Teenage dog agility champion picked to represent GB team

Hot on the heels of their Crufts win, a working sheepdog from Billinghay and her owner have been selected to represent Team GB as part of the Young Kennel Club Junior Agility team at the Junior Open World Championships.

Sophie Atkinsoni and Maddie, from Billinghay, are going to the Junior dog agility world championships with the GB team (Pictured here when they won at Crufts two years ago. Photo: Flick.digital 2020.
Sophie Atkinsoni and Maddie, from Billinghay, are going to the Junior dog agility world championships with the GB team (Pictured here when they won at Crufts two years ago. Photo: Flick.digital 2020.

Maddie, an eight year old working sheepdog, and Sophie Atkinson, 16, won agility dog reserve champion at Crufts last month.

This followed her winning the same event in 2020 when Crufts was last held

They will join the young GB team heading to the Junior Open World Championships in Finland between July 14-17 after Maddie and Sophie attended a formal selection “try-out” in Tamworth, Staffordshire, in February, followed by a selection competition in March.

Sophie first took up agility aged 11, competing across the East Midlands and is now 16, studying for her GCSEs at St George’s Academy in Sleaford.

She said: “I am very excited to have achieved an early goal that I set myself when I became interested in dog agility when I started competing. It has taken a great deal of effort and dedication to get this far but it is something which I am very proud of.

“To be representing GB with Maddie at what will be the first World Junior Championships (previously it was designated as the Junior European Agility Championships) and to travel overseas to compete at agility against other countries will be something very special indeed.”

After the disappointment of the 2020 selection being cancelled due to the pandemic, it has been a nerve racking two-year wait. “It has been a very busy and intense few weeks with first our success at Crufts followed by the Team GB selection,” said Sophie.

Sophie handles three border collies competitively and trains with at least one of them two hours a day at home.

She attends regular agility training sessions at least twice a week as well as workshops with GB senior agility handlers. She also trains her younger dog (12 months old) in preparation for hopefully a successful agility career when he begins competing.

Sophie will need to self-fund her travel and accommodation for Finland and is looking to fund raise or discuss sponsorship by local businesses.