by Brenna Fender



2013 AKC Agility Invitational

By Brenna Fender

Photos by Hannah DeYoung

The 2013 AKC Agility Invitational took place December 14-15 (with the Junior Agility Competition and a Time 2 Beat class on Friday, December 13) at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, as part of the Eukanuba "Celebrate Dogs" event. In addition to the Agility Invitational, the AKC Obedience Classic, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship (conformation), and the AKC National Owner-Handled Series Finals (conformation) also took place, along with dock jumping competitions and demonstrations of various dog sports like Treibball, K-9 Nosework, Rally, and more. There were also booths set up for most of the AKC breeds with creative backdrops to help share each breed’s history and backstory.

The Invitational is a unique national agility competition. Dogs are ranked based on the accumulation of points throughout the year and the top five of each breed is invited to compete. Dogs are selected from the Regular program first. If there aren’t five dogs of the breed competing in the Regular program, the invitations extend to the Preferred program dogs as well. AKC Director of Agility Carrie DeYoung says, "The 2013 Agility Invitational was an exciting celebration of all of the breeds that enjoy the sport of agility. We had 162 different breeds represented this year. There is no other agility event in the US that has the variety of dogs in the competition. We also were very pleased to welcome 62 Junior handlers from 21 different states to the Junior Competition held on Friday of the Invitational."

Unlike in years past, the Agility Invitational, judged by Laura English, Windle Ewing, Dan Faulkner, and Graham Partridge (from England), was in the same (very large, square) room as all the other sports. The agility corner was partially blocked off by a divider, which effectively limited disturbances from dock jumping while allowing the agility to still be a part of the rest of the event. Jeanette Ryman, who attended the Invitational with her Akita, Nakai, says, "I loved the new location. We were in our own little world, but I prefer it that way. We had the best potty area with tons of grass compared to the conformation side and the vendors were great. I liked that the dock diving was on the other side of a wall and that their music and PA system were turned way down compared to last year, when it was so loud in the crating area, it hurt." DeYoung was also pleased with the new setup. "This event improves each year. The new location at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando worked very well for this year’s competition. The set-up made it easy for everyone to keep track of what was going on in all three rings."

Also different from last year was the footing. After several years of bringing sod indoors for the competition, this year the competition took place on mats. In comparison to the sod, the mats were praised by many of the competitors. Kathryn Clark, who competed with her 12" jumping Italian Greyhound, Bella, says, "I preferred the mats to the sod. I thought it made for a more consistent footing." Louise Hoelscher, who brought her two Whippets (TeePee and her son Frisco), to the event, agrees: "[The mats were the same ones] they used in Long Beach in 2008. I loved them then and I loved them now. I hated the sod they used in 2011 and 2012." Chris Dewey, who attended the event with her Pointer, Skeets, agrees that this year's surface was better than last year's: "I do like the surface a lot better. Number one, you don’t have any holes or… I'm not seeing people with their dogs wiping out the way they did on the sod that was brought in the last couple of times…. I like the consistency of it and the fact that, from ring-to-ring, it's the same. There were some rings in the previous years that were decidedly different." Dewey favored the mats even though running on them took some adjustments on the part of her dog. “We’re not used to running on mats. There is a learning curve, Mr. 'I'm Going as Fast as I Can but Going Nowhere,' running in place on his very first run. But that, of course, is what you get." 

Although there were many praises sung for the mats, some competitors did not like them. Mary Cheney, who attended the event with her Schapendoes, Spur, says, "The mats were not great. She was slipping a bit and it took me two pair of shoes to find a pair that worked. Personally I liked the sod in Long Beach better…." Cheney did not attend the previous years in Orlando, so she's not able to compare the mats to the recently used sod. Some competitors were concerned that the mats contributed to soreness in their legs, although that the soreness may have stemmed from standing and walking on the hard concrete in between runs rather than from the few minutes spent running on the mats.

Competitors seemed to enjoy the majority of the courses. Ryman says, "We liked all the courses and were one missed contact away from being in the finals. The finals course looked fun and I wish we could have run it." Brian Brane, who traveled from Pittsboro, North Carolina, with his Smooth Collie, Lark, and Amy Jenkins, who came from Augusta, Georgia, with her Rottweiler, Ike, were sitting 20th and 21st in the 24" class just before the Hybrid round when they shared their thoughts on the courses. Brane said, "Each [course] had its challenges. The Jumpers on Sunday was a lot of fun... and the Standard [on Saturday] was nice too. The Jumpers on Saturday was a little challenging but we made it through." Jenkins agreed with the assessment of the challenging Jumpers course. "It was a tricky course!" That Saturday Jumpers with Weaves course, designed by Graham Partridge, was considered challenging by other competitors as well. Filled with many twists and turns, it required collection and strong jumping skills. Dewey found that the turns took more time that the standard course time allowed for her large dog: "The big dogs have trouble with the accelerating and decelerating. It takes time, and we didn't have the time. But we still ran clean!" Dewey's favorite course was Saturday's Standard course. She says, "I loved the Standard course the first day. The opening was a little bit technical, but once you got past the dogwalk it was pedal to the medal, drive it like you stole it. It was a lot of fun!"

