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Akitas & Agility... Never

Think again...

Billy Walsh was introduced the Akita as a breed about five years ago when he met another dog walker with a  lovely Akita girl. When the bitch became too much for the owner to handle, she was rehomed to another family. Billy was devastated as he  would have jumped at the chance to give her a home. A while later, he got his Akita puppy Otis and now they can be seen frequently  around the agility rings in the North West. We asked his to write a short article about his experience with his running partner Otis (Musn't Grumble)

Having had large breeds in the past, I always craved a big dog to live with our two Jack Russell terriers. One week before Christmas, my wife went out to Sainsbury's - or so she said - and came back two and a half hours later with the most adorable Akita puppy with a bow around his neck. And this is when Otis' story begins.

We enrolled in obedience classes, achieving Kennel Club Good Citizen Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. During this time Otis won 'Best Puppy' at Ripley Agricultural Show, 'Most Handsome Dog' fun competitions, together with 'Best in Show' at Wilmslow Dog Show, culminating in a treasured appearance in Cheshire Life.

It was whilst at the Anglesey Agricultural Show that we gained our first experience of agility in the form of a 'have a go' agility course. Otis seemed to really enjoy the run, sniffing the ground whilst hopping over the small sized jumps on his lead. He completed the A-frame and dog walk easily. You would have had to laugh at the sight of me entering the tunnel to persuade him to follow! I wasnít the first and no doubt it wonít be the last time I find myself in that position!

Having passed Gold Obedience, we moved on to a scent course which didnít seem to over-excite him. One day as I was stood at the window, Otis jumped onto the window sill from a standing position (cat like). This triggered memories of the fun agility run and I enquired about agility training.

Finding a club...
We were refused an agility place three times at the training club where Otis originally got his KCGC Gold as they did not believe that Akitas could do agility. I was advised to approach High Peak Dog Training School. They accepted us with open arms for which we will be forever grateful.

Otis is very intelligent, and soon picked up commands and instruction. At 26 inches in height and 36kg in weight, speed was not his fortť. On several occasions, he has literally walked through the weaves. I began to wonder if this was the game for us? Agility is a fun thing to do but he's not a collie!

But persevere we did with the encouragement of the trainers at High Peak DTS, Chris Brelsford, Alison Brelsford-Browne, Hannah Roberts, Gillian Blanchard, Charlotte Edmondson and Irene Holbrook and various club members. A big thank you to you all.

Over a period of time, some speed had developed. To see how laid back he is on the Starting Line -  and him not being toy motivated - you wouldn't think so!

Entering competitions...
In 2012 Alison put us forward to do our first indoor show at Myerscough College in order to gain experience of what lay ahead. To our amazement, we gained our first clear in the Helter Skelter run and the seed was sown.

After several months of further training with the fantastic High Peak DTS , we entered competitive shows in the second half of 2012 and were astonished at the reactions of competitors and judges alike to see an Akita doing agility. No one seems to have been worried about him being an Akita at shows or training.

After having mastered the seesaw, however, he then seemed to develop a dislike to it, we think due to the movement and his size, but he thrived on his jumping courses, picking up various placings and clear round rosettes. Many of you might have seen Otis at shows avoiding the seesaw but after much encouragement around us, we are now gaining clear rounds in Agility.

Without doubt, for me, his strength is in his jumping. He's only knocked a pole twice in competition - and one of those was my fault for knocking him into it whilst running. A simple pilot error!

During 2013, as the agility bug grew, we found ourselves entering more shows, some further afield. I still can't believe the number of rosettes and trophies we have won, including seven at Hare 'n  Hounds Easter Show in Yorkshire, three 1st place Jumping wins at Wigan ATC Show to find ourselves winning out of Grade 1 and five at Lune Valley Show. The list seems endless.

We have since won out of Grade 2 and competed at Barnard Castle for the first time in Grade 3, gaining a 7th place in agility. We have also obtained our Agility Warrant Bronze and are on our way to the Silver!

When we are at shows we often receive positive comments from people who are amazed at how well he jumps, how laid back he is, how handsome and how elegant. They often comment at how unbelievable it to see an Akita even attempting agility and say he is a credit to the breed.

I've heard a couple of people who have tried agility with their Akitas. but we have never seen any others at show. I am hoping that having seen Otis, they may want to give it a go.

I could not imagine not having an Akita. He is my soul mate, trusted friend and companion and I feel truly blessed. Although we are hopeful of further progression, we do realise competition will become harder but will continue. After all it keeps him fit and focused and we are both enjoying the ride!

Watch Otis on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wnLkpbHjvw

Update


Otis Breaks a Club Record

 Otis, a 5 year old Akita from Stockport, is making waves in the dog agility world after he broke an agility club record, previously held by a Border Collie.

Otis and his owner, Billy Walsh, started attending High Peak Dog Training Society (High Peak DTS) in 2011 after they had caught the agility bug, and it wasn't long until Billy and Otis broke the club record by achieving 307 points in competitions.

Billy explains: 'After we had achieved all we could in obedience, we needed a new goal and I enquired about agility training. After three previous failed attempts at gaining a place at another club, I decided to enquire at High Peak DTS where we were successful.'

The pair began to enter competitions and started to get clear rounds, and it wasn't long before they were winning everything they entered. They are now in Grade 3 of agility and, although Otis isnít the only Akita competing in the activity, they are a well-known pair at shows.

Neil OíConnor from High Peak DTS commented: 'About three years ago a chap asked to join our agility club. We are a club that prides ourselves on welcoming any dog that enjoys agility, so we said yes. Billy arrived at club on his first training day with Otis, an Akita. I must admit a few of us thought he was being a little ambitious but Otis showed a real interest in agility from the start. Billy and Otis became regular faces at training - hardly ever missing a week. It wasn't long before we saw his potential.Ē

This is just the beginning for Otis and although the pair plan to emigrate to New Zealand later this year, they aim to continue competing in agility.

Neil continued: 'Otis really is a credit to his breed, a breed that can often have a negative image. People seem to all stop and watch when they both run - after all there are hardly any Akitas that do agility and none that do it quite like Otis. We have tried to find other Akitas that do agility but can only find a few that compete in Australia and America. They are nowhere near the standard of Otis.'

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: 'Agility is for dogs of all types, sizes and experience and itís fantastic to see Otis doing so well in the sport. Otis and Billyís success highlights how any breed can compete with hard work and dedication. We wish them all the best for the future.'

For more information on agility visit www.thekennelclub.org.uk/agility


About the author...
Billy Walsh (51) is a massive dog lover and avid Manchester City supporter. Since joining High Peak DTS and catching the 'agility bug' he and Otis have been inseparable at agility shows around the North Westm Yorkshire, Shropshire and The Midlands. He is usually seen proudly wearing his Man City attire = shorts, shirt, sweatshirt or hat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: Neil O'Connor