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Niko goes Bronze...

Tyne and Wear has a new star athlete on its hands in the form of a three year old Pug called Niko, owned by Karen White of South Shields. Niko secured himself an early Christmas present recently as he jumped, ran and weaved his way to his Bronze Agility Warrant, making him only the second Pug ever to have achieved this award.

Niko’s hard work and enthusiasm has paid off after he gained enough points to qualify for the Bronze award at the Hare and Hounds Christmas show at Richmond Equestrian Centre, North Yorkshire at the end of November.

Lucy Parkin at Cleverpawz AC said, Karen has worked extremely hard in our special pugility class to bring Niko on and increase his drive. We have lots of small dogs attending classes at Cleverpawz and, being a small dog handler myself, we recognise that they run very differently to the larger breeds. Sometimes it takes a great deal of effort to motivate these toy breeds and gently caring words of encouragement are always promoted. They are never allowed to know if they have made a mistake, and let's face it, it is nine times out of ten it's the handler's mistake anyway.

We don't demand waits at the start of the course for our small dogs as we have found that this can de-motivate them. Also we teach running contacts as they don't have the need to do a traditional 2 on 2 off touch. We do, however, believe that the Small dogs can be taught to work ahead just as well as the larger breeds, as long as it is done gently, promoting their confidence all the way. Keeping their enthusiasm, interest and developing their drive is what I believe it is all about, it has to be fun at the end of the day, for both the handler and their dog. Experience will build their speed so just go out there and have some fun!'

Proud owner Karen, who also shows Niko at pedigree dog shows, said: 'Niko absolutely loves the fast and furious nature of agility, whether it's at a competition or just training, and he gets so excited he squeals before going over the first jump. He has already qualified for and competed at Crufts through showing and our ambition is to qualify though an agility class as well. Agility is a fun way to keep us both fit and healthy and Niko's enthusiasm definitely keeps the spectators entertained!'

Niko’s breeder, Gwen Oake of Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham, a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, puts his love for agility down to the good breeding practices that ensure he is healthy and has bundles of energy for his favourite activity. 

She said, 'By adhering to responsible breeding practices like those set out by the Assured Breeder Scheme, we ensure that all of our dogs – Niko included – are fit for function and can lead full, healthy and happy lives. A responsibly bred Pug can do so much more than the common misconceptions of the breed lead people to think.'

Whilst Border Collies are generally the most common breed seen in agility, Niko plans to continue giving them a run for their money as he works his way towards a Silver and Gold award. 

Karen explained, 'I am working with the Kennel Club and Niko's breeder to dispel the misconception that  pugs - and some other pedigree dogs - are not fit for life. As we all know, agility requires a certain level of fitness and by getting to Grade 5 as well as achieving his AW(B ) Niko has proved that he is a fit and active dog. Lucy at Cleverpawz is now training about 10 other pugs in Pugility classes, so he is not the only one!'

The Agility Warrant scheme rewards consistency in agility dogs. The sport keeps the dogs fit and healthy and for a Pug like Niko, is a fast and fun way of getting his recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise. 

About the author...
This article was written by the Kennel Club Press Office with contributions added from Niko's owner Karen White and Lucy Parkin of Cleverpawz.

First published 16 December 2011


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