Westminster Hosts First Agility Competition in NYC

Mixed and purebred pups run together in the Master Agility Championship
By JoAnna Lou, February 2014

As judging gets underway this morning for the storied Westminster Kennel Club dog show, the more athletic pups already had their night to shine this past weekend. On Saturday, Westminster hosted their first annual Masters Agility Championship. It also marked the first time mixed breeds could participate in a Westminster event since 1884 (apparently non-purebreds were included in the early days). The American Kennel Club has only allowed mixed breed dogs to participate in their companion sports events (agility, rally obedience, etc.) since 2010.

To show their dedication to all dogs, regardless of bloodline, Westminster designated spots in the in the final Championship round to the highest scoring All American (mixed breed) in each height group (calculated by their performance in two qualifying rounds). A special award was also given to the top All American across height groups in the finals.

While the top three dogs in each height group automatically advanced to the finals, the remaining spots were given to the highest scoring breeds not represented in the top three. You can imagine if they didn't have this rule in place, the 20" height group for the finals would be nearly all Border Collies.

Although I was a little disappointed that not all of the most competitive dogs were represented in the finals, it did meet the goal of bringing more awareness to this rapidly growing sport. The Masters Agility Championship had the most media attention I've ever seen for an agility competition. Breed diversity in the final round highlighted the fact that any dog can participate in this sport.

The finals showcased many amazing runs, as dogs gracefully negotiated difficult obstacle combinations at top speed, but I was most moved by watching the special bond between the handlers and their dogs, as well as the support and friendship between competitors. Also, I've never watched so many of my friends on television before and it was nerve wracking to watch them!

In the end, Kelso, a 7-year old Border Collie handled by Delaney Ratner of Cape Elizabeth, Me. won the overall Masters Agility Champion award and Roo!, a 6.5 year old Husky mix handled by Stacey Campbell of San Francisco, Calif. won the Best All-American award.

If you missed the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster, the National Geographic channel will be rebroadcasting the finals on Wednesday, February 12th at 9 p.m. ET. The results can be viewed on the Westminster Kennel Club web site.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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