by Claire Parker

Let me introduce you to Cavalier King Charles Spaniel AGCH MACH30 Kayangee Dorothy Parker MXG8 PDS MJB10 PJS MFG TQX T2B5 CGC. Her friends call her Dot. She is lovingly owned and trained by the equally amazing Antonia Rotelle. This is the story of a Cavalier and her owner whose accomplishments in Agility put a bright spotlight on just how talented and capable our wonderful breed can be.

Background

I first discovered Dot at the AKC Agility Invitational in Orlando in December 2023 and was surprised (pleasantly) to see a Cavalier finishing first in its height division. Turns out, that win was two years in a row for Dot. It was time to get my head out of the “conformation sand” and learn about Cavaliers in the sport of Agility.  I reached out to Antonia for an education in choosing, training and motivating a Cavalier to perform at the top levels of agility. Here is what she said.

What Makes Dot Special?

“There are many things that make Dot special, not the least of which is her almost perfect structure. She is well balanced and just beautiful. Combine that with incredible drive, love for the sport and her “I can do anything” attitude and it has made for a once in a lifetime dog.“

Dot was bred by Georgann Kates. She is by GCH Chewcreek Three Amigos Dusty Bottoms owned by Trisha DePhillip and out of Kayangee Lily Rush.  As a puppy, she was smart, bold and a quick learner.

Weighing in at 12 pounds, this tri-colored girl has the conformation required for a top-performing agility dog. A true, natural stack. On the move, a long stride with good shoulder layback and balanced rear angulation. Dot has good length of rib with a short loin that gives her the strength of core that is so important for jumping. She also has excellent foot coordination. Proper structure is every bit as important in agility as it is in the conformation ring.

Dot has the personality of a winner. She walks into the ring with confidence and presence. She barks the entire time she runs the course with joy and enthusiasm. A strong work ethic and natural intelligence complete the package.

How Did You Start Dot’s Training?

“Cavaliers are sensitive souls and harsh criticism will shut them down. Mistakes are generally ignored, while the right moves are greeted with a big party. Fun for Dot is the key. She doesn’t like repetition and love snacks.”

Antonia brought Dot home when she was nine weeks old. The dog and handler team bonded from the first day. Foundation training began almost immediately with basic obedience (sit, down, stay) and self-control exercises. Dot was very food and toy motivated. If she saw it as a game, she was game to try it.

In agility, dogs must have a strong sense of where their feet are, so games that work each foot separately are important. Antonia used cavaletti exercises to help with body awareness, flexibility and timing. These exercises use a set of poles that are configurable, both on ground and elevated, in various patterns to work different muscles. Cavaletti, though sounding like it was invented for Cavaliers, comes from Italian meaning “little horse” and was developed by horse trainers. The methods have been successfully adapted for dog sport conditioning.

Games such as wobbleboard, skateboarding and ball play added additional physical skills. Antonia used techniques learned from the “Puppy Culture” program to build attention and situational thinking skills.

Dot also began to learn the language of agility. Directional commands and obstacle names. Voice, feet and hand signals. Learning to “see the line” of a course. At 15-months old, Dot was ready for her first agility trial. She won both her classes and this team hasn’t stopped since!

How Do You Keep Dot in Top Condition?

“I believe consistent conditioning along with a raw diet is one of the reasons my Cavaliers compete successfully well into their teens. Dot is almost ten years old and still heart clear with no signs of slowing down. Pansy, my first Cavalier, competed until she was fourteen.”

Antonia moved to Pennsylvania several years ago and purchased a property with two special features, a hill and a barn. The hill provides stamina-building exercise and contributes to a heart healthy lifestyle.  Mr. T, a 12-year-old Golden Retriever, leads her pack of ten Cavaliers up and down the hill multiple times a day. Such fun!

The 80’x100’ barn on the property has been converted into a training facility with room for a complete agility course (heaven!). Top performing agility dogs are well-conditioned athletes, and their preparation never stops. Dot gets one-on-one training time each week. This special time with Antonia is enthusiastically greeted with her tail a-wagging because training is all fun and games at the Rotelle barn.

Antonia and Dot also train with world team competitor Chris Ott who has worked with them since puppyhood and is credited with helping Antonia set high ambitions. Once, when discussing the Invitational breed medallion, Chris told her, “The breed medallion is great, but you and your dogs can aim higher. Aim to win the whole thing.”  At that point no Cavalier had ever finished better than 6th.  Antonia attributes much of her successes to Chris’ coaching and guidance.

Life is not all high-energy and fast-moving, though. Dot has her chill side. She is a certified therapy dog who seems to have a sense of who needs her. When at her therapy job, a gentle and cuddly soul is what you get. Dot seems to thrive on the dichotomy of it all.

What about Nutrition?

“A raw diet with targeted supplements and probiotics.”

Not surprisingly, Antonia is well-versed in canine nutrition and has done her research. All-Provide Beef is her current favorite raw diet with supplements tailored to the needs of each dog. She adds fish oils and probiotics. A fan of YuMOVE chews for joint support. For variety, she will occasionally throw in some kibble or homemade satin balls for if weight gain is needed. She also finds Dr. Judy Morgan’s nutritional philosophies and products beneficial.

Decoding Dot’s Name

“The Agility Grand Champion title is the most important in Dot’s name and the one I am most proud of.”

To those not competing in the sport, agility titles are a bit of a mystery. Here is Dot’s name decoded. It is interesting to note that a number after a title indicates the number of times the title has been achieved.

AGCH – Agility Grand Champion
MACH30 – Master Agility Champion
MXG8 – Master Gold Agility
PDS – Premier Agility Dog Silver
MJB10 – Master Bronze Jumper
PJS – Premier Jumpers Silver
MFG – Master Gold FAST
TQX – Triple Q Excellent
T2B5 – Time 2 Beat
CGC – Canine Good Citizen

What Next?

“Dot will continue to compete for as long as she is healthy enough and enjoying it. I hope that will be many years to come.”

Dot shows no signs of losing her competitive edge. This past weekend, Dot had the fastest time of all heights in her standard run of 34.4 seconds, outpacing even the Border Collies. That’s 4.85 yards per second. Wow!

Antonia has added the cold-laser coat from SpectraTherapy’s for calming and recovery at competitions. This laser comes in handy with her older dogs as well to treat heart and back conditions.

Dot cannot rest on her laurels, however. Her kennelmates are nipping at her heels. Take Zoom, for instance, PNAC MACH 10 PACH9 Kayangee Wishing Well Excuse My Dust MXG3 MJB4 MXP24 MXPB3 MJP27 MJPG3 PA X9 CGC. The PNAC stands for Preferred National Agility Champion and Zoom is the only Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to ever achieve this title. In 2023, the Top 6 Cavaliers in National Agility rankings were Antonia’s, with Dot finishing the year as Number One Cavalier.

Antonia has been hugely successful in agility with Cavaliers from Kayangee and Daisylane kennels. She is currently training her third generation from those bloodlines.

Final Thoughts from Antonia

“It is so important for people to realize that Cavaliers are not children in fur coats but really talented little dogs who love to be active! It helps their health so much and I believe they really enjoy being active and happy.

Author’s Note:

This article is an installment in the “Cavalier Lifestyle” series that highlights the role of knowledgeable breeding, quality nutrition and physical fitness in Cavalier health and longevity. This article was originally published in AKC Perspectives Magazine, March 2024.

Author’s Note:

This article is part of the “Cavalier Lifestyles,” series that highlight the role of knowledgeable breeding, quality nutrition and physical fitness in Cavalier health and longevity. It was first printed in AKC Perspectives Magazine, March 2024