2020 Top Agility Dogs
Fast and fun to compete in and watch, agility is as much a physical as a mental workout for both owner and handler. Competitors speed around an intricate course, over or through various obstacles, including jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and teeter-totters. The team to complete the course the quickest and cleanest wins!
Agility is open to all breeds, including mixed-breed dogs. Dogs compete in groups according to size, jump heights, and speed requirements set for each size range.
CKC’s 2020 Top Agility Dogs list represents the fastest, boldest, and brightest of competitors. Agility dogs have an incredible bond with their handlers. This year, several of the dogs featured have an extra special relationship, as their handlers are also their breeders and have known their dogs from the whelping box. Congratulations to all of the Top Agility Dogs of 2020, especially Spark, a Shetland Sheepdog with a family history of excellence in the sport, who has made his breeder/owner/handler Kim Boyes so incredibly proud by taking the number-one spot.
We caught up with Canada’s Top Agility Dogs to see how their journey to Top Dogs started, how they’ve kept sharp amid the pandemic, and what they like to do when not flying through a course.
Note: Because of the significant impact COVID-19 had on the ability for club’s to host events during government restrictions, nine of the Top 10 competitors tied in points for fourth place in 2020. A first for CKC Top Dogs, that’s for sure!
#1 – AgMCh. Hyperhounds All Fired up AgMXJ5 AgMX3 RM AgSC XP CD CGN
|Call Name: Spark
Breeder/Owner/Handler: Kim Boyes
Have you always wanted to compete in agility with Spark? Yes. I bred the litter Spark is from specifically looking for my next agility dog. Both parents excelled at agility and other dog sports, so I was really hoping Spark would follow in her parent's footsteps.
Did Spark show Top Dog potential early on? Spark was a very easy puppy. She learned skills quickly and was a very mature dog from a young age. She loved to train and learn new things. I was always thrilled with Spark’s progress in our training sessions and thought she could be an incredible agility dog one day.
What makes a Shetland Sheepdog an ideal choice for agility? Shelties are made for agility! They have loads of energy and enthusiasm, love to learn and try new things, have athletic bodies, and tons of heart. They will do anything for their people. And I believe they genuinely love the sport.
Which piece of equipment is Spark’s favourite? Spark loves the dog walk the best. Mostly because with a running dog walk, we have to do tons of repetitions to train and maintain it. So the dog walk means tons of cookies in Spark’s mind. If we enter a training building or field, she will run over to the dog walk and stand on top of it waiting to be cued to run down the down ramp. She loves it!
How have you kept your dog in shape amid the pandemic? We have continued to train agility privately throughout the pandemic. We also go for multiple off-leash runs each week at friend’s acreage or forest trails. I also have a dog treadmill that I use when the weather is cold and we cannot get out for a good run.
What does Spark like to do when not practising agility? Spark’s favourite thing to do is lie in a sunbeam in the house and just bask in the heat. She really loves to sunbathe and is quite content lying in that spot for hours.
(Photo credit: Chipperfield Photography)
#2 – Devonsleigh’s Delilah AgXJS AgXV RN JTXS NPS
|Call Name: Delilah
Owner/Handler: Laura Ratcliffe
Breeder: Joanne Fernall
When Delilah came into your life was it your plan to eventually do agility with them?
I was looking for a dog that could do it all! I really wanted to try agility, but also wanted a dog that could go everywhere with me. A dog that I could take into the bush to do field work for my job, come on canoe trips with me, but also be comfortable in a city or visiting friends and my family’s homes. Most importantly I wanted a dog that would be my number-one companion. Delilah’s breeder, Joanne, listened to all this and said, “I have just the dog for you!”
Did Delilah show Top Dog potential early on?
Delilah is my first dog of my own, so everything I’ve learned about training and agility was with her. I didn’t even plan to compete at first, but the instructors at Sudbury District Kennel Club (SKDC) were so encouraging and really supported me through my first trials. It has been a wonderful journey with Delilah, but something like this was definitely not on my radar.
What makes Labrador Retrievers an ideal choice for agility?
I think it has a lot to do with their temperament. Delilah, in particular, is cool as a cucumber and able to adapt to new environments really quickly. Beyond that, I think what has really helped us is our connection. Delilah LOVES to train and works hard for me, which seems to be a breed trait.
Which piece of equipment do you think is Delilah’s favourite?
I think more than the equipment, Delilah’s favourite thing is running through a flowy course with me. But if I had to choose, she’s never said no to an A-Frame!
How have you kept your dog in shape amid the pandemic?
