A Conversation with the 2014 AKC National Obedience Champion

After two days of intense competition, Vicky Gillow and her Shetland Sheepdog OTCH Eastbrooke Blue Ridge Treasure UDX5 OM9 VER RE AX MXJ AXP AJP OF, better known as “Kipp,” took the top spot at the 2014 AKC National Obedience Championship.


The AKC Dog Lovers blog recently caught up with Vicky to talk about her experiences at the event, her bond with Kipp and the path that took them from Novice A Obedience competitors to National Obedience Champions!


What was it like competing at the AKC National Obedience Championship? How did you feel after winning?

It was an honor to qualify and compete at the AKC National Obedience Championship among so many outstanding teams from across the nation.  I felt truly blessed to be there with my soul mate at this prestigious event for a second time.  My focus was to qualify in each ring throughout the rigorous two-day event, and was thrilled when we accomplished our goal.

Winning was a dream come true!  It was such a proud and humbling moment when they read our names.  What an incredible journey it has been from Novice A to OTCH to NOC with my awesome little boy!  We could not have done it without the help from friends, fellow competitors and trainers.  Kipp and I extend our sincere thanks to everyone who touched our lives along the way, including Star City Canine Training Club, the AKC, obedience judges and the many volunteers who made the event possible.  It was a day that will never be forgotten!


How did you become interested in the sport of Obedience?  Why did you start to compete?

As I began training Kipp, it quickly became evident that he was multi-talented and I was eager to delve into new areas of training that would capitalize on his abilities.  The local club that I joined for agility training has an active obedience group, and it piqued my interest.   Throughout our rally and obedience classes, Kipp was very attentive, responsive, and eager to please - all essential qualities in developing the teamwork necessary to compete.

The results of training and the strong partnership that developed showed that we could be a competitive team, and we were hooked!


What is Kipp’s personality like?

Kipp holds true to the characteristics of a Sheltie: intelligent, intensely loyal, playful and protective.  He loves to retrieve a Frisbee and enjoys playing in the yard on agility obstacles.  He is a real charmer and a joy to live with, always an enthusiastic participant in whatever we may be doing.


Where did you get him?  Had you owned/trained other dogs in the past?

Kipp was acquired from Debbie Blazek of Eastbrooke Kennels in April of 2007.  She selected this blue merle boy for me knowing of my plans to continue with competition agility.  From the moment Kipp came into my life, a very special connection developed.  I didn’t know just how extraordinary he was, until our journey began.  Thank you, Debbie, for sharing this exceptional canine with me.

I have owned dogs all of my life but welcomed the first Sheltie into our home in 1996.  I began conformation showing and agility training with my MACH 3 sheltie Kobi in 2001.  A local trainer recommended agility training at Azalea Dog Training Club in Wilmington, NC – a wonderful support group for first-timers.   Kobi taught me the joy of working together as a team and developing that special bond that is needed to succeed.


Where/with whom do you train?

I am a member of Star City Canine Training Club in Salem, VA where I train and teach at an indoor facility and outdoor agility field, but most of my training is done in my back yard.  Kipp and I began obedience classes when he was a puppy under the guidance of several talented trainers at the club.  Becoming a training member led to teaching classes at Star City, and I am grateful to have the respect and admiration of those in my classes.   Our current training partner and club member, Mitzi Tinaglia, was our instructor for numerous obedience classes at Star City and has been a tremendous help to me as an “A” handler.  Thankfully, she saw my commitment and determination to learn and succeed in the obedience ring, and gave us her guidance and patience over several years, which I truly appreciate.   We continue to train together and Mitzi willingly offers advice when needed.


Why do you enjoy participating in the sport of Obedience?

There is a constant return on investment in ongoing obedience training, where little successes every day yield a deepening bond between handler and dog.  Kipp celebrates joyously with me each time we complete an exercise, extending the bond we share.  The competition itself is also a significant reward for me - the culmination of our training.   Win or lose, Kipp and I really enjoy the game!

Club members have always been welcoming and complimentary.  Fellow competitors are quick to engage and support newcomers, making for enjoyable weekends spent with our dogs.  I have made many new friends along the way, conversing with others who share my interests in performance events.