The Central Okanagan Dog Agility Club will have a significant presence at the upcoming Canadian National Agility Championships taking place next month in Burnaby, Aug. 19 to 23.
Fifteen club members and 17 dogs competed at the regional finals for B.C./Yukon, hosted in Langley; 14 members and 16 dogs qualified for the national finals.
“I’m very proud of our club, we did exceedingly well. All but one of our members qualified for the nationals and the one who didn’t was so close,” said Jan Johnson, a dog agility club member for 13 years and one of the group who earned a spot in the national finals.
As the nationals are hosted in a different part of the country each year, Johnson said the cost is often prohibitive for local regional qualifiers to make the trip, hence the added interest this year because the event takes place in the Lower Mainland.
Of the 15 club members, three made it to the top six in their dogs’ height categories, placing on the podium and earning an extra ribbon or trophy.
Those three are Natalie Szita with her Chihuahua Nixon, first in the 10-inch regular dogs category; Linda Heming and her Shetland sheepdog Gracie, second in the six-inch double drop veteran dogs category; and Kirsten Locke with her Irish setter Brazen, fourth place in the 22-inch Special Dogs category.
“As a young dog, Nixon was terribly timid and would startle from the slightest noise or movement,” said Szita.
“Now at six years of age, agility training has given Nixon the confidence, speed and enthusiasm to live his life to the fullest.”
Locke credited her dog Brazen for her love to compete at big events. “She always seems to know when to bring her best game on,” she said.
Heming said she went to the regionals with low expectations. “We hadn’t been doing very well in recent local agility trials. So it was a big surprise when we came second, only missing first place by 0.5 points.”
The other members who qualified for the nationals are Sarah Knight and her dog Meeko, Christine McPhee with Sky and Duffy, Marilyn Sawatzky with Deuce and Molly, Jane Beddard and Cody, Meghan Turton and Jazz, Hildi Stewart and Babs, Denise Tarlier and Nikki, Roger Perron and Bandit, Lora Pronger and Finn, Gail Lannard and Tucker and Jan Johnson with Morocco.
The dog agility competition called on the dog and handler tandem to complete six agility runs—two in standard (which uses all equipment including weave poles, dog walk, A-frame and teeter totter); two in jumpers (all jumps and tunnels) and two in gambles (where the dog has to work away from the handler in distances up to 22 feet).
Johnson said the dog agility season starts in March building up to the summer with the regionals and national finals.
She said the members train at a facility once a week near the Kelowna airport, and some train their dogs further in their backyards at home.