around the country who train independently and have a huge desire to play agility with their dogs in the company of other people who approach our sport with a sense of fun.

So my real question is… why does such a movement need to be underground? Why should it be a guilty pleasure to approach our sport with the idea of having fun with our dogs without ambition or self promotion?

I considered posing the question on AGILEDOGS. But I resisted the impulse. I am fairly certain that I’d get a number of responses from people who dismiss the notion. It would invite a fair amount of rhetoric from people who aren’t fun to be around at all. And many of them would claim that they are having fun; so what’s the big deal?

None of this is intended to be a cranky diatribe. The agility world is what it is. And it follows and conforms to very natural pressures of economy and human nature. To protest against nature, even our own, is simple folly.

Nevertheless, I’m left wondering at the fate of the Agility Underground. What are they to do? To apply the words of an influential fellow I knew many years ago I ask… Will they paint their naked bodies blue and hide in holes in the ground? It all seems a bit extreme to me.

Is there an option? An outlet? A venue?

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at


7 Responses to “Agility Underground”

  1. Lisa Says:

    I am someone who loves to play agility but does not compete. I rent out an agility center several times a week to train my recovering reactive border collie.

    I read my Clean Run, I watch Greg Derrett’s dvds, I did Helix’s Cyberagility, gone to Power Paws camps, (audited), etc. I love to train and am fascinated with the game of agility.

    I have an incredible agility dog that I will probably never be comfortable competing at conventional agility trials with. Oh well. But he sure is a blast to train and run with!

    A friend of mine reported back from a recent Fun Match that was hosted by an instructor who was also reportedly CU savvy. She was very surprised by the number of out-of-control dogs that were barking and lunging while their owners sat by deep in oblivion. Nor were they spoken to by the people running the match.

    I won’t take my dog into an environment that is filled with over-threshold dogs. That would stress my boy and cause him to regress. No way!

    What do I want?

    I want to be able to play with and compete with my dog in a safe forum. I enjoy competing as it helps me hone my skills and it is fun to show off a bit as well!

    I’m not looking for ribbons or titles. Just a fun time playing with my dog with other dog-savvy people and their dogs in a safe, controlled environment.

    What happened to the JFF leagues you began? I only read about this, but it sounded like an ideal way to play agility!

  2. Debbie Says:

    Wow, I didn’t realize I was part of an underground. How romantic!

    I train at a club that is all about AKC. But I have been turn-off by the competitive nature of many (not all, but many) of the people playing the AKC game. So, while my poor dog was teaching me agility (while learning the game herself!) I took some time to look into other agility venues.

    And being the methodical type, I put together a spreadsheet so I could easily compare the characteristics of the different venues offered in our area. Jump height, cost per run, standard course time, and several other parameters. I determined that TDAA was the best fit for our team.

    Actually, I was thinking of just training, and never trialing, but when I visited a TDAA trial, I found the games offered that day to be pretty intriguing. (I wanted to play those games too!) So, TDAA is where we decided to compete.

    I’m not so sure about that “naked body” stuff, as I live in Wisconsin, and it’s way to cold for anything but long underwear right now. But if there is any secret passwords I can use. And how about a disguise? I would like something that would make me look young and beautiful….
    Debbie in Wisconsin

  3. budhouston Says:


    I pretty much have decided not take my Hazard girl (8 lb Sheltie) out to the big dog venues much anymore. The unchecked aggression of a significant number of dogs. I understand your plight.

    JFF leagues still exist in the world. I guess the real question is how they might ever have wider acceptance in the world. The real problem is that JFF has little ambition and not a lot of profit in a world in which ambition and profit are primary motives.

    I’d love to see your dog run sometime.

    Bud Houston

  4. budhouston Says:

    Hi Debbie,

    I agree that TDAA is a kick in the pants. I too adore the games.

    You know I’m heading to Wisconsin soon? Make sure to say hi to me if you wind up at the trial at Wayne’s place.

    Bud Houston

  5. Judy Casserberg Says:

    I used to belong to underground groups but since the 60s it didn’t seem like a need so it is with interest to find that I belong to an underground group again. Like both Lisa and Debbie, I love agility and so do my Yorkie girls and we avoid any trials other than our breed AKC show once a year and TDAA when ever I can manage to get to a trial. We even formed a TDAA club to get it near us. I love to train and my girls don’t really know if we are training or trialing except some times there are more people there.

    I have been waiting for you to come out with your new program, Bud. We need ways to play closer to home and without the need to travel so much. There are a bunch of new people in our area that want to do play agility with their dogs but because of their choice of dogs or just their choice, they aren’t all that interested in the major venues or aren’t title hunters.

    Having some sort of title as a measure of our success is nice but they get to be more of a human brag point than a team skill measurement. Anyway it is nice to hear that we aren’t alone. And I really am not longer in any condition to run around naked even covered in blue paint.

  6. Claire Says:

    I just ran across this blog and don’t know if anyone will respond – but what the hey.

    I just started agility training with my yellow lab. I was thinking just the other day where this would eventually take us. I like doing agility with her and she seems to enjoy it. I don’t have any interest in competing, but would like to be able to still do the course every now and then. Are there other outlets and how do I find them?

    I have found some courses that rent out their courses, but it would be fun to be with others that just wanted to do for fun and not compete….

    • budhouston Says:

      Well Claire, I do believe that there’s like minded people all over… who want to play agility just for fun. I assume you are training with a group right now? You should ask your instructors.

      If you’re training alone… consider going to I believe they maintain a database of agility clubs around the country.

      Good luck!

      Bud Houston

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