The best dogs in AKC agility are heading to Tulsa this weekend for the National Agility Championship, and we’re taking a quick look at the 26” Regular class in this article.
Where have all the 26” dogs gone? In the past, this top heavy class has featured some of the best dogs in the country and nearly all of the international large dog team contenders. However, over the past 2 years, handlers have increasingly shown a willingness to run their dogs at their natural height—usually 20”. Why would you run your dog at 26” where only 6 spots are available for the finals instead of 20” where 21 spots are open for the finals (last year)? Handlers took on the 26” challenge because they wanted to showcase their dog at the 26” international jump height to give them a better chance and/or experience for team selection. This year, only 29 dogs entered at this height, a substantial drop over two years from the 60 dogs entered in 2014. Why? Handlers aren’t exactly sure how the NAC affects their chances of team selection and have watched other handlers win nationals at 20” and still find their way onto both international teams, and many are following suit.
The two-time defending champion at this height is Desiree Snelleman and her border collie Pace, who also finished 3rd place overall in the individual events at the 2014 FCI Agility World Championships. Border collies dominate the class again this year, with the only non-border collies being Decoy the labrador retriever, Melody the vizsla, and Rush the golden retriever. Kristie Moser and Mako are an up and coming team to watch in this height class. Other incredibly fast teams include Dudley Fontaine and Bird, Christine Leslie and Ninja and Melissa Henning, who will run two dogs at this height: Relay and Caper.
Notably, Pace is the only one of the 4 large dog world team members to jump 26” this year. Tori Self and Rev, and Lori Michaels and Solei will not compete while Rosanne DeMascio and Strafe, fresh off their win at Crufts in the International Invitational, has elected to run in the 20” class this year. Rosanne has twice won the 20” class at NAC with Drifter but has yet to accomplish the feat with Strafe at any height. Also absent is last year’s finals runner up, Fame(US), who will not be competing this year.