Emma: What initially attracted you to Welsh terriers?
Janice: I wanted a dog to do agility and had never done it before. I knew I wanted a small dog and the terrier was the obvious choice to me as they have an endless supply of energy and are fast! My husband’s big issue was that I got a dog that didn’t shed hair everywhere. After owning a Parson Russell Terrier it was a welcome relief not to be constantly picking hairs off everything. My other main concern was finding a breed with few health issues. I would say Welsh Terriers are probably one of the few breeds out there that don’t have too many problems as long as you find a good responsible breeder.
Emma: Is there anything in particular you think prospective Welsh terrier owners should know about the personality of the breed?
Janice: The big thing that I found is that they are not easy to control off leash. They need a ton more work than most breeds as they do have a high prey drive, chasing bunnies etc. I had to work really hard with both my dogs on recalls, manners around open doors, exposing them to a lot of different places, training them off-leash and always making sure that I am more exciting than their surroundings to keep their focus. I would recommend to anyone who is going to own a Welsh to get a good system in place so you don’t lose them out your front door. I have a double gate system that I have in place whenever I have guests in my house. I have an extra baby gate in the front hallway so that the dogs can’t even get close to the front door.
Emma: What got you interested in doing agility?
Janice: I used to be a horse trainer in England and competed in Show Jumping and Cross Country. Once I came stateside it was hard to get back into it and for one reason or another I got completely out of the horse scene. I knew I wanted to compete still and thought if I can get a horse to jump round a course I could probably do the same with a dog. Agility is very addictive, and it is a lot more work than people realize, but once you get started, it is so much fun. It’s a great way to meet people and I can’t imagine life without it now. I know a lot of horse people that switched to dog agility instead, it is much cheaper to compete and you don’t fall off and break bones!
Emma: What are the greatest challenges of teaming up with a Welsh terrier for agility and what are the benefits of working with this breed for the sport? You and your dogs, Herbie and Sookie, are quite amazing to watch.
Janice: The greatest challenge is control once you are at a show. At Herbie’s first ever show he ran off after the first jump and did about ten greyhound laps of the ring before I could catch him! Looking back we weren’t ready to compete as I hadn’t done any fun matches or trained anywhere but my club. Once baby Sookie came along I was better prepared. I trained everywhere, took equipment in my car and set up sequences in parks, school fields, friends’ horse barns, attended fun matches and trained at all the clubs so I could to get her on different equipment. I even trained her that after her run at a show it’s not over till she runs to her leash and pushes her head though the hole. Welsh are smart and it doesn’t take them long to figure out that it’s game over once the leash is on. I train leash games to make them value their leash so they don’t think of it as a negative. The benefits of running Welsh I have found are that they are pretty fast and not too many breeds can beat them. Of course, you will always get the odd Border Collie slipping into the little dog class! Their enthusiam for learning and training is endless and they are ready to go 24/7. I like having a rare breed – most people run all of the herding breeds and I love to see variety at shows. Here is a recent video of Sookie doing agility:
Janice: Do lots of ground work. My dogs don’t jump higher than 4″ or get on full height equipment until their growth plates close (12 to 16 months normally) but I start working with them the second I get them home. It’s really important to get your pup out and about as soon as possible so they get used to people and dogs. I like to use K9 freestyle to train my young pups as they get used to working with you off leash and a young age. I would recommend joining your local dog agility club and starting classes right away. Both my dogs went to puppy classes, basic obedience classes, freestyle, Rally and more… Anything that gets them out working with you in a busy environment. Before Herbie started agility, he was in a freestyle group and we got to put on demos with pretty big crowds which was great competition practice. I will leave you with a clip of one year old Herbie doing a practice run though of a freestyle routine we used for a WCFO show:
Herbie, Sookie and Janice
Interview © Copyright 2012 Janice Bowden & Emma K.