Invitations arrived a few weeks ago for Chili, Salsa, and Juno to compete at the AKC Agility Invitational in December. The top 5 agility dogs (and now the top preferred dog) of each AKC breed, based on QQs and championship points are invited to this event. I always enjoy the invitational because its really the only agility event of this level that showcases the fact that agility is, in theory at least, a sport for all breeds.
The path to the invitational is really different for some breeds than others. Getting in with a really popular breed means having an incredibly consistent dog and the willingness and ability to trial a lot. It amazes me not only that there are so many weekday trials, but that people can actually go to them. Seriously, I am the only one out there expected to go to work Monday through Friday? Anyway, I can respect the level of accomplishment and effort involved in getting a dog of a popular breed into the top 5, even if I don’t have the means to do it myself.
PBGVs fall into an in between category. There are quite a few competing at master level but most run in the preferred classes. I can understand why, as the extra 5 seconds (and 5 points) allowed in preferred would certainly make the points add up faster and the jumpers Qs come easier. Since the girls compete at full height and are really consistent, if not always fast, Chili and Salsa have found themselves in the top 5 for the past several years while still keeping to a reasonable trial schedule. (that whole work thing again…..)
Then there is Juno. She is the only GBGV competing in any level of AKC agility and has been for her entire career. Hmm- can’t be that hard to get into the top 5 if you are the only one, right? Actually it can be- remember that invitations are based on championship points and QQs at Master level. As someone recently pointed out, there is a reason why there aren’t many dogs of certain breeds competing, especially at the highest level of the sport. Getting even a single point on Juno to qualify for this event took 3 years of competing and almost 6 years of training. Along the way I’m had to learn just how patient it is possible to be, how to make progress in training without pressuring the dog even a little, and how to recognize that some things just aren’t physically possible for a 15 inch tall dog who weighs 40 pounds, even if she really is trying to do what I want. A different journey than a handler who attends hundreds of trials in a year and takes out a second mortgage to pay for entry fees, but not one that required any less effort.
When you meet the only dogs of their breed at the invitational, don’t write them off as having an easy ticket to the event. The handlers who got them there did something that no one else did with their breed, and they probably did it without a lot of breed specific support or mentoring. Even if Juno has random acts of grandness at the invitational I can still say that she is attending as the #1 GBGV.