American Kennel Club Junior Competitors Train in Maple Grove for World Championship
Three Minnesotans are training with their K-9 companions in Maple Grove for the American Kennel Club’s Junior Open Agility World Championship competition this summer in England.
“It doesn’t feel like a job or work, it’s just pure fun,” said Ava Gardner, who will be competing with her sheltie Merlee. “It’s playing with your best friend, what could be better than that.”
Gardner has competed in a world competition before, last year in Finland.
“At this level, there’s no room for mistakes,” said Gardner. “You see a lot of course work. You see dogs doing a couple of jumps, a couple of obstacles, and the handlers be really excited about the dogs doing it correctly and getting their reward.”
Gardner says the training revolves around a lot of positive reinforcement. She meets at Cloud 9 Dog Training in Maple Grove with two other Minnesota junior competitors, who will be traveling to world competition for the first time.
“I’m so excited,” said Brigit Mark, a student at Maple Grove Senior High. “I didn’t think I would ever get to this point.”
Mark decided she wanted to start training for dog agility shows after she gave up dance. She met Spice, a sheltie who was already trained, and decided to start practicing.
“She was a very seasoned dog before I started running her, so she knew what to do,” said Mark. “I was also experienced so I knew what to do as well.”
Ava Rawlings is the youngest junior competitor at the age of 12. She’ll be competing with her schnauzer Aksel.
“I think it’s really fun because you are bonding with your dog and they are understanding you more and it’s really fun,” said Rawlings. “You have to teach your dog how to do a lot of things, and you have to teach yourself how to do things. It’s hard.”