The best of the best agility dogs showed what it takes to be the top dog in a highly competitive challenge.
Featured at the Calnash Ag Event Centre from Thursday, Aug. 25 to 28, some fast moving canines competed in the UK Agility International (UKI) Canadian Open. With three courses right inside the ag event centre, the building was busy. Somewhat ironically, this is the only event where dogs, who are the main attraction, are allowed in the arena.
Each course had jumps, tunnels, ramps and poles to navigate with handlers guiding their dogs through the specified layout. The dogs seemed to be having the time of their lives. However, the competition is serious business; a specialist was on hand to ensure canine muscles did not become too tight or injured between courses.
“They tend to compete better over the weekend,” explained Rebecca McKay, trial co-ordinator of the open.
There were competitors from all around Canada (153 dogs) including Vancouver Island, Ontario and the United States. Besides the potential of bragging rights and a national win, there are eight spots for dogs to be picked for the world agility open. “They go and represent Canada in the Netherlands in May (2017),” said McKay.
The courses at this most recent open are quite technical, explained McKay, who brought four of her own dogs to compete. She added that for the most part a higher level of skill will be found at this open with handlers running alongside their dogs guiding them with various hand signals.
Next year’s open will be held in eastern Canada and then organizers expect to host it again in Alberta, possibly at the ag events centre due to its central location and large indoor space.
From the competitor’s perspective
While Canada was late to the game — 2003 was the first time Canada was represented on the international stage — there is still a strong showing in the world championships, with several coming from Alberta.
Meaghan O’Neill has been working with agility dogs ever since she was a little girl and has the medals to prove it. While there was a strong representation of border collies and herding dogs at the open, O’Neill says the most important factor in a winning canine is its agility, workability and a desire to work with its owner.
Dog owners wishing to train their own dogs have many options in Alberta with a group in Red Deer as well as a strong group in Edmonton, where O’Neill is based out of. Along with the UKI organization there is the Agility Association of Canada. It doesn’t take long to get hooked on the sport.
“It’s something that you can do with your dog that your dog absolutely loves,” said O’Neill.