January 15, 2022

What Does It Take to Make Finals at AKC Nationals?

The AKC National Agility Championship (usually) offers two warm up runs that will not count toward making the Finals, followed by 3 rounds that will determine who makes it to the Finals. In addition, the top four dogs from each round who haven’t already made the Finals will qualify for a Challengers round in which the winner of each height will join the other Finalists.

The 3 rounds are Jumpers With Weaves, Standard, and Hybrid. The value of a clean run is much higher at this event than regular trials, because the Finals will be filled mostly with dogs who have run clean in all three rounds. If you fault, you will need to win your way into the Finals through the Challengers round, which is a very difficult accomplishment for any dog–even a very fast one. So the optimal strategy focuses on running clean three times and hoping the overall time is fast enough to earn a spot in the Finals.

This first chart shows both the number and the percent of dogs who run 3 clean in the opening rounds at each height.

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This second chart shows both the number and the percent of dogs who make the Challengers Round or Finals. Both the Challengers Round and Finals will be livestreamed in a single ring.

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You can see from the chart that the percent of dogs making these featured rounds is fairly static in the classes with a large number of entries. This makes sense because the Finals consists of a SET PERCENTAGE of the class. The Challengers round takes the SAME number of dogs from each height (usually four but sometimes less because not enough dogs meet the minimum requirement of 2 clean runs, or a dog wins the spot in two different runs). This Challengers round number will also have a greater effect on smaller classes (which is why we see a rise in percentage for 24″ dogs). However, there is also a minimum number of dogs taken per class which creates the huge advantage seen in extremely small classes. The 24″C class is the class that is most skewed with only 1 dog running 3 clean; the minimum number of dogs in the Finals means that 4 dogs that did NOT run 3 clean made it to the Finals. In addition, 54% of entered dogs in the 24″C class made either the Challengers Round or the Finals.

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Note that the 20″ class had the most number of dogs, but one of the lowest rates of 3 clean. In this particular year, every single dog who ran 3 clean made Finals! Despite outliers like the 24″C class, the most straightforward path to the Finals for the great majority of dogs comes from securing three clean runs, without consideration for speed.

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