West Highland White Terriers are energetic dogs that love nothing more than playing with their families. These intelligent pets are versatile enough that they have excelled in a number of sporting events, which are a great way for handlers and their dogs to train and work towards the goal of competition. Obedience trials are a popular event for many breeds, and Westies are no exception. According to the West Highland White Terriers Club of America, Westies have earned over 900 Champion Dog titles over the years, not to mention a significant number of Companion Dog Excellent and Utility Dog titles. In this article, we'll learn what an Obedience Trial is, and how you can get involved in this exciting sport.
What is an Obedience Trial?
In an Obedience Trial, a dog and his handler work together to perform a set of predetermined tasks. These tasks are done in a highly stylized manner, and involve more than the typical commands of sit, stay and come. Dogs must perform the tasks off leash and respond quickly and without distraction to their handlers.
Obedience Trials are offered by several organizations, including the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, as well as the West Highland White Terriers Club of America, which offers an Obedience Trial at their annual Specialty Show. Obedience competitions are generally offered in three levels - Novice, Open (intermediate) and Utility (advanced).
Some of the tasks in an Obedience Trial include Recall, in which a handler will leave the dog at one side of a field, cross the field, and at the signal of the judge, call the dog to come, who must come quickly and sit just in front of the handler; Drop and Recall, open to those at the Open level, which is the same as Recall but the dog must drop to a lying position at the signal of the handler; Heel, in which the handler must walk in a predetermined pattern with the dog in heel position at all times; Long Sit and Long Down, in which the dog must stay in a sitting or lying position, often without the handler in sight, for a predetermined period of time; and several Retrieve tasks, in which the dog must retrieve an object either clearly thrown on the field or behind a wall that the dog must jump over, according to class.
Training Your Westie for Obedience Trials
Training towards an Obedience event can start very early in a Westie's life simply by enrolling in a Puppy Kindergarten or obedience class to learn the basic tasks of sit, stay and come. If you've decided that your Westie is capable of learning the commands and wish to continue, the best next step is to attend an Obedience Trial, to see how they work in person and maybe even talk to a few handlers. Many local all-breed clubs offer classes in training for Obedience, and it may be worth your while to join a club near you to take advantage of the classes they offer. Contact the AKC or the UKC for more information about clubs and training in your area.