There are champions, and then there are champions.
Every year, the American Kennel Club acknowledges the most accomplished dogs in a trio of sports – Agility, Obedience, and Rally – by hosting championship competitions to which the nation’s top-ranked dogs are invited. A handful of these top winners then run, jump, weave, heel, or retrieve their way to the coveted title of National Champion, reflecting the depth of competition they had to navigate in order to emerge victorious.
On March 15 to 17, 2019, a combined total of more than 1,800 dogs headed to the Built Ford Tough Livestock Complex and Central Park Hall at Expo Square in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to vie for a placement in those national competitions, whose formal names are the AKC National Agility Championship, the AKC Preferred National Agility Championship, the AKC National Obedience Championship and the AKC Rally National Championship.
2019 Obedience Champion
Let’s start with the most established of those performance competitions, Obedience. Very often, the breeds that excel at this excruciatingly precise sport come from the Sporting and Herding groups, because they were bred to work very closely with their human partners (hunting birds or tending livestock, respectively). So it’s no surprise that 2019’s AKC Obedience Champion was a Border Collie: GCH CH OTCH Callista Eye Candy Sportingfield UDX4 OM6 HSAs HSBs, also known as “Maverick,” handled by Mitzi Tinaglia of Roanoke, Virginia.
Continuing that theme, the first through third Obedience runners-up were all Golden Retrievers: “Juiced” (OTCH High Times Totally Sauced UDX4 PCD OM6 SH), handled by Sharri Sibert of Schoolcraft, Michigan; “Layla” (OTCH Goldenloch Lay Down Your Bets UDX39 OGM RN), handled by Peggy McConnell of Dallas, Texas, and “Beacon” (OTCH High Times Uncharted Waters UDX22 OGM GN RA TKN), handled by Kathy Rasinowich of Burnsville, Minnesota.
2019 Rally Champion
The next sport, Rally, is sometimes referred to as “Obedience Lite” because handlers can praise and encourage their dogs as they compete, which is not permitted in obedience. As a result, some less “traditional” breeds often rise to the top, and this year is a case in point: The 2019 AKC Rally® National Champion is OTCH Shadowlends Winter Mist of Aws UDX12 OGM VER RM RAE3, a Schipperke known as “Misty,” handled by Carol S.T. Davis of Watsonville, California.
The third time was the charm for this little black dog, who had placed second in the previous two years. Misty, whose ancestors guarded barges in Belgium, is also a bonafide senior citizen at 12 years old.
The other Rally winners included OTCH MACH2 Highroller Summer Triangle UDX8 OGM VER RM MH MXS MJS MXP MJP SCN THD TKP, a Golden Retriever known as “Vega,” handled by Joanne Bockhorn of Marine, Illinois (Rally Master); Renegade’s Crusade CD PCD BN RE CGCA CGCU TKI, an All-American Dog called “Rennie,” handled by Heidi Lengel of Woodland Park, Colorado (Rally Excellent); Wigglebutt Makin’ Me Bounce UDX PCDX OM2 BN GO RAE FDC SWA SIM SCE SEE SHDN CGCA TKA, a Miniature American Shepherd who answers to “Bounce,” handled by Barb Kelm of Kandiyohi, Minnesota (Rally Advanced); Mountain Cross Make A Splash BN RI FDC OAP AJP XFP SCN SBN THDA CGCA TKP, a Miniature American Shepherd known as “Splash,” handled by Merry Zakrzewski of Little Rock, Arkansas (Rally Intermediate), and OTCH Gad’s Mysterious Marigold UDX OM3 GN RN, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever named “Goldie,” handled by Kathleen Keller of Flemington, New Jersey (Rally Novice).
2019 Agility Champions
Next, we have the AKC National Agility Champions, who succeeded at this timed obstacle course not just by beating the clock, but by making the least number of errors along the way. Papillons and Border Collies totally dominated these wins; they competed across different height divisions because even within the same breed, the sizes of dogs can vary.
In the 8” height division, the AKC National Agility Champion was “Gabby” the Papillon (GCH CH MACH Starstruck Oh My Word! MXB MJS OF), handled by Andrea Samuels of Westbury, New York. In 12”, the reign of the butterfly-eared dogs continued with “Bilbo” (MACH Bilbo’s Precious MXB MJB), handled by Britney Imhof of Galloway, Ohio. Switching to the Border Collie brigade, the 16” winner was “Annie” (Rival’s Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This MX MXJ), handled by Naci Berkoz of Reseda, California, followed by “Hops” (NAC MACH Solar Hops For Joy RN MXS MJS MXF T2B2), handled by Sarah Baker of Bonney Lake, Washington, in 20” and “Furgus” (Ignited Rr Fiery Fast Furgus MX MXJ OF), handled by Bob Howard of Southington, Connecticut, in 24”.
Dogs that are 22 inches at the withers or shorter can be entered in the 24C” class: The AKC National Champion in 24C” this year was another Border Collie, “Jimmy” (MACH Cedar Veja Du MXS MJG), handled by Jennifer Martin of Berthoud, Colorado.
2019 Preferred Agility Champions
While all those Agility classes require dogs to jump a minimum height for their size, there are some dogs whose age or physical condition prevents them from being that high flying. To give them a safe option for competing, the AKC introduced Preferred Agility, which allows dogs to jump one height lower than their regular division and also gives them an additional five seconds to complete the course.
The AKC Preferred National Agility Champion in the 4” division was an All-American dog known as “Logan” (PNAC MACH9 PACH6 Logan Lake Hope MXC2 MJG3 MXP15 MXPS2 MJP16 MJPS2 PAX6 XF T2B CGC), handled by Kim Barton of Johnstown, Ohio. The 8” division belonged to another mixed breed, “Charlie” (PACH Charlie VI RA MX MXJ MXPB MJPB PAX), handled by Lindy Luopa of Minneapolis, Minnesota. And in the remaining two divisions, Herding dogs drove their wins home, with 12” going to “Maizey” the Australian Cattle Dog (MACH11 Swan Song’s Kiss From Kiwi RA MXS3 MJS3 MXP MJP MXF T2B7), handled by Anne Swan of Santa Barbara, California, and 16” to “Knotch” the Border Collie (GCH CH OTCH MACH8 Darksides Kick’N It Up A Notch UDX OM2 BN RE PT MXC2 MJC2 MXP2 MJP MFB TQX T2B2 DS DJ), handled by Amber McCune of Bedford, New Hampshire.
Though the newly crowned AKC National Champions left Tulsa with enviable titles, any dog that competed at this high a level has bragging rights to spare. To underscore that point, this year the AKC awarded the second annual Patricia R. Krause “Soaring Eagle” Perpetual Memorial Trophy to Sharri Sibert and her Labrador Retriever, OTCH Sharrigans Purdy Birdie Boy Samson UDX9 OGM SH of Schoolcraft, Michigan.
The award is given to the 51st‐ranked dog at the end of the first day of competition, as recognition of that dog and handler’s efforts and as a reminder to never give up. The late Pat Krause, for whom the trophy is named, was a longtime Obedience judge and the founder of AKC Rally.
Rewatch the Action
Did you miss this year’s championships? You can watch reruns on demand at any time by going to AKC.tv on any device.