A few days ago, the list was released of all of the dogs eligible for the 2021 AKC Rally National Championship, also referred to as the RNC. I was very pleased to see and announce, that both Zap and Tesla have earned eligibility!
For the 2021 RNC, the biggest change is that due to the 2020 pandemic, AKC started a virtual rally title earning program for rally novice and rally intermediate. AKC, for the 2021 RNC, is allowing scores from the virtual rally program to go towards eligibility, but it has been stated that for 2022 they will not allow those scores to contribute to the needed scores for eligibility. To earn eligibility, dogs need to earn 3 qualifying scores with scores above a 93 (out of 100) in a certain level. The dog will only be eligible at the highest level that they have earned those scores. For the Championship class, dogs need to have earned their Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE) title and have at least 3 scores of 93 or above in the Advanced B, Excellent B and Master classes. For more information on the eligibility requirements, you can go to: https://s3.amazonaws.com/cdn-origin-etr.akc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/08112720/2021-Rally-National-Championship-Criteria_v3.pdf.
For the 2021 RNC, Zap earned eligibility to compete in the Novice level. Zap earned her AKC Rally Novice title virtually during the middle of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. She had earned scores of 94, 95, & 97 under judges Bob Withers, Alvin Eng, & Mary Higdem through the virtual program. Because I was aware of the eligibility requirements for the 2021 RNC, I knew ahead of time that Zap should be eligible, but it was still exciting to see it confirmed in print. As to whether I would take Zap to the RNC would be another consideration. While virtual rally does have its own set of challenges, a big event like the RNC would be a huge challenge that I would need to be sure Zap would be ready for before even considering entering her. When we entered for our virtual titles, I hadn't actually done a lot of formal rally training with her yet, just some foundation work and when I found myself in quarantine, it seemed like the best time to at least try and see where we are at. I would need to spend more time focusing on rally skills and distraction training with Zap and then see how she does in a live trial environment in some of the upper levels before I would consider entering her in the RNC. Because we have been so focused on scentwork, that may not be something we focus on with enough time to make a decision about the RNC. But either way, I was still proud of her working hard enough to even be eligible.
For the 2021 RNC, Tesla earned eligibility in the Championship class, which is the highest level they can compete. For 2021, we have been working towards Tesla's RACH with the limited trials we have been able to attend, so we definitely qualified. Tesla typically earns scores in the upper 90s to 100 in Advanced B and Excellent B, with Excellent B being the class she seems to enjoy the most and perform the best in. Master is still a bit of a challenge for her, but she has earned plenty of scores that make her eligible for RNC. For the 2020 RNC, Tesla earned eligibility in the Excellent class and my goal was to go with her, but when the entry fees were coming due, the pandemic had started, events were getting canceled I had entered in, some without refunding fees, and I wasn't sure the event would even be held, so I didn't enter. The event ended up getting postponed and running later in 2020, so I do wish a teeny bit I had entered Tesla, but since it still was going on during a pandemic, maybe it was good that we didn't. So for the 2021 RNC, a decision would still need to be made if I would enter her. If she was a stronger competitor in the Master class, it would be a no-brainer. Because her skills at the Master level could be better, I will have to just wait and see where she is when the time to enter comes. My main goal with her for 2021 is actually earning her RACH, which we are very close to; she just needs a few more Master points and we will have earned it after having earned all the needed QQQs to earn that title. So, in terms of Tesla going to the 2021 RNC, that is TBD.
I did have someone ask me about Phoenix and if she earned eligibility or why she didn't. After someone had asked and I thought about it, I realized that I hadn't entered Phoenix into ANY rally trials in 2020 in AKC or UKC. For 2020, the main focus with Phoenix was on dock diving and doing some virtual disc events, but that was about it for her. I may get back into some rally stuff with her in 2021, but I may not since Rally isn't her favorite activity out of all the ones we compete or participate in. So, Phoenix didn't earn eligibility simply because she didn't even participate in 2020, ha!
Lightning Round Aussies making an appearance at the 2021 AKC Rally National Championship is a possibility, but we will certainly have to wait and see on what decision I decide to make about it. The other quandary is even getting accepted since there are many eligible and they have talked about doing a drawing to see who gets to enter first, which may result in me not getting to enter simply if it fills up quickly. Either way, I am proud of my girls for what we were able to accomplish in an unusual 2020 season! Stay tuned for more info on the RNC!