What is dog agility?
Agility is an exciting fast paced sport for dogs. The course is an obstacle circuit that dogs have to complete as quickly and accurately as possible. This canine sport is increasing in popularity undoubtedly due in part to the excellent coverage of the annual Crufts competition.
Unlike dog showing, agility is not breed specific. For competition dogs are usually divided into three groups based on size. The Westie competes in the small dog class. Agility competitions are often run under the Kennel Club banner so dogs must be registered on the Kennel Club Activity register. Dogs do not have to be breed registered.
Agility training and competition is based on a circuit of obstacles which the handler (owner) has to help the dog to navigate by voice command. To start training dogs have to be 12 months old and for a Kennel Club show they can’t compete until 18 months old. This is to ensure that the dog’s bones and joints are fully developed and strong enough to withstand the training and competition.
Agility is fast paced and athletic for both you and your Westie! Training takes patience and practice. To start join a club and attend training sessions. You can buy agility equipment for your garden but to replicate the competition environment club training would be better. Agility is a friendly pastime and a great way of meeting new friends.
The Agility Course
The course will have about twenty obstacles including jumps, tunnels (tubes), weaving poles, ramps, hoops and often a sea saw. If your Westie refuses an obstacle then a penalty is applied. The event scoring and placings is based on speed and accuracy. There are often two circuits – one with jumps and one without. Each class follows the same circuit but the jumps are adjusted to suit the size of the dogs in the group.
There is no doubt agility can be tremendous fun which may suit the Westies character. Dogs need to be strong and athletic and must work well with their owner. The Westies desire to please their owner will certainly help.
There are plenty of clubs scattered across the UK and events take place during the summer months. More information can be found of the Kennel Club website.
Flyball for Westies
If your Westie loves to run but is not so good at navigating obstacles you could consider Flyball. The sport originated in the USA but is now enjoyed throughout the world. Flyball relies on great teamwork. The format is a two team head to head relay rice with hurdles and a spring box. Each dog runs the length of the course (normally around 15 metres) clearing 4 hurdles on the way. At the spring box the ball is released for the dog to collect and run home. The next dog then repeats until all four dogs have finished the course. The fastest, most accurate team win. Competition formats vary but are often a ’round robin’ followed by elimination. The hurdles height is determined by the size of the smallest dog on the team.
For more information visit the British Flyball Association.