Eligibility 

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A lot of people find the Kennel Club rules on eligibility for classes in the lower grades confusing and they are often unsure which classes they can run their dogs in.  Here are the rules for grades 1 and 2 and some examples that may be helpful.  The rules are taken from the "H" regulations which are general regulations for agility competitions.

Grade 1 (Elementary)

For owners, handlers or dogs which have not gained a first place in an

Agility Class or three first places in Jumping Classes at Kennel Club

licensed Agility Shows. N.B. Owners, handlers or dogs previously qualified

out of Grade 1, (Elementary) are not eligible for this class.

Grade 2 (Starters)

Open to dogs which are not eligible for Grades 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and have

not gained a first place in an Agility Class or three first places in

Jumping Classes at Grade 2 at Kennel Club licensed Agility Shows, or

elected to progress on points from Grade 1. N.B. Owners, handlers or dogs

previously qualified out of Grade 2 (Starters) are not eligible for this class.

Grade 3 (Graduate)

Open to dogs which are not eligible for Grade 1 or 2 or have elected to

progress on points from Grade 2 at Kennel Club licensed Agility Shows

and dogs which are not eligible for Grade 4, 5, 6 or 7.

Class Structure

A Class can either be held as a Graded Class or a Combined Class. 

A Graded Class can be scheduled for one or more consecutive Grades with separate results and awards issued for each grade. 
For example you might see a class on a schedule that reads

Class 15 Large Jumping grades 1 - 7 Graded

This means that the course is the same for all large grades and everyone walks the course together, however, when the results come in they are split into the different grades so that if you're in grade 1 you will only be judged against the other dogs in grade 1.

A Combined Class may be scheduled for more than one consecutive with one overall set of results. 

A Combined Class is open to any Combination of dog and handler that qualifies for any of the Grades in that class.

For example you might see a class on a schedule that reads

Class 14 Large Agility grades 1 - 3 combined

This means that the course is the same for all large grades 1 to 3.  When the results come in you will be judged against all the other handlers and dogs in that class regardless of grade.

Asking someone to run your dog for you in a graded class

Betty wants to run her new dog in a jumping class that appears on the schedule as graded 1, 2 and 3.  Betty and her dog have never won anything before and therefore she must compete at grade 1.  If all is well Betty competes at the show in this grade. However, things can go wrong.

If Betty can't run her dog for some reason she might want to ask another handler to run her dog for her.  Let's say she asks Laura who is a grade 3.  Laura has to refuse. She cannot run Betty's dog as a grade 1 as she has previously qualified out of grade 1. 
She cannot run the dog as a grade 3 as this class is graded.  Betty's dog must run against grade 1 dogs and would not be allowed to compete with the grade 3's.

Laura can run Betty's dog in a combined jumping class that includes grade 3.  See example 2 below.

Asking someone to run your dog for you in combined classes

Betty wants her dog to run in a jumping class that appears on the schedule as combined 1, 2 and 3.  Betty and her dog have never won anything before and therefore she is grade 1.  If she wins the combined class it will count towards her winning out of grade 1.  Betty knows she won't be able to run her dog herself and so she asks Laura, a grade 3 handler, to run the dog for her.

The Kennel Club class Structure rules say, 'A Combined Class is open to any Combination of dog and handler that qualifies for any of the Grades in that class.'  Laura qualifies as grade 3.

If Laura wins the class with the dog then it counts towards the dog's progression from grade 1 to grade 2.  A dog can't jump a grade and progress from grade 1 to grade 3

Running a second dog when someone else has won with your first dog

Laura runs Betty's grade 1 dog in some more combined classes and the dog has two more jumping wins. Betty has recovered from her injury and now wants to enter a jumping class but she's not sure what she's eligible for.  Betty must enter the dog as grade 2.  If there is a graded class or a combined class that includes grade 2 Betty can enter this. 
 

Be very careful here.  If Betty gets a new dog that hasn't won anything or gone up on points the new dog must go into grade 2 as well even though Betty herself hasn't won anything.  This is because the rule says grade 1 is for For owners, handlers or dogs which have not gained a first place in an Agility Class or three first places in Jumping Classes at Kennel Club licensed Agility Shows. When you get to grade 2 the rule only applies to dogs.

What to do next if you win an agility class or three jumping classes
at Grade 1

Congratulations, very well done.  You are now grade 2 and you can never go back to grade 1 unless the rules change. 
For the next 25 days you can still run your dogs in grade 1 but after that you must go up to grade 2.

If you've already entered shows at Grade 1 you need to count 25 days from the day you won.  After that look at the schedule for the next show you've entered.  It should say when the entries for the show close and give a qualifying date.  If you won out before the qualifying date then you must change your entries to grade 2. 

If you entered the show via an online show processor (a site that publishes schedules and handles the entries for that show) then there should be some instructions on the website for grade changes. 

If you entered by post then you need to contact the show secretary and let them know your grade change.