The fast-growing sport of pup agility has become one of the most popular happenings at appearances like Westminster and a welcome alternative for those who speculate conformation substantiates are archaic and outmoded
The sport of bird-dog agility is easy to grasp for a first-time spectator. The objective is simple: Unleashed bird-dogs negotiate a serpentine obstacle course- clearing a series of jumps, weaving their style around poles, darting through passages, hurdling through tires, sprinting up and down ramps and a seesaw- as quickly as possible under the guidance of their handler, who can rely only on expres cues and body language.
At the highest form it’s dressage on uppers, marrying the human-animal bond and precision of equestrian plays with the frenetic tempo and intrinsic volatility of alpine skiing, where the margins that separate first place and catastrophe are often down to hair-trigger decisions imperceptible to the untrained eye. To the unfamiliar, it can seem like magic.
It’s not hard to see why this fast-paced and eminently televisable sight of barely restrained chaos has fast become one of the most popular phenomena of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in the seven years since it was firstly added to the program- and a welcome alternative for those who accept traditional conformation testifies, where hounds are adjudicated almost entirely on their image, are archaic and outmoded.
The introduction of an agility competition to Westminster celebrated a step forward for this emerging sport and few tutors have since made a bigger impact on the US scene than Perry DeWitt and Jessica Ajoux, who live together in the Philadelphia suburb of Wyncote alongside two of America’s most famous canine athletes: common borders collies Verb and Fame.
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