Holster, a six-year-old Australian Sheppard, won the 3rd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Agility Championships 2016. He’s the first of his breed to win the Master’s Agility Competition, an event usually dominated by Border Collies.
Even better, I was there to see him win his first 20-inch jumping class Saturday, February 13 at WKC Agility event at Pier 94 in NYC. His final time was 35.10 seconds. (See the win on Youtube/FOX here).
When interviewed after the first win, owner and trainer Wendy Cerill of Greenwich, NY said he’s a third generation Aussie in her family. “I had his father and grandfather before him,” she said – which speaks volumes about how dedicated participants (and their dogs) are to this sport.
Guiding trainers run alongside their pets commanding them over, under and through obstacles. Dogs weave through flexible poles, climb up and down teeter-totters and leap over horse-jump like obstacles in a pattern the handler must direct frantically, controlled and focused. It’s very different from the prancing pedigrees in the afternoon rings.
Like any travelling sport, pet parents of the competitors know each other, hugging and congratulating each other, after both wins and defeats.
The rules and categories are a bit complicated, but the details aren’t necessary to be entertained. In a nutshell, dogs are divided into size classes (8, 12, 16, 20 and 24 inch) based on the height of jumps and run off leash with no food or treats for incentive through a series of obstacles focusing on accuracy and speed while handlers bark quick commands directing doggies where to jump next. Taking directions is important.
Dog loving spectators line the course-side seats, some with their pup perched on their knees. Even knowing little about the rules of the sport, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the pace and over-whelming cuteness (mixes are allowed!) especially while the toy breeds leap on little legs sending the adorability scale off the charts. Viewers ooh and awe along with the energetic and playful pets of all ages ramped up on agility adrenaline.
Want to start your own backyard agility course? Amazon sells an Agility Course in a Bag.
Or start training by reading about it: Here’s a puppy training guide from dog book specialists DogWise Publishing.