Westminster Kennel Club
2021 Westminster Dog Show Agility Competition, top moments and more
Westminster Kennel Club

2021 Westminster Dog Show Agility Competition, top moments and more

Updated Jun. 16, 2021 11:09 a.m. ET

The 2021 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is officially underway!

And this year's competition is already shaping up to be a wonderful show. 

Westminster, also known as "America's Dog Show", kicked things off at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, N.Y. on Friday in its first outdoor show ever. The action includes Breed Judging and Junior Showmanship Preliminaries as the best dogs in the country – a total of 2,500 dogs representing 209 breeds – compete for the highly coveted blue ribbon and title of Best in Show.


The weekend's first big event was the highly anticipated 8th Annual Masters Agility Championship, and FOX Sports' Charlotte Wilder – co-host of "The People's Sports Podcast" – gave an exclusive behind-the-scene sneak peak of the course on Thursday. 

The field was narrowed down from 350 dogs who participated in two rounds of agility preliminaries on Friday, to 50 finalists who competed in the big tent Saturday for the title of Masters Agility Champion.

The dogs climbed, balanced, jumped, weaved and sprinted their way over and through a series of obstacles on a course that they have never seen before – handlers and their dogs didn't get their first look at the course until 45 minutes before the event started. 

While the equipment is the same each year, the course layout is different for every dog show, so success will lie in the communication between the dog and their handler to guide them through the course without ever having done it before. And it's all trickier than you might imagine, as one dog's trainer discovered while taking an unfortunate fall.

Ripple’s handler falls during Westminster Dog Show agility competition, still celebrates after completing run

For the first time since 2017, a handler fell during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show agility competition. Ripple’s trainer, Daniel Haddy, fell trying to direct the Boston Terrier out of the tunnel section of the agility course. Despite the mistake, Ripple and Daniel finished the run and celebrated together afterward.

This year’s obstacles included the seesaw, pause table, open and closed tunnel, bar jumps, tire jump and fan-favorite weave poles. 

More than 300 dogs ranging from a Chihuahua to a Rottweiler competed in the timed obstacle course, and Border Collies were the top-represented breed in this year's agility challenge with 59 entries. Last year, P!nk the Border Collie won it all after finishing the course in under 30 seconds!

There are five classes that are divided by jump heights in order to make the competition equal between the different sizes of dogs. They were:

8" Class – dogs up to 11" at the shoulder
12" Class – dogs over 11" and up to 14" at the shoulder
16" Class – dogs over 14" and up to 18" at the shoulder
20" Class – dogs over 18" and up to 22" at the shoulder
24" Class – dogs over 22" at the shoulder

First up on Saturday was the 16" Class, where Boss the Shetland Sheepdog dominated the competition with a winning time of 31.78 seconds. 

Next up were the little dogs in the 8" Class, and Lark the Papillon topped the leaderboard at 33.51 seconds. 

The big dogs were up next, and Doogie the Border Collie took the top spot in the 24" Class with a 36.88-second performance, but it was a tight race as Cannon the Boxer came in second place just .22 seconds behind.

Doogie the Border Collie's spectacular run clinches the 24-inch class

Doogie the Border Collie went first in the 24-inch group and ended up having the best run, winning the class with a time of 36.88 at the 2021 Westminster Kennel Dog Show.

In the 12" Class, Pre the Poodle won with an impressive time of 30.41 seconds. 

Also in that class was Plop, an 8-year-old Australian cattle dog mix rescue who had major surgery a mere 15 months ago. Plop came in fourth with a time of 37.73 seconds, but he won The Comeback Dog of the Year – a special award for the top mixed-breed dog. (The agility challenge is separate from Best in Show and open to both purebred and mixed-breed dogs.)

Last but not least, it was Verb the Border Collie who not only won the 20" Class with a time of 31.30 seconds but beat out the other four winners and took home the 2021 Masters Agility Champion trophy for the second time in three years. Verb and her handler Perry DeWitt of Wyncote, Pennsylvania also won the title in 2019 with a time of 32.05 seconds, and Verb certainly lived up to his name again this time around.

Also in the  20" Class was Mr. T the Golden Retriever, who came in fourth place, but he had the crowd going wild nonetheless with arguably the best weave poles of the competition. 

With the agility competition in the books, it was on to the first night of Group judging. Breed Judging in the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups wrapped up Saturday afternoon, and the top dogs competed against other breeds in their respective group on in order to advance to the Best in Show judging on Sunday. 

The Hound Group is the largest of the four groups judged on night one with 35 breeds entered, followed by Herding (32), Toy (21) and Non-Sporting (21). 

Saturday's first winner was new mom Bourbon the Whippet – who won Reserve Best in Show last year – for the Hound Group, followed by the Bluetick Coonhound, Redbone Coonhound and Harrier. Cheers!

Next was the Toy Group. The 2019 and 2020 winner Bono was back again this year, but it was Wasabi the Pekingese who took the Group prize this year and advances to the Best in Show judging for the second time in his show-dog career – Wasabi and handler David Fitzpatrick won Best in Show back in 2012 at just 18 months old in one of the largest WKC Shows with over 5,200 dogs.

Up next was the Non-Sporting Group, and Mathew the French Bulldog stole the hearts of the crowd and Frenchie lovers everywhere. Remember Bourbon, the Hound Group winner? Well, Mathew's handler is the husband of Bourbon's handler. Now that's what you call a family affair.

The Herding Group was the last to show, and Connor the Old English Sheepdog and his handler Colton took home the last win of the night. Connor beat out the Puli, Mini American Shepherd and German Shepherd – the all-time winningest breed of the Herding Group – for the top spot. 

And did we mention his hair? 12/10.

Here are more top moments from Saturday's action. 

The Belgian Laekenois and Biewer Terrier made history with their Westminster Dog Show debut. They are two of the four new AKC-recognized breeds – along with Barbet and Dogo Argentino – participating in Westminster weekend for the first time. 

And, keep an eye out for three-year-old Plum the Retriever, a beloved New York City cancer center therapy dog who will compete in the Sporting Group on Sunday. 

If you want to get in on the action, all you have to do is snap a picture of your dog watching the show and share it on social media with the Westminster weekend official hashtag for the chance to be featured.

Four of the seven finalists have now been chosen, and the competition continues Sunday, with the Masters Obedience Championship, followed by judging of the Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups and Best in Show. The action will be broadcast on FS1 from 1:30-4 p.m ET and on FOX from 7:30-11 p.m. ET.


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