Redneck Girls Race to the Front in the AKC Agility League’s Fall Season

Three black and white dogs

Training dogs and competing in the AKC Agility League have been a whirlwind of excitement for Gloria Krueger of New Market, Alabama.  

As team captain of Redneck Girls, the winners of the Regulation PhD Division in the Fall 2023 season of the Agility League, Krueger has proven her ability to master and train challenging courses that require running at fast speeds with minimal faults. She and teammate Jamie Lyle, of Powder Springs, Georgia, outperformed 25 teams and 128 dogs to win the division.  

Their team of four female Border Collies, ranging from two to nine years of age, took on the PhD course like pros after competing on the Fastest Dogs in Dixie team in the Regulation Senior Division in Spring 2023. Their handling finesse on the longer, more technical International Sweepstakes Class (ISC) courses of the PhD Division brought out the best in their dogs’ performances. 

“The PhD courses are definitely challenging and fun!” says Krueger, who owns The Canine Athlete, an outdoor agility training center, and who has competed in agility for about 15 years and put nine MACH titles on six dogs. 

The popularity of the AKC Agility League is catching. Teams of three to eight dogs train at their home facility and record their scores over six rounds. Captains provide encouragement and help work out trouble spots. The League offers a mix of jump heights and categories from regular to preferred, and the divisions include Freshman (Novice), Sophomore (Open), Senior (Masters) and PhD (ISC). 

“We have just begun our sixth season, Winter 2024, and it is our largest with 270 teams and 1,550 dogs,” says Penny Leigh, Director of the AKC Agility League. “The freshman level has been our fastest growing division. This is very encouraging, as a goal was to give beginning dogs and handlers the confidence to enter trials.” 

Krueger handled three of the team’s dogs. Her 2-year-old, named “Whoa-Nelly” (Barkham Asylum’s Crazy Horse AX AXJ), was No. 1 in the 20-inch regulation individual dog placement, and her 4-year-old, “SodaPop” (MACH Bram Stoker’s All That  
Fizzles MXB MJS XF T2B), took the No. 2 spot. Her 5-year-old, “The Kid” (Cordova Mall MX MXJ OF T2B ACT1 CG TKA), was No. 3 in the 16-inch regulation individual dog placement. 

The differences of the course sizes are notable. The Regular Senior Division courses vary from 150 to 156 yards, similar to the length of a football field, and the PhD Division courses are from 220 to 245 yards, double the size.   

The 12-week session featured new courses every other week, alternating between Standard and Jumpers with Weaves. Potential off-course pitfalls pushed Krueger to stay ahead of her dogs to overcome their running nuances. 

“Back side jumps required you to push the dog to the back of the jump, unlike a regular course where you take jumps in the front,” Krueger says. “If you are not fast enough, the dog will take the front side and you are off course.” 

With SodaPop, Krueger had to be ahead of the jump.  

“I call SodaPop my racehorse,” she says. “She is ridiculously smart. If we make a mistake on a course, it’s usually because I did not give her the cue in time.” 

Some of the Standard courses had a tunnel under the dog walk in which a handler had to send the dog through the tunnel and to the next obstacle independently, as the dog walk blocked the handler’s path.  

“Verbal cues definitely came in handy,” Krueger says. 

This maneuver was particularly demanding for The Kid. 

“I got The Kid as an adult dog, and she is definitely more challenging to run, partly because she has no impulse control,” Krueger says. “I have to stay in front of her on course at all times or she will just take any obstacle she sees.” 

The Jumpers with Weaves courses were designed with ample space between obstacles that called for the handler and dog to move fast and to bypass obstacles on the way to the correct one. If the handler is too slow getting to the next sequence, the dog could easily take the wrong obstacle. 

As her name implies, Whoa-Nelly was all about speed and getting ahead. 

“Whoa-Nelly is fast! I have got to hold on to those reins because if I lose my connection with her, I will lose control of her,” Krueger says. “I have to think quick, run fast, and tell her what to do from behind, as she will not wait for me.” 

The culmination of the year is the AKC Agility League Championship in August at Purina Farms in Gray Summit, Missouri. In 2023, Krueger’s team, the Fastest Dogs in Dixie, took second place in the Regular Senior Division. 

“I really like an in-person competition, so the Championship was my inspiration to join the AKC Agility League,” she says. “It was a lot of fun to meet all these teams from around the country in which we only knew their names and scores on paper.” 

Although Krueger has owned and trained a variety of dog breeds and mixed breeds, she has a passion for Border Collies. 

“When I got my first Border Collie, ‘PonyBoy’ (MACH PonyBoy’s Autumn Gold MXS MJS MXP2 MJP3 MJPB OF T2B3), in 2010, I went from running medium-speed dogs to a Ferrari with top-of-the-line power steering. I had to learn not only to run faster but to think faster,” Krueger says. “It took four years for us to get on the same page, but once we became a team, we were untouchable.” 

Krueger’s winning philosophy about training is rooted in teamwork, an essential element of agility. 

“My dogs are all obsessed with agility,” she says. “I thought it was their favorite thing to do, but I have realized my dogs love spending time with me regardless of the activity we do. Creating a bond takes work and commitment but is so rewarding once you have it.” 

Taking a break from the Winter 2024 season, Redneck Girls plan to compete in the spring and to take part in the AKC Agility League Championship in August.  

Congratulations to Gloria Krueger and Redneck Girls on a job well done!