By KELSY LORIN TAYLOR
Web Editor and Feature Writer
LEAPS AND BOUNDS: Dogs of all shapes and sizes competed recently during the American Kennel Club National Agility Championships at Expo Square.
KELSY LORIN TAYLOR for GTR Newspapers
The American Kennel Club National Agility Championships was recently held at Expo Square. Some of the most talented dogs in the nation competed alongside of one another to earn the prestigious national title.
In order to compete at this level the dogs need to qualify throughout the year. “Most of the dogs are agility champions and have gathered a certain number of points to qualify in other events. Most of the dogs have been running for two to three years while some have been involved for much longer. The dogs at this level are the top in the country,” explains Director of Agility Andy Hartman.
Handlers must guide their dogs through the course in guidelines to specific patterns that are layed out by the American Kennel Club. In hopes to make it through the course in the least amount of time possible, the handler gives their dog cues that must be responded to immediately. “It is very much a timing game for the handler. If your timing is off the dog will probably go someplace that you didn’t expect them to. We have dogs out here that are running six yards per second. As a handler, when your dog is moving that fast, you don’t have room to be wrong.”
The National Agility Championships are made up of three classes. The Jumper and Weave Class features a course consisting of a variety of jumps and a set of weave polls. The weave polls are often challenging for dogs since they must quickly make their way through them without hesitation.
The Standard Class is the most popular among spectators and features a course that is made up of large obstacles such as the A frame, seesaw tunnels and rings that the dog must navigate through. “One unique obstacle is the shoot which is a tunnel made up of draping fabric that the dog must go through. They go into it blind and it takes a lot of trust and training for them to become used to the obstacle.”
Most dogs learn how to navigate through the obstacles in six months. The American Kennel Club recommends that dogs be trained in obedience prior to learning agility. This way, the dogs are more responsive to commands during training.
Considering every shape, size and personality, it is a surprising fact to learn that most of the dogs at the championships were rescued. “They typically have a lot of energy and the owner doesn’t know what to do with them. These individuals often turn to training and agility for the dog. It gives the dog the opportunity to do something great with that energy.”
There are an endless variety of breeds that compete in agility. By far, the most popular breeds are border collies and shelties. Next year, mixed breed dogs will be accepted into the National Agility Championships.
Border collies are one of the most popular breeds to compete in agility. Shelties and poodles are also very good breeds for the event. They are all smart breeds and are physically built well for this type of athletic event.
Each year, the championships are held in a different location throughout the country. “This gives everyone the opportunity to at some point, participate in or attend the event while remaining close to home. Expo Square is certainly a venue that we will consider again. It is a wonderful facility in a centralized location.” For more information about the American Kennel Club and the National Agility Championships, visit www.akc.org.