The pandemic actually helped us focus on training and trialling. My club in Sudbury and the Red Barn Event Centre in Barrie were still able to have trials, and due to the pandemic, I was not away for work, so I could attend. We also were able to take virtual classes with both SDKC and Jess Martin when we were in total lockdown, which were opportunities we would not have otherwise had.
What does Delilah like to do when not practising agility?
Delilah loves training no matter the dog sport, but when not doing that she likes to find the most comfortable possible vantage point to supervise whatever I’m up to. I imagine, however, her MOST favourite activity is to search for animal carcasses or other disgusting stinky things while out on our bush walks.
(Photo credit: Samantha-Tuohimaa)
#3 – AgMCh. Blackfoot's Hustle And Bustle NP
|Call Name: Hustle
Owner/Handler: Kiersten Lloyd
Breeder: Danielle Pellicci
Have you always wanted to compete in agility with Hustle? I purchased Hustle with the intent to compete in agility with her. She was my seventh agility Labrador.
Did Hustle show Top Dog potential early on? When Hustle started training in agility she really was not interested in playing. It took four years of careful training for her to really find her stride. Once she found the joy of the game she was great. She taught me to be patient and that some dogs need to mature into their potential.
What makes a Labrador Retriever an ideal choice for agility? Hustle comes from Labrador lines that are focused on field trialing. Her sire is a Field Trial Champion and her dam is the daughter of a Hall of Fame Field Trial Champion. My point is that she comes from genetics that are proven for their ability to learn and work. Structure is also hugely important for agility. In order for an agility dog to have a successful agility career, sound structure is necessary to reduce the likelihood of injury. As she matured she developed a strong desire to please. A dog needs to want to please you to do agility. There are many opportunities for the dog to do its own thing, as agility is all done off leash.
Which piece of equipment is Hustle’s favourite? In order for a dog to be truly good at agility they need to like all the equipment equally otherwise they will tend to draw to their favorites rather than the actual next obstacle. I work hard to have the dog recognize each obstacle by look and name.
How have your kept your dog in shape amid the pandemic? The pandemic has put a real halt to our competing. I normally would be travelling every few weeks to the U.S. to compete. So this year I have done a lot of training. I had four competition dogs in 2020. One young puppy requiring focused training. So we have trained as much as we can. The other exercise is long walks. I also firmly believe in having my dogs assessed by a chiropractor on a regular basis.
What does Hustle like to do when not practising agility? Hustle loves to play tug with my other dogs, usually with one of my shoes!
#4 – AGMCh. Shiraz's Zydeco AgMXS SDIN NP
|Call Name: Zydeco, Zy or Zydee for short
Breeder/Owner/Handler: Sandra Orr
When Zydeco came into your life was it your plan to eventually do agility with them? Yes, it was always my plan with him.
Did Zydeco show Top Dog potential early on? Not immediately. He lacked confidence as a pup, but he became more confident with practice and maturity.
What makes a Border Collie an ideal choice for agility? They are bred to work and they love to work with their handler. Agility was invented for Border Collies, wasn't it?
Which piece of equipment do you think is Zydeco’s favourite? I think he likes jumping the best. He is a powerful and fluid jumper.
How have you kept your dog in shape amid the pandemic? We have off-leash walks twice a day when possible so he can run and stretch out and relax. I do stretching exercises at home and he has hydrotherapy once a week and chiro adjustments usually every two weeks. He gets supplements from Alpha Omega (Sinewpet) and Senior Dog Care from Wellytails daily. His diet is now a prescription diet Urinary SO from Royal Canin, as he got into trouble with crystals and it is working well to keep them from coming back.
What does Zydeco like to do when not practising agility? He loves his walks, hanging out and playing with me and his girls, and he loves practising and competing in Scent Detection in CKC scent trials and SDDS trials. I couldn't ask for a better buddy; love him to pieces.
#4 – AgMChV Clishe Everything Zen JTXV AgSCS IPS CGN AgMXJV
|Call Name: Zee
Breeders/Owners: Cliff & Sherri Gourlie
Handler: Sherri Gourlie
Have you always wanted to compete in agility with Zee? Zee was a puppy from one of our litters and would have been destined for a pet home, but we decided to keep him instead. He was very active and keen, so we started agility training around two years old and began trialling after he turned three.
Did Zee show Top Dog potential early on? Zee has been the CKC Top Agility Rough Collie and in the CKC Agility Top 5 for his breed a number of times, but never imagined that he would reach the CKC Top Agility Dogs.
