Dogs are amazing companions, and over the years we’ve developed all sorts of ways to highlight their qualities and characteristics and then compete against other dog/owner duos to find out who’s the best.
No matter what your dog is good at, there’s probably a sport or program that he would love. If your pup enjoys water and fetching, there’s dock diving. If they love chasing, there’s lure coursing. If they’re super chill and love people, therapy work might be a good fit.
But one of the most fun sports for any breed is agility. There’s a little bit of everything: jumping, climbing, running through tunnels, balancing — all built on fundamental athletic skills that are healthy for dogs to develop.
While the competition is about speed and accuracy, any dog can enjoy agility, even the older and less-agile ones (the obstacles are just adjusted to put less stress on the dog). Mastiffs and French bulldogs can even give it a go, and it’s a wonderful bonding opportunity for handler and dog.
There are people who regard agility as more than a hobby, and there are some dogs who are so driven and high-energy that they need a sport like agility to keep their heads clear. It’s great for breeds like border collies who need mental and physical outlets, and border collies have certainly maintained some top positions in the sport.
Even the best-trained dogs don’t always cooperate, though. Perhaps you have a pup who’s similar: If they don’t want to do something, they’re not going to do it. On the whole, though, dogs enjoy the sport.
In agility, dogs compete against other dogs in their height category to keep things fair. The Westminster Kennel Club recognizes five categories: 8-inch, 12-inch, 16-inch, 20-inch and 24-inch.
In the smallest category is the Papillon, which is a small dog that has a surprising about of pep. In the 2019 Westminster Masters Agility competition, Papillons placed first and second in the 8-inch category.
But the first-place dog, “Gabby,” was a spitfire, and completed the course nearly four seconds faster than the second-place dog. At this level of competition, dogs have to be incredibly in-tune with their owners, and their owners have to memorize the course and the direction from which each obstacle needs to be approached.
While agility dogs are well-versed in how to maneuver each obstacle and have practiced over and over, when they compete they have to overcome the distractions of a new place and pay close attention to their handler to know where to go.
If a handler messes up or gives a confusing signal, a dog might misinterpret it and go to the wrong obstacle or in the wrong direction, which can end in deducted points or disqualification.
Andrea Samuels is Gabby’s handler, and from the start, you know these two are going to be something special. Despite the pup’s short legs, she is lightning fast, and the crowd goes wild as she zips over, around and through obstacles.
Despite going wide around some obstacles, Gabby’s speed put her at the top of her game, and she finished the course in 39.31 seconds. While she won her class, she ultimately lost the Championship to a border collie who completed it in 32.
A matter of seconds makes all the difference, but Gabby had a flawless run and it’s clear that she loves the sport.
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