By: Sharon Anderson  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

Just as the Olympics wound down in Sydney, Australia, the international dog agility championship began on the other side of the globe.

At the beginning of October, the fifth World Agility Championships started in Helsinki, Finland. Teams from the United States, South Africa, Croatia, Brazil, Japan, and Russia were among those from 28 nations that traveled to the pleasant Nordic country to compete. More than 200 dogs, their handlers and coaches, and thousands of supporters attended the event.

At the end of the competition, the American Kennel Club teams brought home a silver medal for the 16-inch team's second place finish and a fourth place finish for the 26-inch team. The 16-inch team missed the gold medal by a fraction of a second and bettered its 1999 11th place finish.

The Iams Company sponsored the AKC teams.

"The Iams Company is a proud supporter of the AKC/USA World Team," said Dale Barger, national events coordinator for Iams. "We are very pleased with the accomplishemnts of this year's teams. They are an excellent example of dogs and humans working together as partners."

Dan Dege, senior field representative for AKC, coached the US teams. Each team had four members and one alternate.

The US mini-team - the 16-inch jumpers who won the silver medal - consisted of:

  1. Barbara Lombard of Simi Valley, California, and Turbo, her Shetland Sheepdog;
  2. Barb Davis of Newman Lake, Washington, and Shimmer, her Shetland Sheepdog;
  3. Kathy Leggett of North Highlands, California, and Heather, her Shetland Sheepdog; and
  4. Diane Bauman of Sussex, New Jersey, and Torville, her American Cocker Spaniel.


The 26-inch team improved its 1999 13th place performance. Team members were:

  1. Linda Mecklenberg of Delaware, Ohio, and Awesome, her Border Collie;
  2. Linda Kipp of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Jessie, her Border Collie;
  3. Gerry Brown of Chappell Hill, Texas, and Larrie, her Border Collie; and
  4. Elicia Calhoun of North Brunswick, New Jersey, and Sunni, her Australian Shepherd.

Teams are chosen based on past performances in agility competition. In order to be eligible, dogs must have a minimum of 10 perfect course runs. Qualified dogs are observed in competition, and their speeds and qualifying averages are taken into account.

Agility growth

Agility events began in England during the late 1970s as entertainment at the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham. AKC joined the growing sport in 1994 with 23 trials held that year. In 2000, the sport has grown to 750 trials and nearly 200,000 entries. The vast number of exhibitors can be attributed to the fast-paced, upbeat attitude of dogs and handlers as they run the course.

Handlers of all ages participate in agility. Young people aged eight to 18 years of age are part of the junior handler program. AKC has established a scholarship program for junior handlers who are high school students. Senior citizens also participate in the sport with renewed energy generated by the need to keep up with fast-moving dogs on the course. It is obvious to observers that competitors of any age develop a bond and mutual concentration with their dogs as they maneuver over, around, and through the course obstacles.

Agility has become one of the most filmed dog events in the country. It is not unusual to see the feature stories on major networks include dogs and handlers running the course and shouting for joy at the end of a successful run. The AKC agility nationals held at the beginning of November have been televised for the past three years, providing a full hour of enjoyment for dog owners and perhaps an incentive to take up the sport with their pets.

The AKC agility program includes courses and classes at all levels from novice for beginners to the difficult-to-achieve Master Agility Championship title. In two years, more than 100 dogs have earned the MACH, a title bestowed on dogs with 20 perfect rounds and 750 championship points on excellent level courses. Twenty dogs have achieved MACH 2 with 40 perfect rounds and 1500 championship points, and two dogs have achieved MACH 3, an accomplishment that the agility department thought would take years to reach.

This high level of competition is a direct result of AKC participation in the world championships. The 1996, our first, was a learning year for AKC. The 1997 team proved competitive in Denmark, and the 1998 team earned the gold medal in the 16-inch division in Slovenia. The 1999 team fell in the standings in Germany but recovered with a silver medal and a fourth place this year.

If you have a dog that can run and jump, join the many happy dog owners in agility. Check the AKC website for an agility trial in your area of the country or call AKC's North Carolina office at (919) 233-9767 for information.

About The Author

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Sharon Anderson -

Member/Volunteer/Partner/Article Writer of the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Sharon Anderson |
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