TARRYTOWN, NY – Competitors can run, jump, and weave—and, for the first time, roll in the grass and relax.
Ripple the Boston Terrier, for one, was taking advantage as he cooled off an agility course at the Westminster Kennel Club’s first outdoor dog show in more than 140 years on Friday. The long-running Manhattan event, usually held indoors in February, Moving Out to a Suburban Estate Instead Due to pandemic precautions that closed the show to the public.
A Border Collie named Verb zoomed in — and not in a virtual way — winning a second time with handler Perry DeWitt of Wyncote, Pennsylvania. two also won the agility championship in 2019.
While the show’s move is meant to give off the glitter of Madison Square Garden, it’s a breath of fresh air for some contestants and their human partners.
“I really didn’t want to subject him to the New York winter in the city,” said owner Dan Haddy, who pulled out when Ripple basked in a 70 ° (21 °C) afternoon on his way to the final round of Anderson. , a soft grass found at home in South Carolina. “June, here, a day like this – yes, it’s beautiful.”
More than 300 dogs, from Chihuahuas to Rottweilers to mixed-breed dogs, ran a timed obstacle course for the agility championship.
With crowds of spectators and elbow room on the grounds of the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York, the nation’s most prestigious dog show opened with more comfort than usual. Either way, competing there for the first time was a childhood dream come true for Dr. Whitney Heiken, a Swedish Vallhund veterinarian named Valkyrie.
“I would go to Westminster, wherever it was,” said Heiken, of Norristown, Pennsylvania, “but this dog loves to be outside.” … that’s a huge plus for us.”
Until now, the Westminster Show had been in Manhattan since its 1877 inception and was held in an open-air venue only in its first few years. This year, it’s in tents at the historic Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York. Judgment toward the coveted Best in Show awards, awarded on Sunday nights, begins Saturday.
There is relatively little crossover between the fast-paced agility ring and traditional competition where dogs sprint in front of a judge, but a cocker spaniel named Elvis was going for both. “He’s a really remarkable dog,” says owner Sherrill Gadoll of East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
Westminster added agility competition in 2014, reflecting the growing popularity of a dynamic sport for both purebred and mixed breed dogs.
There are some mixes made specifically for sportsmanship, such as Offense, a 10-year-old Border Collie-Stafffordshire Bull Terrier mix.
“She’s a ‘go big or go home’ type of dog,” says Debbie Lazzaro, owner of Howell, New Jersey (an attorney, she names all her dogs after legal terms).
Some breeds excel at agility, so there are 59 border collies that enter Friday’s competition. But it also attracted some lesser-looking breeds such as the Mudi, a Hungarian shepherd dog. Kim Sitter, an agility trainer from Oak Ridge, New Jersey, was in Westminster for the first time with her dog, Comoli, hoping to showcase the “super-cool, really fun, smart, hard-working” breed.
Another competitor, Stella, is part of a breed better known for snoring than athleticism—she’s a bulldog. But owner Lucy Hayes quickly realized she had a “wild puppy” who loves to play, and the now 3-year-old competes in agility and dock diving.
“I thought I was doing something to keep my dog busy, but to me, now, the message that bulldogs can be active and healthy is a big one,” said Hayes, of Dayton, Ohio. She does extra conditioning with Stella, consults with veterinarians to make sure she is physically fit for the sport and is careful to protect her from overheating.
Veterinarian Dr Maria Badamo says all dogs can do agility, if they don’t have developmental issues that prevent this and are kept in extreme positions.
“I think it helps, mentally, physically to take dogs a step up from hanging out on the couch,” Badamo, of Midlothian, Texas, who competed Friday with his border collie, Kenobi, tells SELF. “You develop that bond, so much more, doing these things with them, whether it’s agility or some other dog sport.”