A colorful, tent-filled nine acres of grass and turf greeted 900 agility dogs and 600 handlers for the USDAA World Cynosport Games in Commerce City, Colo. Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, about 20 miles west of the airport in Denver, was the site for the annual competition, which also features other canine sports.
“The outdoor venue kind of gives it a fun, exciting atmosphere,” says Annie DeChance, who does public relations for the United States Dog Agility Association and also competes in agility with her two mixed-breed dogs, 11-year-old Stella and 7-year-old Led Zeppelin, known as “Zeppy” or “Zep.”
As big as the venue was, DeChance said everything was organized efficiently. “Handlers could access five of the six rings through the kenneling area,” she says. “It was very easy to get to all of the rings to compete and to check out the vending and demonstrations and lure coursing and flyball too.”
Because some dogs are accustomed to running on grass and some on other surfaces, it was “great to be able to have them compete on artificial turf and grass,” she says. Classes were set up such that all of the dogs ran on the same surface for each division. “It leveled the playing field,” she says, no pun intended.
After a number of years in Scottsdale, Ariz., the games were in Louisville, Ky., in 2010 and 2011, and will take place in Murfreesboro, Tenn., during the last week of October 2013. That’s about 30 minutes south of Nashville.
One of the USDAA’s goals in recent years has been to keep agility interesting for people who have been at it awhile. So, at the Cynosport World Games, many agility events have names you may not recognize, such as “three-dog championship” and “steeplechase.” Regardless of title, the competitions use some or all of the traditional agility equipment, such as jumps, weave poles, teeter-totters, etc.
This year marked the 25th running of Performance Grand Prix of Dog Agility World Championships. The tournament started long before the Cynosport World Games at more than 100 local qualifying events, and 14 regional and foreign championships. At the games, a quarterfinal and semifinal led to finals the afternoon of Sunday, September 30, 2012.
At this level, the competition is all about handling and style, DeChance says.
She and USDAA President Kenneth Tatsch both commented on the closeness of the scores at this year’s games. “There’s an increasing number every year of really tight competitive runs,” Tatsch says. “There were six ties among the finalists. It just shows how tight the competition is getting to be.” DeChance says in some events just .02 seconds separated first from second, and in some cases, third from fourth. “It was just great to see all the different levels of competition and how handling has evolved over the years.”
Tatsch says the close scores are the result of improved training. “You’re seeing an evolution. This sport was new to the country 27 years ago. Each and every year they get more competitive. The ultimate is beating the best head to head. People are really starting to fine-tune their skills.”
DeChance adds, “And the competition is attracting the best from around the world, with nine different countries competing this year. So, it really takes on that flair. That’s where the energy and the atmosphere come from.”
The daytime weather was perfect for the games, according to DeChance. “It wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t too cold. The rain kept the temperatures cool for the first couple of days.”
Those nighttime rains, however, created a bit of havoc for those responsible for the setup and the rings. It rained “really hard overnight” for two nights, says DeChance, who has been to every Cynosport World Games since 2004. “One ring was washed out overnight,” DeChance says, and it was unusable for the remainder of the event. So, they just took that ring out of the picture and rescheduled to the turf fields when the scheduled runs were done. “Yet we weren’t there very late any night.”
The tournament concept for the Performance Speed Jumping Championships and the $10,000 Dog Agility Steeplechase comes from the equestrian world, according to the USDAA, and “is designed as a spectator attraction featuring speed and the sport’s two most dynamic obstacles – the A-frame and weave poles – when working with speed.” The courses, themselves, promote constant flow of the dog and handler through the course and encourage speed for the entire run.
Steeplechase is “fun to watch because it’s all about speed and accuracy,” DeChance says.
The Dog Agility Masters three-dog team winners were Jen Pinder and Shetland Sheepdog Britain, Mary Ellen Barry and Border Collie Maizy, and Kayl McCann and Funkee Monkey, running under the name “Pure Adrenaline.” Team Believe It, made up of Amber Abbott and Shetland Sheepdog Summer and Jubie Rueschenberg and Border Collie Squeeky, was the Performance Versatility Pairs champion.
Splash Dogs Take a Dive
Dock diving is a competitive sport, as well as something dogs do just for fun – and to cool off.
