Agility is the fastest growing dog sport in North America, England, and Europe.
It is a unique sport designed to showcase canine agility, speed and dog/handler teamwork.
It is very much a team effort. It is a challenging activity and Westies are able to excel in this sport and an increasing number are involved in the sport. It is a sport that anyone young or old can do. We have seen participants from age from 7 to 70’s.
Your dog will need some preliminary obedience work to start agility training. These obedience skills are good for any dog to have and Westies in particular do need some obedience training to be good companion dogs. A basic knowledge and skills in sit, stay, and come are needed as well as good socialization skills. In agility class you will work with your dogs off leash in practice sessions part of the time and there will be other dogs in the class.
Obstacles include tunnels, tires that the dog must jump through, weave poles, narrow walkways the dog must negotiate, a 5 foot high "A frame" the dog must climb up and over, a see-saw the dog must climb on and balance until it rocks down on the other side, and many different types of jumps. Agility equipment is designed to be appealing to the eye, but also safe for the dogs.
Agility is very much a team sport. The handler must learn to effectively communicate the course and obstacles that the dog will take. Attending agility classes is a learning experience for both dog and their handler. Westies are very smart and most of them want to please their owners. Westies enjoy the activity of working with their handler and getting lots of exercise for the energy that most of them have. Learning together can be a huge bonding experience for you and your Westies.
There are a lot of Agility schools in the metroplex now and since weekly lessons are required, it would be best to find one that is not to far from where you live. Make an appointment to visit one and talk to the instructor. You want to look for an instructor who believes strongly in positive reinforcement and emphasizes having fun with your dog. Most instructors encourage treat based rewards and a lot of dogs enjoy playing with a toy or ball for their reward. Lots of praise should be strongly encouraged and harsh words for not performing should never be used.
You want agility to be fun for you and your dog.
If you decide that you and your dog like agility there are a lot of agility trials held in the metroplex. Most people will need about a year of training before entering trials. I would suggest that you visit trials a couple of times to see if this is something that you would like to work toward.
The nice things about the trials is that you are not really competing with other people and their dogs so much as you are trying to achieve your own goals. Ribbons are awarded for qualifying runs no matter how you place in the scoring. At the novice level, a few errors are allowed to receive a qualifying run. You will find that other people are pulling for you to have a good run in the ring.
Success is not dependent on how you place against other teams but how well you and your dog have performed in your run.
We have made a lot of friends both in class and at the trials and every one always wishes you the best of luck.
It does require training with an experienced agility instructor and there are quite a few agility schools in the metroplex area which offer this training. It is not however, a sport which you can learn in a few weeks. It takes a time and money commitment to devote to weekly classes and additional practice in your own yard. Fortunately, Westies don’t need a large area for practice purposes. A few jumps and perhaps some other equipment in your backyard would provide enough for short practices sessions a few times a week. You don’t need to invest in this equipment right away. I would suggest taking classes for a couple of months to see how much you and your Westie enjoy doing agility together.