2020 Top Obedience Dogs
With representatives from four of the seven groups, these Top Obedience Dogs have good manners, an eagerness to please, and intelligence to boot!
Designed to test a dog’s suitability as a good companion, obedience trials feature basic tests, including heeling, Sit, Stand, Stay, and coming when called. At more advanced levels, dogs are asked to jump, retrieve, respond to hand signals, and identify and retrieve articles carrying their handler’s scent.
For his third time at the top of the podium, Edge the Golden Retriever claims the number-one spot in Canadian obedience for 2020. We caught up with Edge, his owner Rose, and the rest of the Top Obedience Dogs of 2020 to see how they started and what they were doing during an anything-but-ordinary year.
#1 – GMOTCh. Tanbark’s High Rolling Player RA
|Call name: Edge
Owner/Handler: Rose Apollonio
Breeder: Yvonne M. Piefer
How would you describe Edge’s personality? Edge is a very confident, out-going, happy boy. He loves people and he loves to work. In his point of view, life is a party.
What do you recall about Edge’s first obedience trial? Edge’s first trial was actually in the U.S. He was competing in Novice B at Western Lakes, Labour Day weekend of 2013. He was 22 months old. He won his class with a 200 score, and had a run-off with his half-brother (who was competing in Open B with the same score). Edge won the run-off and earned his first HIT.
How have you continued to keep Edge in shape and sharp during the COVID-19 pandemic? We train two to three times a week, keeping it light and fun with motivational games. In between, we go for long walks to relax.
What are Edge’s favourite activities when you’re not practising? Edge loves to chase and play soccer with his boomer ball. But, his absolute favourite pastime is laying across my lap, on the couch, while getting a belly rub. And when he’s not doing either of those things, he loves to wrestle with his brother, Blitz.
#2 – MOTCh Ravengold Becket Of Tashora RE CGN WC
|Call Name: Becket
Owner/Handler: Jo-Anne Heinze
Breeders: Louise Battley & Judi Dunlop
How would you describe Becket’s personality? Becket is very outgoing, inquisitive and a learning sponge. In obedience training he strives to please and does not like making mistakes. He learns new skills quickly so I have to avoid pattern training or he will do a routine on his own, giving me what he thinks I want. He is sensitive and thrives on encouragement in training.
What do you recall about Becket’s first obedience trial? In 2015, at one year old, I entered Becket in his first obedience trial with the Golden Retriever Club of BC. The obedience trial was held in Cloverdale, BC. Being a novice myself, I decided to start with rally Novice A and obedience Pre-Novice. Becket passed all three rally Novice A tests and received a High in Class (HIC). After his first run in Pre-Novice, the judge, Terry Gains, told me he should be in Novice, not Pre-Novice so I moved him up and he received his first Novice A leg with a HIC under Marion Postgate.
How have you continued to keep Becket in shape and sharp during the COVID-19 pandemic? We are fortunate to live on acreage, so keeping Becket in shape is not difficult. He is ball crazy so just about every day we "play ball" and I use the ball as an obedience training tool for recalls, change of position, signals, etc., intermittently with just playing ball.
What are Becket’s favourite activities when you’re not practising? Playing ball!
#3 – GMOTCh. Belcourt Cool Dude
|Call Name: Scooter
Owner/Handler: Lee Kozicki
Breeder: Murray Eason
How would you describe Scooter’s personality? Scooter absolutely loves to trial. He thinks it's a party everyone showed up for. Judges always comment on what a happy working little dog Scooter is. He spent three years as Canada’s #1 Obedience Dog and then our world changed with Covid. I was advised to stop showing due to my age and lung condition. After three weekends, I made the decision to stay home till things get better.
What do you recall about Scooter’s first obedience trial? Slow to mature, Scooter was almost four when he started his obedience career. His first serious show was Lethbridge in June 2014, where he got his CD with 199, 200, 199, and 198.5. He then moved up and by fall had his CDX and OTCH. The following year he obtained his MOTCH and GMOTCH. Obviously I was right to wait a little. I always tell students not to be in a rush to trial young dogs. Let them enjoy the training and have fun. It’s much easier to trial dogs that enjoy what they do.
