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Countdown to the Championships

On-site coverage of the 2005 USDAA agility championships provided by Clean Run.

By Brenna Fender

Anticipation mounts as the opening date for the 2005 World Cynosport Games nears. By November 9th over 1,000 dogs will have arrived at West World in Scottsdale, Arizona to compete in various events including the USDAA Grand Prix of Dog Agility World Championships, the $10,000 Dog Agility Steeplechase Jumping Championships, the Dog Agility Masters International Three-Dog Team Championship, the National Performance Agility Championship, flyball, herding, flying disc, freestyle, dock jumping and terrier racing. USDAA President Kenneth Tatsch says, "We'll have close to 900 dogs in agility and another 200 to 300 in flying disc, flyball, Rally-O, and Dock Dogs competitions and exhibitions. We're also pleased to have signed on the Ashley Whippet Invitational World Championship, taking the overall event up a notch in the public eye."

Having so many exciting canine events at West World greatly benefits the sport of agility, says Tatsch. "The additional events help to draw attention to dog agility and the successes our competitors have attained. Not just the media, but more importantly, the public. It promotes sport to newcomers and helps it to grow, as well as providing the credibility it deserves."

Photo by Joe Canova

Photo by Joe Canova

This event is drawing competitors from all over the world. Canada, Colombia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States will all be represented. The USDAA has brought in top-notch judges for this occasion. Chris Danielly, Karen Gloor, Tim Laubach, Tom Schulz, Carol Voelker, and Japan's Hisato Tanabe will preside.

Chris Danielly is from Loganville, Georgia, and has been judging USDAA trials since 1994. She is also an AKC judge. When she designs courses for championship events like this one she expects handlers to exhibit "a total range of skills." Danielly wants to see "consistency [and] accuracy at speed without hesitancy."

Karen Gloor lives is Chandler, Arizona, which is located about 40 minutes from the West World site. Gloor has judged USDAA for 11 years, and is a former NADAC judge. She says, "Agility is all about speed and accuracy. When I design courses for a Championship event, I like to emphasize both elements. I tend to design some pretty technical courses that require the handler to use their handling skills, yet I also try to allow the dog/handler team to open up and air it out a little. I guess mostly I am looking for exhibitors to use advanced handling skills to enable them to handle some pretty technical sequences."

Tim Laubach lives in San Antonio, Texas, and has been a USDAA judge for 14 years. When he designs courses for tournaments, he likes to focus handler timing. "This is not a titling class -- it's head-to-head. Critical timing is more important than anything else; timing in handling maneuvers. That's the thing I try to put in. It's more about the handlers than the training of the dogs."

Tom Schulz hails from Saint Louis, Missouri, and was added to the judging slate late in the game. He's been active in USDAA agility since 1991 and has been judging since 1995. He says, "While I did not design any of this year's courses, what I normally look for is consistent handling. I feel that a lot of the current training methods put more emphasis on the dog being able to follow minute directions from the handler, so I like to design courses that require the handler to do more of the maneuvering while the dog's path is rather straight forward (or at least it seems to be). Once you leave the start line don't stop handling until you have crossed the finish line. One of the best compliments I have received about my courses was an exhibitor that came to me and said, "I sure had a lot of fun not qualifying on your courses this weekend." While I wish they had better luck qualifying, the most important part is that they left with happy feelings and had a fun weekend of competition with friends and their dogs. Good luck to everyone at this year's Grand Prix Competitions."

Carol Voelker resides in Little Falls, Minnesota and has judged USDAA for eight years. She is also an AKC judge. At competitions like the USDAA Nationals, Voelker says, "I would like to see some speed with technical skills. With this kind of event, I want to see handlers taking some risks, pushing the limits, and if it falls apart -- having a good laugh. That is what makes this kind of event so fun!"

Hisato Tanabe hails from Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. Hisato has five years of international judging experience and judged the 2004 IFCS Agility World Championships in Spain.

Good luck to all exhibitors as they travel to Scottsdale to enjoy what will surely be a tremendous event. Tatsch says, "We're moving into full production mode and striving to reach a new level of eventing. [We are] finding many new challenges in pulling off a show of this size and it takes every bit of focus we can manage to pull together. The USDAA staff is to be commended. The unfortunate thing is that the staff is exhausted by the time the event date arrives, so we put all we can into advance planning to help steer the show once it is underway. Then a very large and able volunteer staff can implement the show plan successfully."


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