The sporting highlight of the year

They are the best agility competitors in Germany, and they are travelling to Leipzig in pursuit of the coveted “German Agility Champion” title. Leipzig will also host an international agility tournament as part of the World Dog Show & German Winner Show.

Birdie Schlathölteris is just nine years old, but the girl from the Rhineland is already a passionate agility competitor. And quite a successful one, too. Just like her sister Phoebe, who will also be at the VDH German Agility Championships in Leipzig. Both girls have already taken part successfully in this year’s Youth European Championships in Luxembourg (with 456 children and young people from 24 nations). The young sportswomen are familiar faces within the agility community. As is double world champion Tobias Wüst, the man who took World Championship titles last year in the individual competition and in Team Small with his older dog, Peanut, and was back this year with her daughter, Dörte, to claim another World Championship individual title.

So Leipzig will certainly see some famous faces. But what kind of sport is this...agility? What does it involve? Nothing could be easier to explain. Agility is exactly what it sounds like – rapid motion on six legs. The canine competitor and human handler are a team and must work together as one to pick up points. That demands both physical fitness and quick thinking. From both team members – the human and the dog. Memorising a completely new obstacle course within five minutes and working out the ideal line to take through it is no easy task. And only those who find this ideal line have any chance of making it around the course without a fault in the shortest possible time.

Agility dogs need to be quick and agile and to have good stamina. They also need to read their handlers’ body language flawlessly and to translate it into action. The dog can take over some of the thinking involved – but can’t get too excited and take on too much. In this, the challenge resembles the work of herding dogs – they can demonstrate initiative when marshalling large flocks, but they constantly need to check back in with the shepherd. This explains why herding dogs are so often found in agility. Breeds like the Border Collie, Sheltie, Australian Kelpie and Australian Shepherd feature prominently.

Dogs jump, climb and crawl over, under and through the obstacles on an agility course. Constantly shifting challenges demand lightning-quick reactions. The goal is to get around the course as quickly as possible without picking up faults. The best way of achieving that is shown by a “white dog” that runs the course ahead of the first competitor. This gives the working judge an opportunity to verify that the course has been set up correctly and makes it easier for the participants to check out the ideal line. Strictly speaking, there are three white dogs, as Agility is run in three different categories for dogs of different sizes: Small, Medium and Large.

Leipzig is proudly looking forward to welcoming the current world champion teams in all categories as well as the vice-world champions from the category “Large” as competitors. The VDH German Agility Championships will be judged by Dirk Richartz and Marcel Schlühr. At the international tournament, competitors will have to impress French judge Nicolas Renaud and his German counterpart Jörg Tenert.

VDH Dog Sports Coordinator Christoph Holzschneider will have overall responsibility for both competitions. Both will take place in Hall 2 at Leipzig Trade Fair and will get off to an early start at 8:00.

Who will win? At this point, nobody knows. But one thing is certain: Leipzig will see top-class agility sport.

The World Dog Show & German Winner Show will see dog lovers, breeders and dog show competitors gather in the halls of Leipzig Trade Fair from 8–12 November. The biggest dog show in the world will take place over 85,000 square metres of space in the halls. The trade fair halls are open to visitors from 9.00–19.00 daily.

Tickets are available online: www.wds2017.de

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