Tweaking the Rules for Mute Agility

We have a game in the Book of Agility Games that we call “Mute Agility” (most likely the invention of Stuart Mah). The basic flaw in the documentation of the game was to establish that there is “no standard course time” … and, failing to establish a qualifying criteria.

If you look at the game objectively, it us a simple Time, Plus Faults game. But we can’t sort out the bodies at the scorekeeping table without qualifying criteria; and certainly that calls for a Qualifying Course Time (QCT).

Another basic tweak to the rules of Mute Agility is to establish as a standard that the handler is allowed a verbal cue for release from the Start Line as it is a good practice for the handler/dog trainer to release the dog from a stay for a verbal cue and not for a physical twitch. With this in mind, the table is not an obstacle recommended for the Mute Agility course

Consequently I’ve amended the text in the book as follows:

Mute Agility

As a training exercise or for a real competition, Mute Agility is a wonderful test of the dog and handler relationship and often a lot of fun for spectators. This game is frequently used to show the importance of body position and body movement and how much this influences the dog’s performance of the course. This game is sometimes called Silent Snake. Mute Agility is most likely the invention of Stuart Mah.


Mute Agility can be run on any standard agility course. The dog must perform each obstacle on the course in the sequence designated by the judge.

Unlike on a standard agility course, however, the handler must run the entire course silently. No verbal cues are allowed; that means no verbal commands, no clapping, no stomping the ground, no whistling, and so on. Body language must speak for itself.

A Qualifying Course Time shall be established by the judge based on the rates of travel used in the Standard classes respective to level and jump height.


Scoring is on a Time, Plus Faults basis.

The system used for judging faults should be consistent with the game that is being played.

Mute Agility adds a fault restriction for speaking. Usually, the judge will assess the handler 5 faults for each word spoken on course. The verbal cue for releasing a dog from the start line is typically exempted from any penalty  in this game as it is a good practice for a handler/dog trainer to release from the start line with verbal rather than physical cues.

Course Design

The design of the course should include appropriate challenges for the level of competition. The Mute Agility course should strike a balance between nice flow and basic technical challenges like changes of side, crossing patterns, and changes of direction. The following course is based loosely on a Mute Agility course designed by TDAA judge Sheryl Lynch.


  • Silent Snake variation – In this variation of the game, created by Sue Tovino and Betty McArthur, the course consists of a constant change of sides or snaking motion. 15 faults are assessed the first time a handler breaks the silence. The second occurrence results in elimination.
  • Single command – In a variation of this game the handler can give one command, which must be declared to the judge before the dog’s run. Thus, for example, a handler may choose tunnel or weave. Ideally, a handler should choose the command that is most necessary to control the dog. A come command might be a good choice.
  • Mute agility games – Almost any agility game can be played in the Mute Agility format. However, this format might not lend itself too well to games like Gamblers, which often rely on the handler’s voice commands to achieve the joker.
  • Monetary penalty – This variation of the game is a good club fundraiser. The handler is penalized $1–$5 for speaking (or whispering!).


To qualify the team must score equal to or less than the established course time.

Premium Blurb

Mute Agility is the game of agility with a silent handler; though usually judges will allow a verbal release from the start line. Mute Agility is typically played using a standard course, but really could be played with any agility game.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.


4 Responses to “Tweaking the Rules for Mute Agility”

  1. beth murray Says:

    How bout mute agility combined with your hands in your back pocket?

  2. Kim Says:

    Mute agility happens all the time with those that run a deaf dog…if they can do it successfully, so can we 🙂

  3. Erica Says:

    May I propose a tweak to your tweak and substitute “audible” for “verbal” cues? That is more in keeping with the no stomping, whistling or clapping rules.

  4. Courtney Keys Says:

    Lots of people around here won’t play this game as they think it’s unfair to their dogs and freaks them out. Sissies. When I judged it, I thought the dogs ran so much better in this game. 🙂

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