What makes a Rough Collie an ideal choice for agility? The Rough Collie is an athletic breed who thrives when the have a job to perform. They are easy to train and enthusiastic, and their herding instinct provides drive for running agility courses.
Which piece of equipment do you think is Zee’s favourite? Without a doubt, the weave poles.
How have you kept your dog in shape amid the pandemic? We walk a lot and have a large fenced yard for running and playing. We also perform fitness conditioning at home and practise with agility equipment frequently to stay in shape.
What does Zee like to do when not practising agility? Zee loves to chase his squeaky pig, but otherwise is a real couch potato and spends much of his day lounging in bed.
(Photo credit: Chipperfield Photography)
#4 – AgMChS Ch Driftwind Nefertiti JTV NS IPS RN SDO
|Call Name: Egypt
English Cocker Spaniel
Owner/Handler: Bev Holoboff
Breeders: Pauline Taylor & Hilary Oakes
Have you always wanted to compete in agility with Egypt? Yes.
Did Egypt show Top Dog potential early on? From the start Egypt was keen to be doing whatever I was doing, or asked of her.
What makes an English Cocker Spaniel an ideal choice for agility? They are a very biddable breed and like to work with you at whatever you want. They tend to have a very solid temperament which makes trialing fun and easy. They can (at least mine have) get distracted by their nose but cheerfully do whatever you want when engaged.
Which piece of equipment is Egypt’s favourite? I haven’t noticed anything in particular, but probably the tunnel.
How have you kept your dog in shape amid the pandemic? Lots of hiking and I have fitness equipment for the dogs to work out on which we do on a regular basis.
What does Egypt like to do when not practicing Agility? Scent detection is her favourite sport and that’s something that can easily be played with in the house, even when there’s no classes or trials.
#4 – Gearharts Northern Treasure AgSCS AgMXJ JT AgX RE IP
|Call Name: Kasper
Owners: Christina & Kareem Shalaby
Handler: Christina Shalaby
Breeders: Judhi Chopping, Blake Osburn & Sue Mikes
Have you always wanted to compete in agility with Kasper? Yes, Kasper was always going to be an agility dog.
Did Kasper show Top Dog potential early on? Kasper has had a strong desire to please since he was a puppy, which makes agility training very fun and easy.
What makes an Australian Shepherd an ideal choice for agility? Australian Shepherds are bred to work and take direction from the handler, which transfers well to being a great agility team! They are very active dogs, and thrive when their minds and bodies are challenged through training and sports.
Which piece of equipment is Kasper’s favourite? Kasper has running contacts, and I think the dogwalk is his favourite obstacle because he gets to run as fast as possible over it (even if he sometimes leaps over the contact zone at the bottom).
How have you kept your dog in shape amid the pandemic? My dogs get regular off-leash hikes and swimming, which is excellent for conditioning, as well as canicross-style running with me. They also have regular visits for maintenance bodywork with their chiropractor and sports vet.
What does Kasper like to do when not practising agility? Kasper loves to go on stand-up paddle boarding adventures with me.
(Photo credit: Big Air Photography)
#4 – Ch. Goldcker Fish N Ships RA JTX AgXJ AgX IP CGN
|Call Name: Fish
Breeders/Owners: Brian & Lori Lancaster
Handler: Lori Lancaster
Have you always wanted to compete in agility with Fish? Following in the pawprints of Fish’s Top Dog parents, we absolutely had plans to do agility with her before she was born.
Did Fish show Top Dog potential early on? Fish showed potential right from the whelping box.
What makes a Golden Retriever an ideal choice for agility? Golden Retrievers often love agility as they are typically athletic, like to please and enjoy having a game to play. They are especially happy when they can soak up any attention they can get anytime, including being a clown to entertain a crowd.
Which piece of equipment is Fish’s favourite? Fish LOVES her teeter and weaves.
How have you kept your dog in shape amid the pandemic? For our mental conditioning we have fallen in love with trick training inside and we get out for a good off-leash run on our acreage most days. Fish also loves to wrestle hours on end with our younger Golden Soak.
What does Fish like to do when not practising agility? Fish loves to snuggle, stare at the TV until she falls asleep and poke her toys to make sure they are still breathing.
(Photo credit: Chipperfield-Photography)
#4 – Jysta Pynk Diva From Golden Regia NS SDO RE CDX AgX AgXJ JT
#4 – GCh. Redpine's Stormin' Blue Streak JTS RM AgXJS CDX UTD IPS AgXS TD CGN
|Call Name: Pynk
Owner/Handler: Debby DaCosta
Breeder: Adrienne Szabo
Have you always wanted to compete in agility with Pynk? Absolutely! Agility is my favourite performance sport with my dogs. I have been representing Canada multiple times at world events since 2014. I have been competing in agility for over 20 years now and Pynk is my eighth agility dog. Agility performance sport potential (body structure, temperament and background) is always something I’m looking for in a puppy. I start training agility foundation skills right from a young age; Pynk was no exception.