Overall, competitors praised the way the Invitational was run. Joanne Bridges, who traveled from Inverness, Florida, to compete, says, "The whole event was wonderful…. [I] appreciate how wonderful and friendly the reps, workers, competitors, and everyone helping put this event on were." Lisa Gardener, also from Florida, echoes Bridges. "I agree with everything Joanne just said!" Amy Jenkins adds: "[The Invitational has] been very well run. Lots of volunteers have been generous with their time and it's just been really smooth all weekend." Ryman praises the AKC staff. "All of the AKC staff and volunteers were amazing! I went in with a 'Don't sweat the small stuff' attitude and I think that helped me enjoy it all that much more. I did hear petty complaints, but you can't please everyone." Hoelscher enjoyed the event too. "The Invitational is always a great event, and so well organized. They work really hard at it."

Director DeYoung was pleased with this year's event. She says, "Every year the quality of the competition improves. You can see it during the weekend, but it is most evident in the final rounds. We had truly competitive runs from all the dogs in the final rounds this year. Each team had earned the right to be in the final and they gave it their all as they raced to the finish jump."

Congratulations to the new AKC Agility Invitational and Junior Agility Competition winners!

AKC Agility Invitational Winners

8": CH NAC MACH5 Starstruck Anticipation MXB2 MJS2 OF T2B “Carly,” a Papillon handled by Andrea Samuels from Westbury, New York

12": MACH4 China Road Ziggy’s Split Decision MXG MJS2 OF T2B “Ziggy,” a Chinese Crested handled by Estelle Robinson from Trabuco Canyon, California

16": MACH3 Vidam Kertesz Sugar MXG MJG OF T2B “Zu-Zu,” a Pumi handled by Tammy Hall from Shelton, Washington

20": MACH11 No Limit MXS3 MJG3 MXF MFG TQX T2B5 “Zip,” a Border Collie handled by Jamie Herren from Marietta, Georgia

24": MACH6 Rock's Indian Sunburn MXB2 MJB2 OF T2B “Shiloh Rock,” a Doberman Pinscher handled by Melanie Rock from Madison Heights, Michigan

Junior Agility Competition Winners

Excellent Class

8": MACH Lily MX MXB MXJ MJB OF T2B (“Lily”), a Bichon Frise owned by Curtis Short and handled by Claire Short

12": PACH Genral Tommy Franks (“Tommy”), a Parson Russell Terrier owned by Cherie Whittenberg and handled by Deva Wilson

16": Happyfeet M Kcivon OA AXJ (“Happy”), a Shetland Sheepdog owned and handled by Piper Novick

20": SHS Guardian Angel AX AXJ (“Gabe”), a Border Collie owned and handled by Maddie Speagle

24": Pine Run Pity The Fool (“Mr. T”), a Golden Retriever owned and handled by John Rotelle

Superior Class

4": Cnspots Scarlet Vixen RN (“Lilli), a Chihuahua owned by Rebekah Platts and owned by Mariah Platts

8": JKA Boomerang Houdini (“Boomer”), a Shih Tzu owned and handled by Samantha Adams

12": Levi BN (“Levi”), a West Highland White Terrier owned and handled by Cassandra Doss

16": Be My Beau (“Beau”), an Australian Shepherd owned and handled by Sarah Schaefer

20": Lillie, an All-American Dog owned and handled by Nicole Sieling

24": Endrefalva Ginger IP03, BN, CDX (“Ginger”), a German Shepherd Dog owned and handled by Mica Bender


For a PDF of all the courses, including the original CRCD files, click here.

Complete Results

For full results from the Invitational, please click here.

Videos by Brenna Fender

Interview with Brian Brane and Amy Jenkins

Hybrid Round: 20" Kaitlyn Deese and Seacrett, Border Collie

Hybrid Round: 20" Patti Campbell and Topper, Kerry Blue Terrier

Hybrid Round: 12" Taylor Potter (co-owner Christine Potter) and Morgan, Chinese Crested

Hybrid Round: 8" Melissa K. Liebhardt and Penny Lane, Rat Terrier