We caught up with Lee of the amazing Lee and Scooter team while they were down in Florida enjoying a well-earned vacation. They have claimed the #1 Obedience Top Dogs spot for two years in a row, and Lee graciously expanded on her Top Dogs interview, offering some wonderful insight into the world of Obedience training and her work with Scooter.
Q: How did you get started in Obedience?
My parents gave my twin sister and I a puppy each with the understanding we would go to obedience classes and train our puppies. Our first classes began when the puppies were 6 months old. The trainer was Clarence Zimmerman. He would later become an obedience judge and the CKC rep for obedience in Alberta. Little did we know how long the love of training would last. He instilled in me to teach the basics well and build a strong foundation.
Q: What is the most important place to start when training a dog for obedience? Can you tell if your dog will do well in the sport?
I always start puppies now as soon as they are settled into our home. I work on interacting with the puppy getting his attention, playing with toys. Building a bond, having puppy follow me and play with me. From this comes follow with head up and then attention. One never knows what this puppy will become. Some show great promises early others are late bloomers. Patience is a virtue as they say. A good teacher or coach help you over the ruff spots and celebrates the successes with you.
Q: What was the hardest element for you and Scooter to master?
Scooter had a great deal of trouble with signals. He was great close up but lost it at 15 to 20 feet. It took a long time practicing with a variety of distances for him to get consistency. He makes it look easy now.
Q: What do you do if you make a mistake in the ring?
If he messes up in the ring I move on as though he had done fine. There is no point it getting down on yourself or the dog at that moment. There really is nothing you can do about it in the ring so move on. I want my dog to enjoy the trials and I will work out the error in training later
Q: How did you and Scooter prepare to start competing at such an advanced level? Is there anything you regret not teaching Scooter at the beginning?
I took extra time with Scooter before he started trialing. I would enter in one trial on a weekend instead of all the trials. He needed to build his confidence and it paid off. He loves trialing. I did not teach position changes to Scooter. I am still doing stays with him. I will teach my new dog the change of position and also the stays. I feel stays are important.
Q: What is the most important thing to remember when training a dog for obedience?
Most important when training a dog is to be fair and make sure he understands what you are trying to teach him. Break each exercise down to go slowly and always verbally praise before treat or toy. You are not a Pez dispenser dropping out treats. Your goal is to get the dog to work for you and enjoy it for many years to come. As a friend said you earn your ribbons training, you just pick them up at the shows.
Q: Will you be campaigning for a Top Dogs spot again next year?
I have to admit I was not trying the first year till mid summer and a judge said I should give it a try. I laughed and said maybe. Last year in August I was in the same position and the same judge said, “Is this a repeat of last year?”. I thought maybe and since he was doing so well decided to give it a go.
He truly is an amazing little dog who loves to trial. So ask me again in August, till then Scooter and I will be playing our sport and having fun.
Lee and Scooter
CKC’s Top Dogs program celebrates the best competitors in Canadian dog sport. Tallying points earned throughout the calendar year at each CKC sanctioned event, the Top Dogs winners represent the most dedicated and successful dog-handler teams in each discipline. It is with great pride that CKC releases the official Top Dogs Results each year. Congratulations to our Top Dogs winners and to all competitors as you challenge and inspire each other to the Top. Thank you to our sponsors for their generous support of the Top Dogs program.