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Yukon dogs impress at Puller championship

The First Canadian Dog Puller Championship wasn't just the first in Canada, it was the first in North America, and it happened Saturday in Whitehorse.

The First Canadian Dog Puller Championship wasn’t just the first in Canada, it was the first in North America, and it happened Saturday in Whitehorse.

A total of 26 dogs and their handlers helped introduce the relatively new sport, centred around the use of two soft but strong purple rings, to the continent in drizzly cold weather at Ecole Emilie-Tremblay.

“It went well. We had a lot of adversity with the weather,” said organizer Erika Rozsa-Atkinson. “It was the first one, so everything could be better ... But I think it went through very well. When you see the people with smiles on their faces and you see the dogs and their energy, and how they are performing - people were very excited.

“It was dog’s sport. There was no division - if you’re not a border collie or a Belgium malinois, then step aside. That does not exist in the sport.”

Saturday’s event featured a two-directional retrieve competition in which dogs chase the rings that roll and bounce energetically. In another competition dogs jumped to grab the ring in the trainer’s one hand, let go to grab the ring in the trainer’s other hand, over and over again in a set time, in a “vertical figure-eight.”

The event had two very special guests who also acted as judges.

Serhii Shkot, the inventor of the Dog Puller and Dog Puller Sport, and Varvara Petrenko, president of the International Federation of Dog Puller Sport, came from Kiev, Ukraine, for the event.

“I had the best impression of the championship and the preparation of dogs. It was amazing, they all showed really good results,” said Shkot, through a translator. “Even though the weather wasn’t perfect ... everyone did really good.

“The dogs were amazing. If we’re speaking about Yukon, my dream came true because I finally got to see the gold rush motherland. I knew the best dogs are here and they are real workaholics.”

“The championship was amazing and it was a spectacular show where both dogs and owners were working together as a team,” added Petrenko, through a translator. “There was a really high level of training. It is a big desire of people to be part of it, not only to come get the titles or the prizes.”

The Puller sport was developed in 2012 in the Ukraine. It has since been introduced to Japan, Hungry, Italy, Spain, and it’s “all over” Russia.

“The main goal was to create a sport for all kinds and all breeds of dogs,” said Shkot. “At this point in every dog sport, there are a couple of breeds that are leading. In our sport, any kind of dog, any breed, can take part, from the smallest ones to the biggest ones. And you do not need a lot of preparation or extensive training for that.”

Following the competition, which was hosted by Yukon’s Predator Dog Puller Sport Athletic League, a Puller grand champion was named.

Rhonda Clark and her seven-year-old Shiloh Shepherd Anubis took the trophy.

“The one that became grand champion wasn’t the fastest dog, wasn’t the youngest dog, it was a seven-year-old Shylow Shepherd who was in the heavyweight division,” said Rozsa-Atkinson. “She was chosen for her consistency, her abilities, her skills, the dog’s ability to perform.”

Cathy McNeil and her two-year-old Labrador mix, Barley, were named first runner-up. Second runner-up went to Tanya Gates and Eva, a seven-year-old German short hair pointer.

“(Shkot) believes the team we have in the Yukon is the right people,” said Rozsa-Atkinson, founder and president of the Predators league. “We put so much effort into this the last two and a half years and we’re not here for the points or the title or the ego, we are here because we want to have a relationship with our dog. We have the common denominator of loving our dogs and that is what he wants.”

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