How have you continued to keep your dogs in shape and sharp during the COVID-19 pandemic? Both my boys head off to the park daily for a game of ball. Keeping dogs in good shape is important if you are doing as much jumping and retrieving as we do.
#4 – Ch. OTCh. Hotshot Breaking All The Rules RE
|Call Name: Targa
Owner/Handler: Dave Haddon
Breeders: Heidi Laskowski & Chylie Schramm
How would you describe Targa’s personality? Targa is always ready to do something/anything. He is a bundle of inexhaustible energy. I would describe it as a pent-up energy ball. He is so loving and he hardly ever takes his eyes off me at home or in the ring. A soft temperament, a lover not a fighter. The perfect dog with whom a person can enjoy his company and live with.
What do you recall about Targa’s first obedience trial? If memory serves it was in Prince Albert and under Eve O’Keefe, he took High in Class with a 198. She was the first judge to remark how exciting it was to judge him due to his speed. She commented that he “burned rubber” on the recall!
How have you continued to keep Targa in shape and sharp during the COVID-19 pandemic? His favourite activity and conditioning are one in the same: chasing balls. So that makes exercising him on our acreage easy. I do need to be careful though as he would chase balls until he dropped. So long walks and ball throws are his passion.
#5 – Ch. OTChX Riomesa Pay It Forward RAE2 CGN
|Call Name: Bower
Breeder/Owner/Handler: Diana Kirkaldy
How would you describe Bower’s personality? Bower is that ONCE IN A LIFETIME dog – I am so honoured to have bred him. He has the sweetest disposition. He has never met a dog or person he doesn’t like. Little dogs love him and he is very gentle with them and with puppies. He LOVES to work and gives me 110% every time we walk into a ring – which sometimes isn’t a good thing – especially first thing in the morning when he has LOTS of energy and gets very creative!
What do you recall about Bower’s first obedience trial? It was May 16, 2015, in Cambridge, Ontario, and Cheryl Bishop judging. We had attended a correction match at the same location a few weeks earlier and Bower was very ‘entertaining’. He just about knocked me to the ground on the recall with his enthusiasm! He scored a 194.5 and won the class, and I was over the moon!
How have you continued to keep Bower in shape and sharp during the COVID-19 pandemic? In early 2020, before the pandemic started, I decided that I needed to get into shape. Walking became an integral part of that, which meant Bower and my other Aussies got lots of exercise. We would try to practise in different locations. Luckily, our trainer, Rose Appolonio, kept us on our toes with outdoor sessions (when permitted). We were fortunate enough to be able to attend a few trials last year and earn the last double towards our OTCHX! Hoping for a few trials this year, as Bower only needs nine points for his MOTCH!
What are Bower’s favourite activities when you’re not practising? Walking and being with me. He truly is my dog!
(Photo credit: Alex Elliott)
#6 – Ch. MOTCh. Topiary Last Spike
|Call Name: Spike
Breeder: Peggy Clarke
Owner/Handler: Lee Kozicki
What motivates Spike? Spike is ball crazy and toy crazy, too.
What do you recall about Spike’s first obedience trial? Spike was in my puppy classes a few years back and after his show career I would ask his breeder how he was doing. She asked if I would like to work with him for a while and even keep him. So home he came and never left! He started in Novice in October of 2017 and moved up the next weekend to Open and then up to Utility.
Spike is a very flashy heeling dog and in short order finished his MOTCH and is one judge shy of his GMOTCH, having both his High in Trials from Open and Utility with a 200 score. He will be my fifth GMOTCH Poodle. Again, proving happy working well-trained dogs make trialling easier. I found it interesting how much of his puppy-class training Spike remembered after spending two years as a show dog.
What should a new puppy owner look for in an obedience Instructor? If you are looking for a trainer, check out his or her dogs at shows. Look for happy working dogs who are focused on their job. A wise trainer once said “a person who needs help with Utility shouldn’t take advice from a novice trainer.” Every time I run a competition puppy class I say “Welcome to our OTCH puppy class. Set goals and enjoy the journey.” Your trainer is your coach and will be an important part of your new puppy’s journey.
