WHWTCA Spotlight on Performance - Winter 2005
My life in dogs, as an owner/trainer/handler, began when my husband decided he wanted a dog! I did extensive research before we made our "big decision". Being a "novice dog person", my research was invaluable as we purchased our first puppy (Libby) from a responsible breeder
LIBERTY McALPIN SPICER, CDX, CG, JE, CGC (Libby)
Libby was very attentive and willing to please. By the time she was 10 months old, I realized people who grow up with dogs know more about "dog fun" than I did. Since I was lacking this important childhood experience and background, Libby and I enrolled in an obedience class. The instructor was a movie wrangler and the class was FUN! This was my first lesson. I learned how important "fun" was in your relationship with the dogs and above all when training them. Unfortunately, we did flunk that first set of classes.
We repeated the beginner class and Libby won the trophy for the "Dog who made the most improvement." That "trophy" and the enrichment of my relationship with Libby was all it took to get me "hooked on" working with and training my dog(s). From there, Libby and I moved into a "competition" obedience class. This is where we hit a most unfortunate wall because we lost sight of our FUN. All those years ago, the most standard training approach that was using harsh corrections. As so many others did back then, I thought this must be the way you do "competition" training because these instructors must know what they are doing. I had no idea the impact this would have on my Libby.
The results of these harsh training methods carried over into the competition ring. Because of the resulting stress, no matter how many times I would potty Libby before we walked into the ring, she could always manage one drop of urine which would end up having us "excused" at a different time in each competition run! Finally, I realized Libby's "stress level" was preventing us from meeting our goals to qualify and earn the obedience title. At this point, Libby and I took year off from competition obedience. We both needed a break.
During our sabbatical from competing, I found out my Club offered training classes for something called "Scent Hurdles Relay Racing". This was a wonderful sport and was a perfect "motivational and fun" performance arena which allowed Libby and me to reconnect with our "fun mode" and my girl's love for performing and pleasing when it was FUN! She learned the commands and skills for this sport which included scenting, retrieving, and speed. Our team members always "cheered and barked" each other on, which created a motivating, fun, and rewarding experience for every team member (two-legged and four-legged). We competed widely in different costumes and were always a tremendous "crowd pleaser".
After learning and experiencing this kind of motivational training, Libby and I returned to competition obedience. Needless to say, Libby easily earned her CD (Companion Dog title) and CDX (Companion Dog Excellent title). We trained through the Utility obedience level and competed in Utility for 2 years. We only managed to qualify in practice as Libby developed diabetes. As a result of that disease, her vision and motivation were seriously fading. We discontinued obedience competition because my girl had given competition obedience all she could. Libby did earn two hunting titles, the AWTA Certificate of Gameness (CG) and the AKC's Junior Earthdog title (JE). Although agility was not yet an AKC event, our club had agility orientations which Libby loved.
Libby was my "first" Westie and I will always treasure our experiences and all she taught me as we explored the "versatility of the dog world" together.
KERRY WINDEMERE McALPIN, CDX, JE, CGC (Kerry)
Kerry was Libby's puppy and had tremendous motivation, attention, and a desire to please and perform. Her short life was as a "dream dog". Kerry "loved" learning and working and even had some early experiences in conformation. She and her Mom (Libby) learned Team Obedience which is performing obedience routines "in tandem". This is really a sight to behold. Talk about a crowd pleaser! Kerry was naturally talented and loved "working" so much that she easily earned her Companion Dog Excellent title (CDX) and her Junior Earthdog title (JE). She also won a "High Scoring Terrier in Trial" award. Kerry especially enjoyed the challenge of learning the more complex elements of the Utility level of obedience.
One of my favorite stories about Kerry happened when the WHWTCA held their first ever National Obedience Specialty in 1991. The California Westies put on a Team Obedience demonstration to the overwhelming delight of the audience. You have to understand that this Specialty was the first time many Westie people had ever seen a Westie do obedience, much less a whole ring of them performing intricate tandem routines "off lead" together. Kerry "heeled" with each "dog/handler team" and magically ended up at my side (heel position) before the exercise was completed! Everyone laughed and applauded and Kerry was most proud of herself. I was never sure if this was because of her naturally gregarious nature and love for what she was doing or if she just wanted to be the center of attention. Regardless, she managed to be THE crowd pleaser of the day.
