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Westminster Kennel Club Welcomes Mutts

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Yours truly in front of the Pier.

For the first time in its history, the Westminster Kennel Club allowed mutts into onto their trademark green indoor turf. Indeed, the mutts took center stage along with their purebred buddies this past Saturday, February 8th, as the Mixed Breed category is especially significant, bringing non-purebred dogs to a Westminster event for the first time since the very earliest days of its show.

Mutts unite: Every dog has his or her day and yours has arrived. Fidose of Reality was there with a front-row, ringside view of this first-of-its-kind spectacle gone to the dogs.

“We are so excited to welcome these dogs for the first time ever to Westminster Kennel Club,” Director of Communications and “Voice of Westminster,” David Frei told us during a backstage interview.

David Frei

The show was televised live on Fox Sports 1 on Saturday evening, and behind the scenes we found out just what it is about agility that makes its handlers thrive on the sport.

Golden Mom

Debbie Johnson has been competing with her dogs for about six years, and she sat in joyful glee as the contestants took to the agility course for the “finals.”

“Handling skills can make or break you,” Johnson reported. “This is a lifestyle I love; it is my passion and I just got hooked.”

Johnson explained the ins and outs, the weaving and bobbing, and just what it takes to be an agility champion as we sat shoulder to shoulder for much of the agility finals at Pier 94 in New York City.

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Golden Retriever waits his turn to run.

There are seven classes: 4 inch, 8 inch, 12 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch, 24 inch, and 26 inch. The 20 inch is the biggest class. Apparently even the fastest dog isn’t necessarily the one who will win. One wrong slip of the hand, one wrong movement of the shoulder, or one misread cue and it’s done. All that hard work and training and poof: It could be over in a second. As I sat idly but not so quietly in the bleachers, one dog after another was issued a “NQ,” indicating he was out and did not qualify.

Success in agility does require training, but it also requires patience, control, and most importantly a spot-on sense of teamwork between owner and dog. Some of the dogs appeared unified as one with their handler, and those were the ones who stole our hearts.

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On the Pause table

Obstacles to Overcome

Obstacles on the course are varied and designed to test a dog’s complete overall training in agility skill set. I learned about a back end jump, which we will profile more and in detail on the Pet360 blog this week, so stay tuned.

Dogs must overcome the following obstacles to complete the course:

Open Tunnel: Considered one of the easiest obstacles, this is a good place for beginners to train.

Closed Tunnel: unlike the open tunnel, which as indicated, is open on both ends, the closed tunnel means the dog must push through the chute, not veer off, and exit straight ahead.

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The closed tunnel

Pause Table: Dogs must leap onto the table, stay for five seconds and await for the owner to give the okay command to proceed along the course.

Weave Poles: Entering to the right of the first pole, dogs focus straight ahead and meander in and out of each pole while hugging the ‘center line’ as close as possible.

Dog Walk: Run up a plank, cross the dog walk, and immediately touch down off the bottom.

Seesaw: Up and down the seesaw we go.

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Weaving, weaving

Tire Jump: The dog must jump through the tire and not over it, and we’ll discuss more about agility safety on the Pet360 blog on Wednesday, so stay tuned.

A-Frame: Up the frame and down she goes, while ensuring the contact zones are touched. These zones are clearly delineated with a different color.

Jumps: With regards to the jumps, perhaps one of the most fun and fan engaging parts of agility, the dog must leap over the bar(s) without displacing the hurdle.

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Olympic Moment

The event was broadcast live on Fox Sports 1. It was co-announced by Greg Louganis (the Olympic diver and dog lover), and this writer went all fan girlie and showed her pride in meeting this American icon.

 

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Me and legend, Greg Louganis

Side Note

A Flyball intermission was held at the Pier, which was an enjoyable way to entertain the packed house between qualifications and finals.

The End Results

In the end, two dogs were awarded: A Border Collie named Kelso rocketed to a win in the Westminster Kennel Club’s new agility competition Saturday night while a Husky mix named Roo! took the title given to mixed breed dogs at the show.

As seen on http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/2014/show/agility.html
As seen on http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/2014/show/agility.html

Roo!, ironically was so high strung that she was adopted and returned to an animal shelter several times before landing with dog trainer, Stacey Campbell. The duo has been together for about seven years, and judging by the barking of Roo! on Saturday night, the two were flying high with the win.

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The winning cup

Bottom Line

A lot of rescues enter agility, according to my Debbie Johnson, and you are most likely to see a Border Collie racing to the top. Saturday night was no exception, and it is true that every dog has his day. Rejoice mutts, you’ve had yours.

 

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The first mutt ever in Westminster!

 

Did you watch the agility?

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12 Comments

  1. Congrats to the winners. I think next to watching hunt tests, agility is my next favorite. It is fast paced and fun and you have to admire the work that goes into training for it.

  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE Greg Louganis! How cool that you got to meet him. All I was able to catch were the Agility events….I watched that part because of the Shelties that were in it 🙂
    The mutts really ruled at Westminster though…big time!

    1. They called them “All American Dog” and I loved that so much, Caren. We had a fab time and thanks for the cool comments 😉

  3. We were totally watching but how exciting to be there! I thought it was a little strange when Greg Louganis said AKC has allowed mixed breeds for years and years when it has only been since 2010. Maybe he was thinking of other agility venues.

    1. Yeah that is what I think, too, Jenna. I was unable to see the televised portion, but hoping to find a replay.

  4. We missed watching it but I am sure it was exciting. I love that many of them were dogs adopted from shelters. My shelter has had a dog adopted that was such high energy the new owner didn’t know what to do until a friend introduced him to agility. The dog was tested on the friends farm and the dog would run the course over and over even though the owner wasn’t there to guide him. Long story short, he is happy to be a agility dog and has 2 walls of ribbons to prove it.
    Love the term, “all American dog”!

  5. This was the first time I had watched, and it was so much fun. Canine athletes amaze me and the smaller dogs were just too cute. I didn’t know Greg Louganis was an agility trainer until this show. Very interesting.

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