Search Menu

Some dogs prefer to spend their golden years snoozing on the couch. While dogs tend to slow down with age, they still need exercise and mental stimulation, and the senior dogs competing at the 2023 National Agility Championship redefine what it means to be a “senior” dog entirely.

With veterinarian approval, you and your older dog can still enjoy participating in dog sports. And if you ask the owner of the oldest dog competing at the Championship, there’s nothing more rewarding than reaching new milestones with your senior dog.

Just how old are the oldest canine competitors at this year’s event? Meet Kanga, Little Liedbald’s 15-year-old Australian Cattle Dog. For the past five years, Kanga has been to AKC Agility Invitationals and has been the number one Australian Cattle Dog in Agility in the nation, competing in the Preferred Class with a jump height of 12 inches.

Liedblad’s Australian Cattle Dog Journey

By the early 2000s, Liedblad was well into agility, obedience, and AKC Rally with her two Australian Cattle Dogs, Suture and Foops. Suture, who Liedblad describes as her “heart dog,” earned her first agility title back in 2005.

When Liedblad got back from agility trials in 2009, she stopped to meet a 10-month-old Australian Cattle Dog. Initially, the owner of the dog wasn’t sure about the match since ACDs are a challenging breed to own, especially for people who are first-time dog owners. But as soon as he learned about Liedblad’s experience with training and owning these sturdy and intelligent dogs, he knew she would be a good fit for the dog that she ended up calling Kanga.

Dog climbing on rock
Little Liedblad
Kanga is not Little’s first Australian Cattle Dog, but she is her most decorated.

It didn’t take long for Kanga and Liedblad to bond. “As soon as I got out of my car, this little black, grey cattle dog came tearing at me, barking her head off,” Liedblad recalls. “My immediate response was to sit down on the ground, and she jumped in my lap and started kissing me all over.”

With this new addition to her pack, Liedblad set her sights on new goals, telling Kanga “you’re going to have to do 10 times better than Suture.” Kanga proved she was up to the challenge, excelling across all agility classes and earning three Agility Grand Champion titles.

In 2020, Kanga and a second dog of Liedblad’s went to AKC Agility Invitationals. That same year, Kanga placed eighth in her jump height category.

Get to Know Kanga, Age 15

Kanga was born on February 11, 2008. As a puppy, Kanga was “very shy and frightened by just about everything,” Liedblad says. “Her fears were very ingrained, so I spent the next two years getting her comfortable with other people.”

At first, Kanga didn’t like anyone being in her space, including Liedblad. “She would sometimes bite, or jump up and heel when she wasn’t happy with the job I did,” Liedblad says. “But eventually we got over that and learned to play, and our dance is very symmetrical today.”

Through training and positive reinforcement, Kanga overcame her fears and went on to earn several obedience and AKC Rally titles. Often, they would compete three to four times a month.

Agility Became Kanga’s Sport

“Kanga did not like being submissive and lying down,” Liedblad says. “When she had to drop on recall, she would put her butt up in the air and give the cutest little bow.”

Once Kanga entered agility trials, she developed a habit of barking excessively which ruled out competing in obedience. For a while, she and Kanga would compete in six classes a day, and there were at least half a dozen times in every class when she qualified during a trial.

Dog sitting in front of banner and ribbon
Little Liedblad
Kanga with one of her ribbons after winning big.

After teaching Kanga to do the weave poles using toys, Liedblad noticed something curious at their next agility trial. “When Kanga hit the last pole, she would jump up in the air as high as she possibly could,” Liedblad says. “And that became one of her signature moves for a long time.”

Competing at NAC

“I wasn’t planning on taking Kanga to Nationals because she is getting toward the end of her career and isn’t as spry as she used to be,” Liedblad says. But when Liedblad discovered that her husband’s Border Collie Shackle was eligible, she knew she had to bring Kanga along to compete.

Even though she and Shackle haven’t been trialing together for long, Liedblad is hopeful about his progress since he got his first double qualifying scores in 2021. Whether he and Kanga qualify or not, she is looking forward to both of them having fun in the ring.

Dog sitting in front of agility ribbons
Little Liedblad
Kanga poses with some of her many ribbons

“I would love to have a couple of clean rounds but mostly I want to hear Kanga barking and I want to see her tail wagging,” Liedblad says. “Kanga has heart, desire, and courage. I can’t say that I’m ready for her to be retired.”

Among Kanga’s many career highlights are 4 MACHS, 14.5 PACHS, a utility BDX title, and an RAE title. She got her 14th PACH at the age of 14 and is halfway to her number 15 PACH and third agility champion ribbon.

“Mostly it’s all up to her and how she feels,” Liedblad says. “Otherwise she can sit on the couch and get tummy rubs.”

Advice for Prospective Australian Cattle Dog Teams

“Some Australian Cattle Dogs are absolutely fabulous and can make wonderful family dogs, but they can be stubborn,” Liedblad says. “You have to be persistent and precise in training your cattle dog.”

If you’re considering agility, it’s wise to consider your family life and work obligations, as well as your goals for competing. “In order to become a good team, it takes five years of a relationship,” Liedblad says.

For her and Kanga, the time commitment is worth it. “Kanga went from a scared little puppy to a confident and cuddly friend and partner. I think she’s by far the best partner I’ve ever had in agility because we do make a really nice team.”

Head to to watch the 2023 AKC National Agility Championship on March 17, 18, and 19. Finals of the AKC National Agility Championship will air on the ESPN family of networks this spring.
Get Your Free AKC eBook

10 Essential Skills: Canine Good Citizen Test Items

Whether you are planning on getting your dog CGC certified or just looking to learn more about the test this e-book is a great place to start.
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download