May 10, 2023

May 10th, 2023 Wednesday Wrap Up (Westminster, Incredible Dog Challenge)

On Last Week’s Episode…
I believe that it’s time for the AKC to demonstrate the courage and vision to modernize the FCI AWC and European Open team selection processes for the good of the sport.

Readers were both highly amused by and very supportive of my comparison of the AKC FCI AWC team selection process with the sport of conformation. The push for a clearer, automated selection process mirrors American ideals of equality and fair play. It’s about championing merit over shadowy practices that could lead to bias or favoritism. This call for an algorithm in agility competitions is a call for democracy in the sport, ensuring everyone has an equal shot based on talent and hard work. It’s a move that builds trust, upholds our values, and ensures our sport reflects the principles that make our society strong.

For the record, I think that all spots on the team, including alternates, can and should be earned automatically. Handlers can know the results immediately, and the transparency will ensure equal opportunity to make the team. It’s important to understand that I am NOT criticizing past selections made by AKC. I suspect that for most years, I would have picked the same handler-dog teams as the coach. However, I am highly critical of the current PROCESS (which is actually an improvement over years past where half the team was hand picked by the coach). I believe this should apply to all competitions in all organizations where a team is selected, in all countries, assuming that it is possible to gather all competitors in one place for a tryout event. This would include the European Open, the World Agility Open, and the IFCS world championship event.

To put it simply, we can design an algorithm to apply selection criteria impartially. This algorithm can take into account the specific qualities we want in our dog team. For instance, it could rank dogs based on factors like speed (90% importance) and consistency (10% importance). It can adjust penalties based on different faults like missed weaves or dropped bars. We could even use a separate algorithm to select additional team members based on their performance metrics over the year (NAC results, YPS, ISC classes). There’s no real reason not to automate the process, unless there’s a desire to hold onto the power and benefits that come with handpicking the team.

Buddy Holly Wins Best In Show at Westminster
Over 3,000 dogs made the trip to New York to compete at one of the most prestigious conformation events in the United States. A Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen named Buddy Holly became the first of his breed to win Best In Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this past week, besting several other excellent dogs including Winston, the French Bulldog and crowd favorite. Apparently, Buddy Holly is the epitome of a PBGV, as his handler Janice Hayes described him as “hardheaded, stubborn, happy.”

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer/AP

The 10th Anniversary of the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster
Lori Sage and Andrew Dicker, the original two judges from the very first Westminster agility event, returned to New York to celebrate the 10th anniversary. The Westminster Kennel Club has made the entire Finals available for free viewing HERE. Bad Dog Agility instructor and podcast co-host Jennifer Crank won the 16” height class with her Sheltie Bee. Here are all of your Finals winners:

  • 8” – Carol Kelly with Papillon Purchase (32.01)
  • 12” – Abbey Beasley with Sheltie Swindle (28.39)
  • 16” – Jennifer Crank with Sheltie Bee (28.27)
  • 20” – Cynthia Horner with Border Collie Truant (28.68)
  • 24” – Amber McCune with Border Collie Howie (32.34)
  • Top All American Dog – Teresa Rodney with Score (20”, 38.96 [28.96 + 10 for fault])
Photo credit: J. Grassa for WKC. The winners for all 5 heights plus the highest scoring All-American dog.

FOX Coverage of the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster
Both Westminster and FOX Sports have done a great job with promoting the event on social media. The FOX Sports broadcast of the agility event seemed to have noticeably improved this year. I observed better camera work, which might be due to the course design or the deliberate decisions by the FOX Sports crew. They maintained a wider view during critical handling sequences, saving close-up shots for performances at specific obstacles like the weaves and a-frame, adding a pleasing visual depth to the coverage. The side shot of the dogwalk was a particularly nice touch.

The commentary, provided by Terry Simons and John Strong, was commendable this year. However, a gentle reminder that agility is indeed a sport, and slower or subpar performances by dogs often stem from environmental pressures and the demands of the sport, would be beneficial. The transition in sideline reporting saw Allison Williams stepping in smoothly for the excellent Jennifer Hale. For those who have seen it, what did you think of the Westminster broadcast?

Border Collie Truant Named Masters Agility Champion
Handler Cynthia Hornor and her fantastic Border Collie Truant won the honor of “Masters Agility Champion” with their first place run in the 20” height class. Breaking news: Cynthia will join the podcast in the next few weeks to talk about her experience at Westminster! Cynthia has been on fire over the past year, having won the 20” class at Westminster last year with Truant. Cynthia also won the 24”C class with Truant at AKC Nationals in 2022, while winning the 12” class with Nimble at this year’s AKC Nationals. Cynthia and Nimble are heading for the World Agility Open next week, representing the United States.