Did Pynk show Top Dog potential early on? Pynk was exceptional and showed potential right from the start. I had the opportunity to be selected to represent Canada at the European Open in the Netherlands in 2019 when she had just turned four years old. Also, the same year we attended AyC in Brazil. In 2020, we were on our way to Brazil once again when COVID hit and brought everything to a halt. Two major world events at a young age, she certainly has potential.
What makes Miniature Poodles an ideal choice for agility? Miniature Poodles are very versatile and they are of a relatively light frame, which makes them a great candidate for jumping. They run fast, turn fast and from my experience enjoy the sport. Many breeds make good candidates, we just need to teach them the skills required.
Which piece of equipment is Pynk’s favourite? Pynk loves the teeter the most! She performed it readily from the beginning. Pynk was never apprehensive of the movement when it tilts. She naturally does the teeter confidently without much practise.
How have you kept your dog in shape amid the pandemic? We have been conditioning to maintain muscle tone both the dog and myself. As a CCFT and Fitpaws Master Trainer, conditioning is very important to me. Through 2020 Pynk was tendered in virtual agility trials with the organizations who offered them. We ran courses and submitted them for judging.
What does Pynk like to do when not practising agility? Pynk loves treats and will do anything for food! We work many disciplines from sprinter to obedience, and everything in between like rally, tricks and scent detection. She is really a good sport and will go with the flow, always ready for the next activity. She is very balanced and can also chill when nothing is happening.
(Photo credit: Steve Surfman Photography)
|Call Name: Blizzard
Owners: Dawn MacDonald & Rosanne MacQuarrie
Handler: Dawn MacDonald
Breeders: Dawn MacDonald, Sheryl & Yvon Touchette
Have you always wanted to compete in agility with Blizzard? When I bred Blizzard's litter, I was selecting for a pup to start in agility and multiple other dog sports. She comes from a line of show, agility, obedience, rally and even tracking champions.
Did Blizzard show Top Dog potential early on? As a very young dog Blizzard showed terrific speed and was very agile, but she is a very independent thinker and had to be convinced to follow directions.
What makes a Shetland Sheepdog an ideal choice for agility? Ultimately the dog's structure and temperament determine whether or not it's suitable for agility. Blizzard has excellent structure, with both her front and rear being well angulated and well balanced. She has a confident, sassy temperament with wonderful working drive.
Which piece of equipment is Blizzard's favourite? Blizzard gets excited on jump sequences with tight turns. She shares her excitement by barking as she clears the bars.
How have you kept your dog in shape amid the pandemic? Blizzard and her Sheltie family go on a long walk daily where they run free and chase bunnies and grouse on our property.
What does Blizzard like to do when not practising agility? Blizzard competes in obedience, rally and tracking, so there's always lots of training to be done. During the pandemic she has also been learning a variety of tricks that have increased her rear-end awareness and should benefit her on the agility course.
#4 – AgMChS Saudi Desert Light AgMXJS4 AgMXS3 JTXS AgSCX MXPS RN
|Call Name: Zia
Owner/Handler: Annelise Freeman
Have you always wanted to compete in agility with Zia? Zia came into our lives at 11 months as a companion for my son at university in Florida. She spent three years travelling back and forth to Florida, being spoiled by the Florida Tech rowing team and swimming in her own pool. When she came back to Calgary we started agility.
Did Zia show Top Dog potential early on? Zia, even as a pup, was driven, focused and needed something to do. We started agility to give her an outlet.
What makes a Golden Retriever an ideal choice for agility? Goldens are amenable. They love to please and have an off switch so they work hard, play hard and then relax hard. They are a sport dog and live up to their name.
Which piece of equipment is Zia’s favourite? Weaves are definitely her thing.
How have you kept your dog in shape amid the pandemic? Lots of walks at our local off leash park. This has been a very trying time. All of the indoor facilities have been closed and training outside in two feet of snow at -25 C just does not work.
What does Zia like to do when not practising agility? She loves to swim and dock dive and cuddle on the couch.
#4 – Edencourt Ulva AgIJ AgI JT CGN
Owner: Karina Cowie
Edencourt Ulva’s owners were not available for an interview at the time of publication.