Cocker Spaniel Road to Agility at Westminster

Not all dogs competing at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show are there for to beauty and breed standard reasons. As part of its annual festivities, the Westminster Kennel Club hosts an agility dog competition. We’ve got the inside scoop on a Cocker Spaniel and his road to Westminster.

According to the official Westminster website, “Agility is designed to demonstrate a dog’s willingness to work with its handler in a variety of situations. It is an athletic event that requires conditioning, concentration, training and teamwork. Dog and handlers negotiate an obstacle course racing against the clock.”

Cocker Spaniel mom, Nancy Couture Height, embraces the agility dog life, something she admits she’s wanted to do forever. ” I have a friend that worked with me years ago that did agility with her dog and I always wanted to try it. I didn’t have the time then with work and kids,” she says. “So years later while attending a Family Dog Basics class at Paws ‘N Effect with Patches, my Cocker Spaniel, I decided to sign up for an agility class.”

She admits to having fun and to catching the agility bug. Height is not alone, as 330 agility teams entered in the fifth Annual Masters Agility Championship this year.

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Dog Agility Tips

Time and Money for Agility

Height began the journey to training for agility with Patches when he was 18 months old, with competitions  starting in March of 2013. She admits that her handling of Patches has improved over the past year, and she is reaping (and leaping) the rewards.

“Agility can be expensive,” she reports. “I pay $150 per dog every six weeks for my dogs’ classes.  You can also take seminars if you like, but depending on the trainer those can be costly. Because I like seminars so much, I save for those.”

Additionally, there is an entry for each run the you due at a trial, which can be $15 and up depending on the venue or trial.

In terms of the time she puts into the sport, Height tries to compete a couple weekends a month.  There are some months she admits to going every weekend.  “You can enter as many or as few trials as you want.”

dog agility cocker
Flying through the air during a run is Patches

What Do All Those Agility Letters and Terms Mean?

There are many different venues for agility.  The two that Height competes in are AKC, American Kennel Club and CPE, Canine Performance Events, Inc.  Here are some of the common terms associated with dog agility:
  • Standard Course (STD): Use of all the obstacles. Jumps (singles/doubles/triples # of bars on the jump, panel), tunnels, weave poles, tire, dogwalk, A-Frame, teeter & pause table.
  • Jumpers (JWW Jumpers with weaves): Obstacles used are all the jumps, weave poles and tunnels.
  • Q –  Qualifying Score: You get a green ribbon for a Q /  If you are in Level C in CPE you get a rainbow ribbon.
  • In the Masters level in AKC and Level C in CPE, you have to have a perfect run to Q; you cannot have any faults.  At each level (Novice, Open & Masters for AKC) (levels 1-5 & level C for CPE) you have to get a certain number of Q’s so you can move up to the next level.  At the lower levels, you can have a fault or two depending on the level.
  • Faults: Faults are dropped bars, taking a wrong course, the dog not touching the yellow contact on the dog walk, A-frame & teeter before leaving the obstacle.  In AKC faults are also not staying on the table till the judge says go and refusals at an obstacle (dog hesitates at an obstacle before taking it), run by – dog passing a obstacle.
  • NQ: Non Qualifying Run
  • Course Time: This is the amount of time it takes the dog to run the course at his jump height. There is a set course time for every course that the dog must not go over if you want to Q. Of course, the dog must run the course in numerical sequence.
  • Jump Heights Divisions: Dogs are measured at the withers to determine which jump height they will be competing in.  Heights are 4″, 8″, 12″, 16″, 20″ & 24″.
Dog agility team
Nancy and Patches are a winning team.

Cocker Spaniel Takes on Westminster

We are proud to share that Patches is our dog, Dexter’s, half brother, as they share the same mom.  Nancy beams when she talks about Patches and his road to Westminster, saying, “For me, it was an awesome experience.  When I started agility I never thought that Patches and I could get to trial at Westminster.  I went there with the idea of just wanting to have a fun with Patches and we did.”
She continues, ” I was very, very proud of him with all the noise and people around;  it did not faze him at all during our runs.  He stayed connected and did everything I asked of him.   I was so happy with his STD run.  We didn’t Q because he knocked a bar, but it was a great run for us.  We did Q our JWW run with an awesome run.  I was even more surprised when I went to pickup my Q ribbon that we took 4th place in the 12″ preferred class; I was walking on cloud nine.”
Dog on teeter
Patches masters the teeter

How to Get Started with Dog Agility

For Height, she has some agility equipment in her yard consisting of jumps, a tunnel, and a set of weave poles. Her supportive husband, Al, joined in the fun and made her a teeter for practice.
“Many dog training centers may have what is called ‘run throughs’ on a certain days where a course is setup and you get so much time to practice whatever you want with your dog,” she shares. “Some places, have ring rentals where you can rent the agility ring for a half hour or so to train.”
cocker and mini shepherd
Keeping it all in the family with Patches and Zip.

Multiple Dogs Means More Fun

Height has four dogs, making this a family affair. She has a total of three Cocker Spaniels and a miniature American Shepherd. Her eight-year-old Cocker, Maximillion, was too stressed out in the trial environment, so she stopped training and just does it at home for fun with him. She reminds pet parents that no matter what you do with your dog, enjoy every day you have with them and have fun with them.

“Our dogs only want to be with us and give us their unconditional love at all times,” she respectfully reminds.

Maggie Mae is the family’s 13-years-young Cocker Spaniel that Height adopted after fostering her for two years. “Maggie Mae is my sweet little blind girl and queen of the house,” she says.

Zip-A-Dee is her two-year- old miniature American Shepherd. Zip-A-Dee started his agility training from the day we brought him home at eight weeks old. He started competing in May of 2017.

“I feel that Patches, Zip-A-Dee and I have formed a great bond though agility, and we love playing the game together,” she reflects.

Nancy, we are incredibly proud of you and your pack. Congratulations and we look forward to following your adventures and reporting back to Fidose of Reality followers.

Dog in agility tunnel
Patches takes the tunnel during a run.

Don’t Stop Now

Here are some highlights of the 2018 Masters Agility Championships:

Learn More About Getting Started with Dog Agility

American Kennel Club Agility

Agility Titles

10 Tips for Dog Agility Training

In related news: American Cocker Spaniel Striker Scores Big at Westminster

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  1. Congrats to Patches for making it to the Westminster Agility competition! I’ve always wanted to do it with my dogs too. We had sort of a small intro to agility at a PetSmart training class in Phoenix. It was so much fun and really wonderful to try but the area was very small so it was just a little taste. I may get some agility equipment for our yard if it’s not too pricey. These photos are incrdible!

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