#7 – Ch. OTCh. Adelheid’s Coffeebean SDE AgX JTX AgXJ RAE CGN
|Call Name: Mocha
Breeder: Renate Newcomb
Owner/Handler: Chantal Rioux
How would you describe Mocha’s personality? Mocha loves to work. He wants to be the only one to train and trial with me. Mocha often barks and whines when I’m working with his 'brother'. Mocha does not like to be wrong; if he makes a mistake, I keep it light and we try again, so he does not get discouraged. Mocha loves people and will try his best to keep it together while in the ring. Mocha would love to visit the judge or ring stewards; this is obvious as when he passes by them, he will wag his tail endlessly!
What do you recall about Mocha’s first obedience trial? Mocha was entered in his first obedience trial in March 2014 in Vanessa, Ontario, when he was one and a half years old. We received our Pre-Novice title that weekend. That night I made a long list of skills to continue working on to get ready for future trials and levels. He had only been in the ring a couple months earlier in rally Novice and he obtained his CGN title. March 2014 was a very memorable experience that confirmed the start of a long journey together and the sky was the limit to what we could accomplish together.
How have you continued to keep Mocha in shape and sharp during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has definitely been a challenge. My goal was to maintain his skills in between trials. I continued to practise at home and was able to do some ring rentals to practise in context. We did daily brisk walks and conditioning to stay physically fit. I also supported the local trials that took place, lending a hand where they needed me, to ensure the event remained safe so that future trials could take place, when allowed. It took a lot of monetary resources, planning and organizing to hold trials in 2020, so many clubs opted to cancel instead. This is the reason I supported the clubs who offered the trials, more than ever.
What are Mocha’s favourite activities when you’re not practising? Mocha is very versatile and competes in multiple performance events such as agility, scent detection and rally. His favourite is agility. When he was introduced to agility, it became obvious to me that I would have to get fit and find a good pair of running shoes so I wouldn’t let him down. I had to give him the opportunity to run full speed and jump, as he enjoys it so much. It also meant I had to learn a completely different discipline. How could I not; it makes him so happy!
(Photo credit: Anne Raszewski)
#8 – Ch. GMOTCh. GMH Zaniri Letter By Letter WCX
|Call Name: Scrabble
Breeders: Joanne & Laureen Kinney, and Mary Shillabeer
Owner/Handler: Leanne Tucker
Can you describe Scrabble’s personality? Scrabble is always up for anything. He thinks everything is fun and often has a “party for one”! He has a lot of go and keeping his excitement under control in the ring is always a challenge. He is silly, exuberant, fun, happy and super snuggly.
What do you recall about Scrabble’s first obedience trial? I entered Scrabble in his first Novice B round at the Golden Retriever National Specialty in Calgary, Alberta, in July of 2015. Typically, I wait to enter Novice until we are close to being ready for Utility. However, it was the GRCC National Specialty in my hometown and my goal was to qualify for the prestigious Nan Gordon Memorial Trophy (awarded to the team with the most amount of points for those dogs entered in obedience, conformation and field). He did some nice work, earning a 198.5 in obedience, won his conformation class and passed the WCX, winning the trophy for the first of three times over the years.
How have you continued to keep Scrabble in shape and sharp during the COVID-19 pandemic? Honestly I’ve taken this time to just enjoy my dogs. We spent time at a lake hiking, camping, swimming, paddle boarding and generally taking a nice break from competition.
What are Scrabble’s favourite activities when you’re not practising? Field work. Scrabble is a very accomplished field dog. He is a Grand Master Hunter and a National Master Hunter. Retrieving birds is his passion.
(Photo credit: Mike Johnson)
#9 – OTCh. Nyla
|Call Name: Nyla
Owner/Handler: Wayne Lefurgey
Can you describe Nyla's personality? Nyla is outgoing, friendly and affectionate. She loves to meet and greet people wherever she can. These qualities work well in her role as a Therapy Dog to nursing homes and schools. We are both looking forward to getting back to our visits once the pandemic is over.
