With a successful National Agility Championship in Reno under its belt, the American Kennel Club may commit to having the competition in that city every third year, according to AKC Director of Agility Carrie DeYoung.

“Our ultimate goal is to find three locations that work well for us and set up a permanent rotation,” she said on Monday from Plymouth Rock, Mass., where she was taking a vacation day with her family. The AKC has committed to holding the championship in Tulsa, Okla., next year, in 2016 and in 2019.

“There definitely is potential” for Reno to be one of the three cities where the NAC would be held, though the assessment of this year’s event is not yet complete.

Teeter-totter action keeps this Golden Retriever on its toes at the 2012 AKC National Agility Championships in Reno, Nev. Photo courtesy American Kennel Club.

Part of the beauty of the Reno Sparks Livestock Event Center is that its two arenas – one large enough for three agility setups with the smaller one hosting a fourth ring – are connected by a hallway. So, regardless of the weather – rainy, cold, hot, or even snowy – competitors and spectators can move between the arenas comfortably.

As a matter of fact, snow fell for about half an hour at the event center on both Saturday, March 31, and Sunday, April 1, during the 16th annual event.

Speeding around the obstacle course gives competitors a better score. Photo courtesy American Kennel Club.

DeYoung has been to 13 NACs as an AKC employee, but as a southern state resident, she ran out to take pictures in the snow, as did many others. “It’s the first time any of us could remember it snowing during the nationals,” she said. “We always work hard to find a site that won’t have [inclement] weather.”

In addition to the area setup, Reno made a good site because competitors with RVs could park them right at the event center and numerous hotels offered accommodations about 10 minutes away.

Although the 2012 show saw just 918 dogs compete, down from 1,100 at last year’s event in Lexington, Va., DeYoung said, “We completely expected that.” As is “typical” with all competitive canine events, she said, “West travels East, but East doesn’t travel West so well.”

A Pug leaps over the top of the "A"-frame at the 16th annual event. Photo courtesy American Kennel Club.

Of those 918 entries, 640 already had Master Agility Champion (MACH) or Preferred Agility Champion (PACH) titles. Twenty past champions entered, along with 227 Border Collies, 120 Shetland Sheepdogs, 49 Golden Retrievers, 42 Papillons, 37 Poodles, and 83 other breeds.

Most of the dogs and their handlers traveled from California with 295 entries, Washington, 98; Colorado, 74; Texas, 43; Minnesota, 35; Oregon, 34; Arizona, 28; Illinois, 24; Ohio, 23; and Idaho, 20. Among the dogs weaving, jumping and teetering were 68 breed champions, two triple champions and five obedience champions.

The weave poles challenge many competitors as they must be flexible and fast. Photo courtesy American Kennel Club.

For those unfamiliar with how the AKC national championship works, it consists of five rounds with all entered dogs competing in the first three rounds. The highest scorers proceed to rounds four and five. The top dogs in each jump height division – 8, 12, 16, 20, 24 and 26 inches for the Regular classes and 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20 inches for the Preferred classes – win the title of National Agility Champion (NAC) of 2012 or Preferred National Agility Champion (PNAC). Unlike other agility titles which are listed after a dog’s registered names, these titles appear before the name.

The AKC introduced Preferred classes three years ago. In addition to lower jumps, the dogs have more time to complete the course. “I really like the program because it gives people the opportunity to decide when to move into the regular program,” De Young says. It also gives “extreme breeds,” those that are shorter or heavier, “a place to run that works for that dog, something appropriate for that dog’s physical ability.”

AKC National Agility Champions 2012. Photo by Great Dane Photo.

This year’s AKC National Agility Champions are:

  • • 8 inches: Papillon CH MACH2 StarStruck Anticipation OF, ‘Carly,’ owned by Andrea Samuels of Westbury, N.Y.
  • • 12 inches: Shetland Sheepdog Bare Cove Tri To Keep Up MX MXJ NF, ‘Race,’ owned by Laura Dolan of Westford, Mass.
  • • 16 inches: Pyrenean Shepherd NAC MACH3 Luka De La Brise XF, ‘Luka,’ owned by Ashley Deacon of Redwood City, Calif.
  • • 20 inches: Border Collie MACH2 Contact Points Red Alert Of Lightfoot, ‘Zing!,’ owned by Gabrielle Blackburn of Wesley Chapel, Fla.
  • • 24 inches: Belgian Tervuren MACH Chiron Incyta More Smarts CD MXF, ‘Smartie,’ owned by Julie Hill of Mandeville, La.
  • • 26 inches: Border Collie NAC MACH Super Sun OF, ‘Solar,’ owned by Daisy Peel of Bonney Lake, Wash.

AKC Preferred National Agility Champions 2012. Photo by Great Dane Photo.

Preferred National Agility Champions were:

  • • 4 inches: Papillon Kaylin Special Edition AX AXJ MXP MJP, ‘Buddy Lee,’ owned by Dennis McCoy and handled by Mike McCoy of Pueblo, Colo.
  • • 8 inches: Pembroke Welsh Corgi MACH2 Willowbend Enchanted Evening MXP MJP NF, ‘Eve,’ owned by Janelle Julyan of Chamblee, Ga.
  • • 12 inches: Border Collie MACH2 Guided Tour MXP MJP OF, ‘Tori,” owned by Beth Rogers of Glenview, Ill.
  • • 16 inches: Border Collie MACH PACH Barjor’s Virtual Reality Emulator HSAs MXP4 MJP4 PAX MXF XFP, ‘Emma,’ owned by Barbara Persson of Portland, Ore.
  • • 20 inches: Border Collie PACH2 Oliver OA AXJ MXP7 MJP9 PAX2 OF MFP TQXP, ‘Oliver,’ owned by Ira Dauer of Howell, N.J.

For the second year in a row, Canine Partners Program dogs qualified for the championship. Twelve of the 29 qualifiers competed. DeYoung says that the purebred dog handlers and owners have been “very welcoming” to the new contenders. A lot of agility people compete with other organizations so are used to seeing mixed-breed dogs in the rings, she said.

Repeating another successful program from 2011, the AKC invited 4-H Club members from Nevada and California to tour the event center and learn about agility and the American Kennel Club. 4-H is a youth development organization with more than 6 million members across the U.S., many of whom join to enhance their animal husbandry skills. About 80 young dog lovers attended this year’s tour, DeYoung said. Ten members of the Reno club also worked in the agility rings over the weekend.

Speaking of working in the rings, DeYoung made special note of the 200 volunteers who make the national championship possible. From timing to scoring to resetting bars and serving as gate stewards, volunteers make the event possible, she says. “We certainly couldn’t do it without them.” Another group of volunteers helps set up for the event and handles hospitality for both judges and volunteers, plus other duties.

The 2012 judges were Kitty Bradley, Sheila Kaufmann and David Nauer, all of Colorado, Catherine Nelson of Wisconsin, Anne Riba of Illinois and Debby Wheeler of California.

DeYoung called the three-day competition a “fairly normal national event which is a good thing for us.” No dogs were injured in the rings and no one protested outside the event center, she said, adding, “Thanks goodness, all was quiet on that front.”