The fast-growing sport of dog agility has become one of the more popular happens at displays like Westminster and a welcome alternative for those who speculate conformation demoes are archaic and outmoded
The sport of bird-dog agility is easy to comprehend for a first-time spectator. The object is simple: Unleashed dogs negotiate a serpentine obstacle course- clearing a series of moves, weaving their lane around poles, darting through tunnels, hurdling through tires, sprinting up and down ramps and a teeter-totter- as quickly as possible under the guidance of their handler, who can rely only on tone clues and body language.
At the highest form it’s dressage on uppers, marrying the human-animal bond and accuracy of equestrian sports with the frenetic gait and inherent volatility of alpine skiing, where the margins that separate first place and cataclysm 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 spectacle of barely inhibited chaos has fast become one of the most popular happenings of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in the seven years since it was first added to the program- and a welcome alternative for those who belief traditional conformation depicts, where dogs are judged almost entirely on their look, are archaic and outmoded.
The introduction of an agility competition to Westminster distinguished a step forward for this emerging sport and few trainers 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 contestants: common borders collies Verb and Fame.
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