Over the course of three days – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – of the games, Splash Dogs hosted 11 Splashes, or distance competitions, plus a Super Vertical contest on Saturday.
Making the longest jumps in the Splashes were:
• Sport, a Labrador Retriever from Littleton, Colo., who jumped in the Senior Division. Owned by Gloria Mai, Sport leaped 18.07 feet to take first place in Splash 1 on Friday and 20.01 feet to win Splash 2. Sport and Mai returned on Friday so he could take Splash 6 with a 22.01-foot jump however he was in the Pro Division for this Splash.
• Huck is another Labrador Retriever from Colorado, however he and owner Dan Spinato are from Colorado Springs. Also in the Senior Division, Huck jumped 19.01 feet for first in Splash 3.
• Edge, an Australian Shepherd from Bellevue, Idaho, jumped 17.05 feet to win Splash 4. The Senior Division jumper is owned by Carrie Wesson.
• Rowdy took the first prize on Friday in Splash 5 with a 20.06-foot jump. The Senior Division Golden Retriever and his owner, Kathy Willis, traveled from Littleton for the event. Rowdy also took first place in the first Splash of the day on Saturday, Splash 9, this time jumping 21.07 feet in the Pro Division.
• A Border Collie from Portland, Ore., jumped the farthest in Spash 7 – 22.02 feet. Speck, owned by Barbara Persson, is in the Pro Division.
• Another out-of-state dog, possibly the most distant dock-jumping competitor, won Splash 8. Border Collie Goose traveled from Malvern, Pa., with Perry Dewitt to be at the Cynosport World Games. Goose jumped in the Senior Division, crossing 18.10 feet for first place. Splash 12 on Saturday was another good one for Goose, who took first with an 18.05-foot jump, this time handled by Lori Asbury.
• Rouser, a Golden Retriever from Elko, Minn., jumped 20.1 feet to take first in Splash 10. Owned by Steven Roessler, Rouser is in the Pro Division.
• A nearly hometown dog won Splash 11 with a jump of 24 feet. That’s not a typo, and that’s why Sparx jumps in the Extreme Division. The Border Collie lives in Windsor, Colo., with his owner, Ken Hauff.
Eight dogs competed in the Super Vertical event on Saturday, all of them from Colorado. Three, including highest jumper Otis, are mixed breeds. He jumped 6.04 feet under the guidance of his owner Erica Jones of Denver. Ranger, a Lab from Colorado Springs, came in second with a 6-foot jump. His owner is Deb Spinato. Kane and Ku, the other mixed breeds, took the next two spots. Both from Denver, they had identical jumps of 5.1 feet for owners Heather Ratynski and John Van Soest, respectively. Rowdy and Huck of distance jumping fame above locked in two slots with jumps of 5.06 feet each. A Lab from Fort Collins, Dakota, was 7th with a jump of 5 feet, under owner Denise Moberg, and a Golden from Windsor, named Indiana, was 8th at 4.1 feet with owner Kristen Bayne.
Fun for All
Canine sports that untrained dogs can try are a big part of the games.
Splash Dogs allowed any dog that wanted to try jumping off the platform to do so, but also offered a smaller pool for more wary dogs.
Course-A-Lure, a hybrid of agility and lure coursing, saw dogs chasing a lure as it moved around the enclosed course, under jumps and other obstacles. DeChance says an agility judge from Japan had never heard of lure coursing. “He’s like, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’ It just opens up a whole new world to people.” The Doggie-Do-Right Test checked out dogs’ basic obedience skills needed for agility – sit, down and come – then introduced them to agility obstacles under the guidance of an expert.
“The whole gist of it is people want to be active with their dogs and maybe agility isn’t for everybody,” Tatsch says. “Most people don’t even know what’s available to them. We try to catch their fancy. It gives people a way to get out and have fun with their dogs. We think it’s a big part of enjoying quality of life with your pet.”
DeChance says canine sports are “all about responsible pet ownership and enhancing your relationship with your dog. Yeah, it’s great to have a well-behaved dog, but if you want to enhance your relationship, participate in things with your dog. It builds trust. It builds confidence. There are so many benefits to it.
“This is a perfect event to kind of come and check it out. It’s like a carnival for dogs. There’s something for every type of dog. As it rotates across the country, it’s definitely a must-see event.”