Westies and Their Games
Most dogs, including Westies, find the sport of Agility fun and exciting. It is a real confidence builder and Westies are quick to learn the obstacles. It helps to have a good obedience background, as the dog must run the course off leash. Agility is divided up into four levels of competition, Novice, Open, Excellent and Preferred. The last level allows the dog to jump at the height at which it is most comfortable. In 2003, the AKC reports that 160 Agility titles were earned by Westies nationwide.
Obedience is a must for all Westies. While it teaches manners as well as demonstrates your control over your Westie’s actions, it also demonstrates the bond you have with your Westie since it requires their careful attention to you and your actions. Obedience is also divided up into three levels, Novice, Open and Utility and the level of difficulty increases at each level. In Novice the dog is required to heel both on and off leash, come when called and stay on command. By the time Westie and handler reach Utility, everything is off leash, requires hand signals, jumping and scent recognition. Thirty-three Westies nationwide earned a title in obedience in 2003 according to the AKC.
Rally Obedience requires dog and owner to negotiate a course lined with 10 to 20 directional signs indicating what tasks should be completed. The handler must read the sign at each station as she/he and the dog approach, and execute the task. There is a 15-minute run-through, similar to agility competitions, where the handler can get familiar with the course prior to the start of competition. The biggest difference between Rally and traditional obedience competitions is that the handler can have a running dialogue with the dog through out the course, encouraging the dog to stay at heel at the first two levels of competition. Rally becomes a regular class event with titles to be earned beginning in January 2005.
Earthdog trials test the Westie’s ability to “go to ground” to locate prey. The Westie is required to enter an underground tunnel, locate the caged rats at the end, make known to his handler that he has found the prey by barking and/ or digging, and give up the pursuit when required. There are three levels of competition Junior, Senior and Master, with an Introduction to Quarry event as a non-regular class to test aptitude. Tunnels at each level become more complex and require the dog to “think” about what he must do. In 2003, 35 Westies nationwide earned an Earthdog title, but many more enjoyed the fresh air and fun of the hunt.
Like Earthdog, tracking tests assess a dog’s natural abilities paired with some training in the art of tracking. Tracking involves the dog using its nose to follow a human scent line to locate specific items in a non-competitive setting. Westie owners get involved in tracking for a variety of reasons, but the fact that it is an outdoor activity shared with your dog is a primary reason. According to the AKC, 13 Westies nationwide earned their Tracking Dog title in 2003 and one Westie earned his Tracking Dog Excellent title.