ALWAYS ALERT: Edge and Sue relax at the Whakatane riverbank amphitheatre.

AUSTRALIAN working kelpie, Edge, and owner Sue Whitwell have New Zealand’s canine judges’ attention.

Four-year-old Edge has just taken out a national title, winning the Maxi (largest dogs) section of the National Agility Link Association’s (NALA) 2019 competition.

The national interclub competition is run monthly with all participating clubs competing on the same measured course plan laid out within their own club grounds, and results are collected over the course of the year.

The Eastern Bay of Plenty Dog Obedience Club made a strong standing this year with the club overall earning second place in division one, and with Edge and Sue taking first place.

But the winning pair’s success hasn’t ended there.

Edge and Sue will be heading to Cromwell next month to compete in the 2019 New Zealand Dog Agility Championships, a top-level event featuring both agility and jumper sections, which draws entries from Australia and further afield.

Edge and Sue have plenty at stake. Having competed at New Zealand Dog Agility events throughout the year, the pair are just “two challenges off Edge becoming New Zealand champion grade A jumper, and Sue says achieving those two challenges in Cromwell is the goal.

But despite the significance of the event, Sue says she won’t be feeling too anxious going into the ring. “I don’t really get nervous. I have full confidence in Edge. He just loves it and the only concern is holding him back at the start because as soon as he gets in there, he wants to get going.”

Describing her black-and-tan strong-eyed working dog as “a big pink marshmallow,” it’s clear that Sue and her dog enjoy a strong and close working relationship. “He’s my heart dog,” says Sue, who is the manager at Whakatane SPCA. “He’s 25 kilograms of raw power and intelligence and he’s an awesome, awesome dog.”

Sue has been competing with agility dogs for the past seven years. Firstly, with her miniature schnauzer who no longer takes to the ring, and now, with Edge.

“Competing is all about the relationship between you and your dog, and about fun,” she says. “It’s about doing something together that you both love and enjoy. And Edge certainly loves it.”

Competing in Cromwell, the pair will also be representing zone two – one of five regional zones throughout the country. Edge will be competing in the intermediate agility and senior section, as well as in jumpers, grade A.

Sue says she is looking forward to the event and feels extremely grateful for the encouragement and support of the EBOP Dog Obedience Club.

The club holds regular evening classes in Whakatane ranging through essential skills, canine good basics and canine good citizen.

Club secretary Una Forrestor says all courses are ratified by Dogs NZ, with trainers holding a nationally recognised qualification.

Dogs 12 months and older who have completed some of the courses are able to continue on to agility training if desired.

For further information, phone Una on 027 4790 027.

By Lorraine Wilson