Photo: Cynthia Hornor and Border Collie Truant accepting their ribbon from judge Lori Sage.

Determining the Overall Winner
While there is a winner from each of the five height classes, Westminster crowns an overall champion based on a formula that takes into account both the time and yardage so that the Masters Agility Champion is the dog with the fastest Yards Per Second (YPS) and not necessarily the dog with the fastest time. This may seem weird to many people, but consider that if a 24” dog got to run the exact same course a second time but at 16”, they’d probably run a little faster because of the lower height. In addition, with a teeter in play and smaller dogs being unable to make it tip faster than heavier dogs, there’s no perfect way to compare performances across heights, which is why our sport doesn’t do it, except at this one competition. Personally, I would rather see no overall champion, but if we do have one, I’d like to see the dog with the fastest time win. Almost always, this will be the 20” dog with the occasional 16” speedster sneaking in there to win the overall from time to time. This year there were actually two dogs who ran a faster time than the overall winner. The 12” winner Swindle with Abbey Beasley ran clean with a time of 28.39 (-0.29 compared to the 20” winner). And the 16” winner Bee with Jennifer Crank posted the fastest time of 28.27 (-0.41 compared to the 20” winner). I don’t believe this takes anything away from Cynthia’s fantastic run, and the rules are quite clear on who the overall winner will be. However, there’s a very subjective element when judges wheel a course, which is how the course yardage is determined. What do you think?

Jump Height Course Yards Winning Time Yards Per Second
8″ (Purchase) 169 32.01 5.28
12″ (Swindle) 169 28.39 5.95
16″ (Bee) 173 28.27 6.12
20″ (Truant) 176 28.68 6.14
24″ (Howie) 176 32.34 5.44

By yards per second, Truant wins the overall title with a yards per second of 6.14. Using algebra, we can determine what TIME would be required at each height class to equal Truant’s 6.14 yard per second.

Jump Height Course Yards Time to Win Overall Must Beat 20″ By Yards Per Second
8″ 169 27.54 1.14 6.14
12″ 169 27.54 1.14 6.14
16″ 173 28.19 0.49 6.14
20″ (Truant) 176 28.68 N/A 6.14
24″ 176 28.68 0 6.14

You can see that Bee missed taking the overall winner trophy by 0.08 seconds. It’s easier to declare the winner by time; in the tweet below, even FOX Sports states that Truant had the fastest time, which is incorrect, but it would not have made sense to anyone for Truant to be the overall winner with the third fastest time.

Highest Scoring All-American Dog
Westminster provides a special award for the highest scoring All-American dog in the Finals, and this honor went to handler Teresa Rodney and her 7-year-old dog named Score, with a time of 38.96. Score actually ran the course in 28.96, which almost gave them the win over Truant, but knocked a bar which resulted in a ten second penalty that is added to their original time. Score jumped in the 20” height class.

Photo credit: Steve Surfman. Teresa Rodney and Score.

Inside the Purina ProPlan Incredible Dog Challenge
Far away from New York, the Purina ProPlan Incredible Dog Challenge hosted a regional event at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. As the winners of this thrilling event gear up for the Finals at Purina Farms, we caught up with Kama Rueschenberg, the judge and course designer for the Texas regional event, to share her insights.

Set in the center track of the Speedway, the event started slow on the warm Friday but saw a surge in spectators as the temperature cooled on Saturday. “It was pretty neat being down on that field,” Kama recalls, “The event organizers even handed me a mic and asked me to entertain the crowd while they set up the cameras, so I joined an agility team to showcase what we do best!”

The event includes a warm-up day and a competition day featuring just a single course. Kama explained the structure, saying, “The warm-up day allows the competitors access to the competition course twice. Once, in any way they want, and a second time in the flow of the course.” This approach ensures competitors familiarize themselves with the layout, and the camera crew and announcer can rehearse.

Competition day is action-packed with two rounds. Winners are determined by their best score based on time and faults. Kama highlighted a unique aspect of the rules: “The main difference is no fault results in an elimination! It is all just added time.” Refusals are only called if the dog passes the plane of the obstacles, resulting in a 5-second fault.

As for the competitors, the Purina ProPlan Incredible Dog Challenge invites a variety of breeds to compete. “Similar to Westminster Agility, their goal is to show the dog-loving public that we can do more with our dogs…regardless of if it’s a Chihuahua or a Border Collie.” Kama shared.

The competition caters to six height categories, grouped into “Small” (8” and 12”), “Medium” (16”), and “Large” (all others).

Upcoming Event: World Agility Open
The 11th World Agility Open will take place May 17-21, 2023 in Ermelo, The Netherlands with a livestream provided by 4LeggedFlix.

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Email me at with your thoughts on the FOX coverage of Westminster as well as how the Masters Agility Champion is determined.

Happy Training,

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