Competitively, Kerry's crowning glory was when she qualified twice for our Club's Top Dog Team. This California Intra-Club event is highly competitive and it is quite an honor to make your Club's "team". Kerry did her Mom and her team "proud" by performing with high scores. Kerry lost her battle with Addison's disease at 8 years of age. And, I lost my girl who loved and relished life, training, learning, performing and "pleasing" me and her many admirers.
CH. PATENT PENDING O'PETER PAN, CDX, OA, ME, CGC (PATTY) WHWTCA VERSATILE DOG EXCELLENT
The path Libby and Kerry started me on took me to the next step as I began a quest to get my first conformation foundation bitch. I was lucky enough to be there when O-Peter Pan's "Patty" was born and heard her first cries! This was the beginning of our incredible journey together.
Patty's effervescence, persistence, and self confidence permeated her every activity. This coupled with her intelligence and sense of humor, allowed Patty to excel in every venue we competed in. Patty showed her true versatility by earning multiple titles in several areas of competition and receiving the WHWTCA's Versatile Dog Award. With relative ease, Patty earned her conformation championship (CH), Companion Dog Excellent (CDX), Open Agility (OA), Master Earthdog (ME), and Canine Good Citizenship (CGC). On the day she earned her first obedience title (Companion Dog, CD), she also took 1st place in the agility ring; not bad for one day's work!
CH. PENNYWHISTLE O'PETER PAN, CDX, OA, JE, CGC (CRISSEE) WHWTCA VRESATILE DOG EXCELLENT AWARD
My Crissee came along one and one-half years later and was also out of Westies O'Peter Pan. She exhibited the same talents, abilities, and versatility as Patty by completing the multiple titles which earned her the WHWTCA's Versatile Dog Excellent Award. Crissee's titles include her conformation championship (CH), Companion Dog Excellent (CDX), Open Agility (OA), Junior Earthdog (JE), and Canine Good Citizenship (CGC).
Additionally, Crissee brought me another wonderful experience by being my first "owner handled" Champion. This is quite an accomplishment in the world of Westie conformation which is highly competitive. I am so proud that Crissee and I were able to share in this benchmark of my conformation showing.
Crissee showed her versatility and panache when she won a coveted obedience "High In Trial" (receiving the highest score of all the dogs competing at an obedience trial). And then, the very next day, she took a "5 point major" in the conformation ring!
LIFE WITH MY TWO MOST "VERSATILE" AND "EXELLENT" GIRLS!
Patty and Crissee trained, competed, and performed "together". Often "the girls" would compete in two events in a single day. The girls attended obedience, earthdog, and agility classes together. Patty was a great tutor and mentor to Crissee. She taught Crissee the obedience "sits and downs", the "earthdog" tunnels, and the agility "teeter totter". Much to the chagrin of our Earthdog instructors, they would be in the tunnels simultaneously. If you know terriers, you understand that this is not normally recommended. But, it worked for my two girls. Crissee followed Patty into that dark space (9"x 9" underground tunnel). Patty showed Crissee how to "work the quarry". Once Patty would get Crissee started "working"; I would pull Patty out of the tunnel and leave Crissee to work alone.
We had a similar experience in agility class. Crissee would follow Patty up and down the "teeter totter". Another amazing sight was watching the girls follow each other, single file, through the weave poles and at the same time. Too bad there isn't an agility competition where the girls could run the agility course in tandem. They would steal the show!
The girls easily learned Freestyle (performing dance routines to music). Patty has the most natural style and rhythm, but is shy in front of an audience. Crissee is a shameless ham who loves applause and really "works the crowd"! She has been the "opening act" at Dog Shows and has performed several times prior to the start of the Group Conformation competitions. Crissee is quite a crowd pleaser when she performs at various clubs' programs and nursing homes.
While both of "the girls" are trained through the Utility level of obedience, there have been intervening litters. Also, since I have started "handling" other dogs in the conformation ring, my time is more limited. We continue to practice and I have no doubt both "my girls" will earn their Utility Dog (UD) obedience title.
Patty and Crissee are my "media stars", having appeared on television shows and modeled for greeting cards.
There are more McAlpin Westies following in "the girls" pawprints by actively learning and training to be "Versatile Dogs". It is so rewarding for me to take all I have learned from Libby, Kerry, Patty, and Crissee and be able to motivate and cross-train my puppies from puppy hood onward. One of the neatest parts in the puppy training is when I watch them figure something out and see their "Ah ha moment"! Then, I watch as they apply those same skills in various ways. I truly believe in the importance of the dogs having "titles at both ends" of their name (championship and performance titles)!McALPIN PHOTO GALLERY
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