West Highland White Terrier Club of America

WHWTCA Spotlight on Performance - Spring 2005

Beth Bowling and her talented Westies, Max and Betz

A little bit about me....

I was honored when I was asked to submit my story since my experience with Westies is limited to a couple of years. However, I started showing my 1st Collie back in 1972 and have loved working with dogs ever since. I started out in 4-H with Missy. We showed for 4 years and never took anything less than a 2nd place. She was a great dog and I was hooked. I stopped showing dogs when I started showing horses. I was lucky to have supportive parents when it came to all those shows!

Growing up in the country we always had multiple dogs, but Collies were my favorite and had always been a part of my life. When I lost my last one in an unexpected accident at the vet, I was devastated, but since I was getting ready to start a family I decided to take a break from pets.

When my youngest son turned 4, I knew I could not wait any longer for a dog to be a part of my life again. After much research, I picked the Westie.

Along comes Max....

My search for a Westie started in 2001 and was a disappointing one. I had never owned a terrier before and I had two boys, 4 and 5. I think the only thing I had going for me as a "prospective" terrier owner was a fenced yard! While it is not something I recommend to anyone, I did finally start searching area newspapers for a puppy. I found a litter of pups and decided to take a look but the pup that initially caught my eye did not have the personality I wanted.

There was another puppy though that no one had selected. This was probably because one ear sort of flopped to the side and he was certainly far from the breed standard. This pup was so sweet, outgoing and wanted to interact with me. He used his incredible personality to convince me that he was the pup who was "meant" to go home with me.

"Max" chose me and stole my heart on the spot.

Max quickly became a part of our family and we all fell in love with him. Even when he weighed less than 3 lbs he would drag toys bigger than himself back to my boys to play. To this day, my son Christopher claims to have started Max's training early by teaching him to retrieve at the age of 7 weeks.

At around 5 months old I took Max to a local club for a puppy kindergarten class just expecting to socialize him. After only a couple of classes I could see I had one smart little boy and started thinking about competing with him in "performance events". My husband had no idea what he was agreeing to when he thought it was a good idea! Although I had done obedience, I saw agility on TV and wanted to give it a try.

So Max became my first agility dog and together we practiced everyday. I think the family knew this was going to get serious when PVC agility equipment that I built began to appear all over the house and yard.

No one could ask for a better first agility dog, Max tries very hard to do what I ask every time. Through all of my mistakes of learning the game of agility, my Max never gave up on me.

We entered a couple of trials before the Preferred class was offered and did very well, but I decided the lower jump height would be better for Max so we switched to Preferred. Since we started competing in Preferred, Max has qualified 70 times, with 68 first place finishes. He averages 25 to 30+ seconds "under" standard course time on Excellent B courses. His speed and consistency reflects the enthusiasm my little boy has for the game.

After joining the WHWTCA, we decided to work toward earning the Club's Versatility Awards. Max was already pretty good in obedience and quickly earned his Companion Dog (CD) title. A true highlight and honor for us was when my boy earned "High in Trial" (HIT) at The WHWTCA National Obedience Specialty (Montgomery County) in 2003.

Next, we turned our focus to tracking. I had never done tracking before, but it looked like fun and I wanted to give it a try. There were a couple of people I knew that had tracking experience. With their support and a couple of books, Max and I were on our way. Max again picked this up very quickly and was certified 3 months after we started.

We entered our first tracking test on Easter of 2004. Max did a wonderful job (in some pretty tough conditions) to earn his Tracking Dog (TD). A mere five months later, we entered our first Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) Trial. Max did a great job and should have earned his TDX if only his Mom/handler would have understood him a little better on the "last" turn. So, I guess you could say that Max "earned" his TDX; his Mom/handler did not.

I am still utterly amazed with the ability dogs have regarding scent and the thought process they possess. The first time Max and I came to a paved road while tracking he seemed a little confused, but within an instant after he "checked" both sides of the track Max decided to cross the road. He picked up the track scent and continued on.

Another time I laid a track only to come back several hours later and find that a team of football players had just finished practicing on the field right where I had laid Max's track. Max had to work a little harder to discern "his track scent" amidst all the other scents left by the football players. My boy made it through the entire track to his "glove".

