More fun than a double pepperoni pizza with extra cheese

Agility came into Italy over the French border in October 1988 when some obedience trainers from some dog training schools in Turin saw agility for the first time in France. Soon this new sport became a fast growing alternative discipline with recognition by the Italian Kennel Club (ENCI.)  Nicky Rowley reports.

Things really started moving when three clubs in Turin received an official set of jumps from the Royal Canin. Later that year, in October, Peter Lewis was invited over, again to the Turin School GARU.

Various other top International instructors were invited to Italy to give training sessions. Italy now has well over 2000 participants representing a vast number of different breeds, but this was not achieved without problems.

In December 1989, Italy was represented at the European Agility Masters in Paris. Competitors returned home with a lot more experience and knowledge, having watched carefully countries with a vaster and longer experience. Agility in Italy received official recognition by ENCI (the Italian Kennel Club) in 1990. This meant that it was possible to start the first official competitions. From that moment, agility has grown to the size it is now with approximately 2,000 participants covering Northern Italy down to Bari in the South.

Enya North/South divide
Although Agility has grown by leaps and bounds in such a short time, most of the schools have developed in Northern Italy and Rome. There are a few in Central Italy and only three in the whole of Southern Italy, two of which have opened in the last two years. Until recently anyone in Southern Italy wishing to learn and participate in this sport had to go to Rome, Rome being the nearest centre.

Apart from the strategic problem of a vast concentration of schools in Northern Italy petering out to only three in the whole of Southern Italy, Italian Agility handlers must also face the geographical problem that Italy is very long and narrow. This means that those who live in the Southern half of Italy must travel great distances to go to any show, incur overnight stays etc. whereas the people in Northern Italy are able to go to a show practically every weekend with very little travelling included into the bargain. Unfortunately, owing to the lack of schools and, therefore, the number of participants, there were very few shows held in Central and Southern Italy. Happily, this is changing as the number of clubs is on the increase and many are holding shows on their own grounds.

Another problem which has slowed development is the lack of official sponsors such as Pedigree Pal and Royal Canin. Pedigree Pal is now the only one and sponsors two or three shows a year.

EnyaPopular breeds
 Despite all these problems agility has grown fast in popularity over the last three years and with it the number of Border Collies. When I first started three years ago there were only 33 Border Collies on the ENCI register. Now there are over 300 - all extremely fast and well trained. This has led to a decrease in other breeds seen at competitions to such a point that in the "A" and "A3" classes approximately 70% of the dogs competing are Border Collies and 15% other fast breeds like the Belgian Tervueren, Malinois, Doberman etc.

In the mini classes there is as yet no so called 'popular' breed and many breeds such as the Dachshund, English Bull Dog and Cocker Spaniel to various Terriers such as the Yorkshire Terrier, Welsh Terrier, Parson Jack Russell and Staffordshire Bull Terrier can be seen competing and winning.

To try and compensate for this phenomenon, various schools have introduced Trophies. GARU have their Masters based on a system of points accumulated at Regional and National levels during the competition year, and Biancospino have devised a system where points are accumulated over the year only at National competitions held throughout Italy and associated with this trophy. The particular attraction of this trophy is that it is divided into Junior and Senior dogs (junior and senior referring to dog experience and not the age of handler or dog), by breeds so that every breed represented in Italian agility is competing against its own breed both in Senior and Junior classes. There is also for a trophy for the school that accumulates the most points.

In August 1999 an agility handlers' association was formed to give all Italian agility members a voice to try to resolve the various undefined or unfair regulations and to resolve situations that inevitably occur in a young and fast growing sport.

Rhea All our official shows are run under FCI rules with all judges recognised by ENCI. The events are electronically timed by national official timekeepers, and all running orders and placings are done on a computer operated by an experienced and qualified person. We have no queuing to go into the ring because there is an announcer to call out the number, name of handler, dog and school of the next contestant to run. They then call the next two or three dogs forward so that they move up to the entrance, ready to go in when their turn is called.

The whole world teases the Italians about their ability to organise (or lack of it), but I have absolutely no complaint about the organisation of their agility competitions. The judges are competent. Everything runs like clockwork. They use modern methods including electronic timing and computerised running orders. Speakers call the running order. The various types of flooring from carpeting to rubber that are used for the vast majority of indoor competitions are excellent due to heavy investment. I am very impressed. Well done Italy, keep up the good work!

About the author...
Nicky Rowley
came out to Naples, Italy in 1986 when her father was serving in the Royal Navy and was stationed at the NATO base. She was born and brought up with dogs and started off in obedience, but in Italy her passion for horses and show jumping took over other competitive interests.

In 1996 her husband Bruno gave her Enya, a Border Collie, for her birthday. She had desperately wanted one for many years. The agility bug took over as Bruno drove them more than 200km each weekend to train and many thousands of kilometers to compete. So, she bought another Border Collie, Rhea, for her husband to work and run.

The school where they went to train closed down so Nicky and Bruno rented their own field and bought some jumps to train on. Soon many friends came and wanted to start agility and a thriving school was born. Nicky left her full time office job this year so that she could dedicate more time to the school.

Nicola Rowley and Bruno Coluccio can be contacted at Agility Club Campania, 1 Traversa Cuma 223, 80070 Baia, Napoli. Tel: 0339-1364162, Tel/Fax: 081-8549123, web site:


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