Interview with Kathleen Brodie
How were you introduced to the Skye Terrier?
Kathleen Brodie: I may be among the minority of Skye Terrier aficionados whose interest in the breed wasn’t sparked by reading the book Greyfriar’s Bobby as a child. Rather, in the early 1980s, I was enrolled in Obedience classes with my husband’s dog where, if I arrived early, I could observe a breed handling class. As a result, I began my quest for a “show dog.”
I set my sights on the Skye Terrier after researching breeds at the public library and discussing options with the owner of the training facility. Trips to shows throughout Texas hoping to meet a Skye were futile and I ultimately located a breeder through an advertisement in Dog World magazine. After a number of conversations about the suitability of a Skye and my goal to show in Conformation, a 10-week-old puppy was on the way from Calgary, Canada, to Houston, Texas. I fell in love as he stretched one little leg and then the other out of the crate, popped his head out, sat down and looked around. Six months later, we moved to Massachusetts and I finally met other Skyes.
Do you compete in Performance Events as well as Conformation?
Kathleen Brodie: All 10 of my Skyes have taken foundational Obedience classes. Until my current Skye, “Demi,” only my first Skye competed in a Performance event, that being Obedience, where he earned his CD and two legs toward his CDX before he found “playing the audience” during retrieves to be more rewarding. As my work responsibilities intervened, I found my attention focused more on Conformation, and that only intermittently.
Over time, I was abIe to utilize training in various Performance events as enrichment for my dogs and also as learning opportunities for me, but we didn’t compete. Little did I know how useful that early learning would be when I adopted a spayed, three-year-old Skye, Demi, three years ago. AKC PAL number in hand, we were ready to compete in Performance events and it’s been no looking back.
When did your Skye Terriers begin competing in Performance Events?
Kathleen Brodie: Prior to adopting Demi in August 2019, I had only competed in Obedience with one Skye in the mid-1980s. It was as Demi completed foundational Obedience training and passed the Canine Good Citizen test that I began to consider moving forward with her training. I loosely sketched out a path, beginning with activities that would result in frequent rewards (i. e., Trick Class, Introduction to Nosework).
Soon thereafter, I enrolled her in an Introduction to Barn Hunt seminar, followed shortly by her first trial. Typically, Demi is enrolled in two classes at any given time. She may also participate in training days for events that don’t require classroom training (i. e., Earthdog) and in other events that require neither training days nor classes (i. e., Fast CAT).
Is there any special preparation that’s needed? Conditioning? Training?
Kathleen Brodie: When I consider a new Performance event for Demi I research the activity, including talking to those who participate in it, acquiring (and reading) the regulations, and joining activity-specific groups. My preference is in-person training, typically weekly classes supplemented with occasional workshops, seminars, periodic private lessons, and run-thrus in novel environments. In between classes we practice at home, during ring rentals, or at pet-friendly locations in the community. These sessions typically last five-ten minutes not more than twice a day.
Do you feed a diet specifically for Performance Events? Any supplements?
Kathleen Brodie: Demi is fed a high-quality commercial diet. I specifically selected a product with live probiotics and prebiotic fiber for immune support and omega-3 fatty acids for joint health and mobility.
What are the benefits of competing in Performance Events? The risks?
Kathleen Brodie: The bond you create doing Performance events with your dog is different from that which occurs with any other activity. The dog learns to focus and to use its natural abilities and instincts in new and challenging ways. As the dog succeeds, confidence grows—as does that of the handler. Skills and/or behaviors required for Performance events may positively influence the dog’s behavior in non-competitive situations, further enlarging their world.
Of course, there is always the possibility of physical injury to the dog, such as strains or sprains, as well as emotional stress or fatigue. The handler is also at risk of injury. Assuring that both the dog and the handler are in good physical condition and have been properly trained, and that the handler is aware of and follows safety guidelines, is important to minimizing risks.
The bond you create doing Performance events with your dog is different from that which occurs with any other activity. The dog learns to focus and to use its natural abilities and instincts in new and challenging ways.
Are there any Performance Events you haven’t tried but are considering?
Kathleen Brodie: Coursing for non-sighthounds is an event for which Skyes are eligible that I have not yet tried. Demi’s recall is reliable only at class or inside at home, this despite considerable training and many high value treats! However, I’ve identified a fully fenced course we hope to attempt this year. On the other hand, I’ve effectively removed Agility from her repertoire as there is no “make up your own course” option. Two events I would not consider for a Skye are Dock Diving and Disc Dog. Both require positions and/or potentially high-impact landing that might overly stress a Skye’s achondroplastic frame.
How do you stay motivated? How do you establish (and achieve) goals?
Kathleen Brodie: My number one goal is that my dog has fun. If my dog is having fun, it’s likely that I will be, too. My second goal is to introduce others to Skye Terriers and demonstrate that they can do well at Performance events. And my third is to show what a rescue dog of unknown background can achieve. Beyond those goals, I hope to go as deep in the events in which we’re doing well as Demi’s age and health allow.
Certainly, qualifying scores, placements, and titles are motivating, but equally so are comments from judges, other competitors, and spectators such as “A Skye? I’ve never seen one in person/I’ve only seen one in dog shows on TV,” “I had no idea a Skye would/could do this,” or “Wow, she’s a rescue and she is this well behaved/does this!” I also find motivation in the confidence my instructors and my classmates have in Team Demi’s capabilities.
What is the one thing everyone should know about the Skye Terrier?
Kathleen Brodie: Skyes are so much more than just a pretty face. While generally not as “up on their toes” as some terriers, they bond tightly with their people and will engage and give 110% when called upon to do so (assuming they find it worth their while—they are terriers, after all).
Do you have any advice for someone who is just getting started?
Kathleen Brodie: Start with a solid foundation in Basic Obedience. Socialize your dog to different people, animals, and environments. As you’re accomplishing these, give thought to your long-range goals for your dog. Consider sequencing training so that you can build on prior learning rather than needing to “unlearn” skills in order to “relearn” them differently for a new sport. Find a qualified trainer who has experience and knowledge in the specific event of interest and let him/her know what your long-range goals are.
If you can, take in-person classes. Certainly, instruction and opinions can be found online or through reading, but the value of the class environment can’t be overstated. Enjoy the journey!
Photos by Sirius Photography