If you’re a dog lover, you probably know about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Held annually in New York City, the event attracts thousands of dogs and their handlers, each competing for the top prize, Best in Show. Westminster is so popular that some people call it a canine Super Bowl.
But did you know that lots of smaller—and very different—dog shows take place each year across the country? One of them was held recently in Jacksonville, Florida. It was the Pals and Paws Agility Trial.
About 100 dogs took part in the three-day event, held March 8–10 at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. In an agility contest, canines compete on an obstacle course. They run through tunnels, weave through poles and jump through hoops and over hurdles. Handlers direct the dogs through obstacles in a sequence. Dogs are judged on how long it takes them to complete the obstacle course and how well they perform each of the challenges. Ribbons and titles are awarded as dogs complete different events.
Dog agility is a popular sport, widely practiced around the world. Participants say it strengthens the bond between handler and dog while providing exercise for both.
Does your dog have what it takes to compete? Liz McGuire says preparation is key. “You can keep your dog in condition by exercising them and feeding them the right foods,” she told TFK. “The dog has to . . . train, sort of like a football player.” McGuire competes in agility trials with five Australian shepherds.
Suzanne Wesley’s gray poodle, Raya, was in top shape at the Jacksonville event: Raya won the Agility Dog Champion title. It is one of the competition’s highest awards. Other owners and dogs taking part in the trials included Terry Herman and her miniature poodle, Idgie, and Stuart Mah with his four-year-old border collie, Ares.
For dog owners like Hunter Moore, however, the Pets and Paws Agility Trial was pure entertainment. He has a pug named Bessie, but he doesn’t compete. What did Moore like most about the Jacksonville event? “Seeing everyone try their best, even the dogs!”