What do you recall about Nyla's first obedience trial? Nyla's first obedience trial was amazing and exciting. The trial, hosted by the Labrador Owners Club, took place in February 2019 in Jerseyville, Ontario. Although we were both nervous being on stage, we performed well; in fact, we scored High in Class at our very first trial.
How have you continued to keep Nyla in shape and sharp during the COVID-19 pandemic? Nyla and I have been taking several walks during the day, intermittently stopping to practise various aspects of our obedience training. We both have a little fun and, of course, enjoy meeting people along the way.
What are Nyla’s favourite activities when you’re not practising? Nyla loves to play retrieving games and tug with her toys. She also enjoys hiking through wooded trails and waterfront areas.
#9 – MOTCh. Kriscoland Falconwood Guardian RM CGN
|Call Name: Ella
Breeder: Mary Ann Lauzon
Owner/Handler: Louise Falconer
Can you describe Ella’s personality? Ella is a very independent, spirited and intelligent companion who is eager to please, loves to work and is a fast learner.
What do you recall about Ella’s first obedience trial? I will never forget Ella’s first obedience trial. I was a total mess of nerves, which did not seem to bother Ella too much, as she went on to take her first HIT with a score of 195.5 towards her CD title, under Shawn Kelly, on 1 November 2014, at the Ottawa Valley Golden Retriever Club.
How have you continued to keep Ella shape and sharp during the COVID-19 pandemic? I have used a variety of outdoor venues (parks, shopping mall parking lots, nearby field) and an indoor rental (all when available) to maintain Ella’s obedience work and keep her focus sharp. As well, I have varied the dog sports, including rally, and some field work to provide alternative exercise. Continued reading, videos and webinars provide me with ideas on how to present exercises in a different way, and keep her attention.
What are Ella’s favourite activities when you’re not practising? Ella is crazy about fetching a ball, loves to swim at our cottage and engage with my two grandchildren. She also enjoys posing for calendar photos with Mark Raycroft.
#10 – MOTCh. Tierney’s Bet’n I’m The One RE CA CGN
|Call Name: Leto
Owners: Shannon O’Briant & Gwen Haynes
Breeder/Handler: Gwen Haynes
Can you describe Leto’s personality? Leto is an honest and hardworking dog. The best obedience dog I have ever owed. He truly loves to please and will continue to work until you tell him we are done. He never says no to a challenge or to learning a new exercise. He does everything with drive and power. Leto is an easy dog to live with. Super smart and makes my job as his handler/trainer look effortless.
What do you recall about Leto’s first obedience trial? Leto’s first obedience trial was at Alberta Kennel Club’s summer show in August 2018. This was a venue that was very distracting and tough for a green dog due to the fact that agility is going on very close to the obedience rings. Lots of noise and whistles, and lots of spectators. It is an outdoor trial as well, so the heat can take its toll. Leto did great for a green dog going for his Novice title. Made silly green-dog mistakes, but nothing we could not fix. We finished off our Novice title at this trial with some very nice scores. He was just two years old at that time.
How have you continued to keep Leto in shape and sharp during the COVID-19 pandemic? Leto is a very athletic dog. We have been running to keep physically active and ensure his stamina is still there. We are also training obedience several times a week. We don’t spend a lot of time drilling the exercises, instead we are playing and incorporating some of the aspects of the obedience exercises to keep things fun and motivating. With no trials happening now for quite some time in my area due to COVID, I just make sure that Leto is still remembering the basics of all of the exercises for Open and Utility and staying sharp on his focus work. We hope one day to finish off his GMOTCH title, but we need more trials for us to attend to accomplish that task. Here’s hoping 2021 gets us back in the ring more than 2020 did.
What are Leto’s favourite activities when you’re not practising? When Leto is not practising obedience he is practising for IGP (tracking, obedience and protection). His second favourite love is definitely that sport. This is the sport he gets to enjoy with his dad, Shannon O’Briant. Leto also enjoys swimming in the river whenever he can get a chance to do that.