Dog Agility Champ Represents Saint Mary's College

by Sanne Bergh, MFA in Creative Writing Student-Writer | February 21, 2022

McKenzie Minto '23 is the first Gael to participate in dog agility competitions with the Intercollegiate Dog Agility Association (IDAA), as Saint Mary's becomes the seventh university to join in the league.

“I love being able to represent Saint Mary’s,” Minto said, “because there’s not a lot of young, college-aged people that do this,” she said. “I can walk around [at competitions] and wear my SMC gear, and represent myself as a collegiate athlete.” 

Dog agility is a sport in which a handler leads his or her dog through unpracticed obstacle courses as quickly and accurately as possible. The sport fulfills dogs’ natural instincts to jump, weave, navigate, and run, and is a fabulous bonding activity for both handler and dog, not to mention great exercise, Minto points out. 

Originally from San Gabriel, Minto launched the Dog Agility Club Sport at Saint Mary’s this fall when she transferred from Loyola Marymount University. As a junior handler, Minto participated in the Open European Juniors, which brought her and Border collie Safari to Europe four times. Minto was in Florida last November for the U.S. Open, where she and Safari were top placers for the largest dog category. This means that they’ll be representing the United States at the World Agility Open in the Netherlands this upcoming May.

“I am the only competitor [with Saint Mary’s], but I encourage more people to join,” Minto said. “If [students] have dogs, I can help them learn agility.” Students with dogs of any age and any breed are welcome.

“IDAA is a start-up and is only a few years old, but I’m looking forward to what collegiate-level dog agility will be like in the coming years,” Minto said. 

She has been a longtime dog handler, and is on her third competition dog with Safari, who is six years old. Minto’s prolific career as a dog handler began when she was a small child, and she hasn’t stopped since. 

“I did start at eight years old, and it was an act of faith. My mom had signed up for herself, and through a turn of events, she unfortunately broke both of her heels, and I had to take her place at the agility classes, and the rest is history,” Minto said. 

An Accounting major, Minto hopes that dog agility can be incorporated into her future. 

“Safari is nearing the end of her career” Minto said, “but I hope to compete for the rest of my life.” With Safari’s retirement as a dog agility champ, Minto hopes to raise another Border collie to compete.  

For more information on joining the Dog Agility Club Sport, contact McKenzie Minto at