Angie Benacquisto, the first individual to win in two regular class heights at the AKC National Agility Championship, was kind enough to chat with me about her triumph at this year’s event in Reno, Nevada.
Angie’s dog Sundae, a three-year-old border collie/rat terrier mix, is the 2017 returning AKC Agility champion that claimed victory in the 12-inch division. Echo, a seven-year-old border collie, outperformed himself in the 24-inch division.
Question: Do your dogs come from a bloodline of other agility champions?
Angie’s answer: Sundae comes from a Sports performance dog breeder—Julie Jenkins from Quicksilver Dogs.
Echo also comes from a Sports performance breeder—Tiffany Salmon from TNT Border Collies.
Question: How old were your dogs when they first started competing?
Angie’s answer: Sundae was 15 months old, and Echo was 18 months old.
Question: What other competitions have the dogs been to and won?
Angie’s answer: Sundae won the US Open National final in 2017 and the US Open Speedstakes in 2016.
Echo won the US Open National in 2016.
Question: What has the journey been like leading up to you and your dogs preparing to compete at AKC?
Angie’s answer: Echo was in rehab at Pawsitive Steps for most of last year. He had a torn bicep tendon, so the spring and summer were spent rehabbing. We then had a lot of qualifiers to meet to get to Reno, but he did get qualified remarkably quickly.
As for Sundae, we did very little training this winter due to the weather in Michigan. We primarily focused on teamwork and connection.
Question: What was it like to show up to the event and get ready to compete?
Angie’s answer: My height group had some amazing competitors, especially in the 12” class. Both classes (24” and 12”) had amazing competitors and dogs. It is a privilege to compete with them.
Question: Did you have a place to warm up with your dogs in advance?
Angie’s answer: They had warm-up runs on Friday. I always run the course not like a practice but as if it were real. It keeps me and my dogs focused. We also had a jump we could warm up with prior to runs.
Question: Did you give your dogs any 1TDC™ before the event?
Angie’s answer: Yes! They get it every day because it is awesome. I have seen firsthand what it did for my older dog Duncan. It brought back the spunk he had when he was nine years old. I know what it does for the joints and muscles of my dogs, protecting them in their youth.
Question: What benefit do you see from 1TDC™ as it relates to your dogs competing in agility?
Angie’s answer: I believe it helps them keep at top performance. Echo’s jumping was solid and strong. My dogs are very explosive, and I believe it helps them recover faster.
Even one of the massage therapists, Monica Bush, mentioned how Echo’s muscles were like butter. She could not believe there was not even one single trigger on this dog!
Sundae also felt great all weekend.
Question: Were the courses more difficult than other events you’ve competed at?
Angie’s answer: The courses had some challenging components. Discriminations were a little tough (i.e., when the dog does not take the obvious obstacles).
Question: What was the most difficult part of the course?
Angie’s answer: For both Sundae and Echo, it was the back side after the tunnel.
Question: What was the easiest part of the course?
Angie’s answer: I thought the opening went the easiest for my dogs. I did not hang out at the second jump. My dogs have a great wrapping “Send and Go.” It is a skill I have learned from Susan Garrett’s online training (H360).
Question: What reward did you give your dogs for winning?
Question: Was anyone there as a spectator that you knew and was there to see you and your dogs win?
Angie’s answer: Mike, my husband. He is the best. He is so supportive.
Question: How excited was he when you won?
Angie’s answer: Pure joy! He was just ecstatic.
Question: You won AKC—now what?
Angie’s answer: Focus on preparing for the European Open in Austria. The weather is warming up and I can start practicing outside in my beautiful field.
Question: Do you have advice for other competitors?
Angie’s answer: Run the dog that you have according to their strengths and weaknesses. Focus on you and your dog, not what other competitors are doing. Run the best with you and your dog.
Question: Do you think 1TDC™ is helping your dogs have a longer agility career?
Angie’s answer: Yes, it helps my dogs stay in the game longer and more comfortably. Our dogs endure a lot in the sport they love.
Question: Would you recommend 1TDC™ to other agility competitors?
Angie’s answer: Yes!
The takeaway: Angie is obviously passionate about canine sports, and she has strong, healthy dogs that have a lot of fun competing too. Since there’s no way of knowing how many years a dog has left to take part in agility, Angie encourages handlers to enjoy every run they get with their four-legged companions.