Max is now 3 years old and has already earned 18 AKC titles: NA,NAJ,OAJ,NAP,NJP,OAP,OJP,AXP,AJP,MXP,MJP,MXP2,MJP2,CD,CDX,TD,VDC1,VCD2

Max's resume also includes numerous accomplishments, accolades, and awards:

HIT - Montgomery County 2003

5th place Montgomery County Most Versatile Westie 2003

3rd place Montgomery County Most Versatile Westie 2004

Top Westie Excellent A Agility 2003 - WHWTCA

1st place Queen City Dog Training Club Preferred Agility Dog - 2003

1st place Queen City Dog Training Club Preferred Agility Dog - 2004

WHWTCA Versatile Dog and Versatile Dog Excellent

2nd Place Top 10 Terrier Group Excellent B Agility Preferred - 2004 Front and Finish

1st Place Westie Excellent B Agility Preferred - 2004 Front and Finish

One Westie is never enough....&nbsp&nbsp&nbspBetz-"Dawn's Bett'ya I Can"

Late in 2001, I used the excuse that Max had to be lonely so we needed to get another Westie. My family agreed. This time my search for a Westie had a happy ending and I have to express a big thank you to Judy Arenz and Dawn Martin for trusting me with such a great little girl.

Betz is everything I could hope for in a performance dog. She has tons of spunk and attitude and works endlessly to please me. Betz is a very athletic little girl who jumps and runs effortlessly. A couple of weeks after her first birthday, she went to her first agility trial and in 3 runs earned her first title. Betz is now 2 years old and has earned 7 agility titles including her MX.

Westies are not known for being a "speed" breed in agility, but Betz has qualified 37 times with 25 of them being 1st place finishes and a total of 370 MACH points (as of 2/2005). Even carrying almost twice the weight of most of her competition, Betz's natural athleticism, attitude and "heart" allow her to outrun most of her competition most of the time. My local all breed dog club offers an annual award for the "Top Ten Agility Dogs". The competition is for "top dog" is always pretty intense. In 2004, Betz came in 6th place. Three Shelties and 2 Border Collies, (all of which run at the National level) were the only dogs to beat her. The dogs finishing behind her were the "speed" breeds as well. IT was very rewarding to see a little Westie in there.

Agility may be my favorite, but we didn't stop there. Betz had her first encounter with "rats" (for Earthdog competition) when she was just 5 months old. Her tremendous hunting instincts were most evident even at this young age! Betz is an instinctually driven and natural "earthdog". She earned her Junior Earthdog (JE) and Senior Earthdog (SE) in very few outings. Also, the first time she ran at the Master Earthdog (ME) level, she earned her first ME leg.

In the Summer of 2003, I started tracking with Betz. Just like my Max, she certified after only a couple months of training. At the 2004 WHWTCA National Tracking Specialty (Montgomery County), she earned her Tracking Dog (TD) title by tracking 480 yards in a mere 7 minutes to find her glove. We are now training for her Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) title.

In late 2003, Betz began her Obedience career. The following year she qualified 5 for 5 in Novice B to earn her CD. At one trial, Betz only lost 4 points! Considering all the activities we are involved with and the limited time we spend on our obedience training, I was thrilled she could perform at such a high level in the Obedience competitions. Moreover, my girl just keeps getting better. I plan to continue training with Betz for her Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) title because she loves to jump and retrieve. And, we can't forget about Rally which I know will be fun for both of us.

Betz is only two years old and has already earned 12 AKC titles: NA,NAJ,OA,OAJ,AX,AXJ,MX,CD,TD,JE,SE,VCD1

Betz's resume also includes numerous other accomplishments, accolades, and awards:

3rd place Montgomery County Most Versatile Westie 2003

2nd place Montgomery County Most Versatile Westie 2004

9th place Queen City Dog Training Club's Top Ten Agility Dogs 2003

6th place Queen City Dog Training Club's Top Ten Agility Dogs 2004

WHWTCA Versatile Dog and Versatile Dog Excellent

#3 Westie Excellent Standard Agility 2004 Front and Finish

I have a lot of confidence in my dogs because they are incredibly intelligent, talented, and they are willing to try anything I ask of them. Max and Betz give their ALL to absolutely everything they do.

I think the basis of anything you do with your dog is the "relationship" you have with them. I use 100% positive training methods. If I am not getting the behavior or performance I want, I will end our session or bring out the other dog to play with. My dogs want to play with me so punishment to them is ending "our" play and training time together. I always end any training session on a positive note which most of the time is a rousing game of play.

I also keep my training sessions short, no more than 10 minutes. Westies are very smart and can get bored quickly. When we have an hour long class, I take a toy and play with them while we wait our turn so they don't get bored or decide playing chase with the other dogs in class might be a fun alternative. I want my dogs to remain focused on me during the entire class session.

All of the performance events we train and compete in keep us busy. But, the best part is having Max and Betz as a part of our "family". As wonderfully talented and accomplished as they are in their "performance careers", their greatest and most prized achievements are embodied in all the love and joy Max and Betz bring into our lives as loving and cherished members of our family!

With two young boys, we have a high energy household and the dogs get a lot of play time. Christopher will be 10 next year and already has plans to start showing Betz in agility as part of the Junior Handler program.

Our dogs go everywhere with us and are truly a part of our family, I don't think any of us could image not having a Westie in our home.

Beth Bowling, Max, and Betz