By Shelly Leary, Guest Author

Most of us know that dogs and people are a natural match. Not all people like dogs, and not all dogs like people, but for the most part they are drawn to one another. Both species attempt to learn the language of the other and connect on a deeper level. The more they learn to communicate with one another, the deeper the bond, and the more fulfilling the relationship becomes.

bernese1Some people have trouble knowing how to work within a structured environment, yet that is what a society is — structured. Whether it is our natural inclination or not, structure is something we must achieve to be part of a productive and healthy community. Working with dogs helps those who are trying to achieve this goal in a fun and positive manner.

Youth from the Riverbend Youth Transitional Facility in Eastern Oregon have the opportunity to work each week with Bernese Mountain Dogs ranging from young puppies to senior dogs. The majority of the dogs are young and learning a large variety of skills for the first time. But their age doesn’t matter. What is important is that social relationships are being made.

The youth must establish a trust relationship with the dog they choose and work on basic obedience. When this is accomplished, they are allowed to test within the CGC format. Not titling the dog, but earning a handler certificate. This is highly significant because the youth have to discipline themselves to learn what is required of a title, plus discipline themselves in patience and consistency.

bernese2The dogs all train with their owner, but this does not transfer over to the youth. The youth must develop their own connection and “language” with each dog. Working with the older and previously trained dogs presents a greater challenge. The youth truly must work hard to gain respect and attention from the dog.

When a youth first receives a dog to work with, we frequently see that the dog will not make eye contact. This is the first obstacle to overcome. The second is time dedicated to building a relationship through play, grooming or general companionship. We see youth who are hesitant, even fearful, about working with large dogs transform into confident young men who are proud and eager to show off their accomplishments. We also see youth who are overly confident thinking they can accomplish these tasks quickly. The dogs teach them to slow down and work through the steps. These are all valuable skills that will transfer to everyday life in their community.

Preparing for the CGC evaluation requires the youth to be confident in themselves and inspire confidence in the dog. They work on basic social skills and dealing with self control, which translates directly to their dogs. By the time they are ready to be evaluated, we see the youth willing to make eye contact with the evaluator, speak confidently about their accomplishments and even educate the public about the dog they have trained. However, the youth are still incredibly fragile. The feeling of potential failure is there. This is also a life skill. We all fail! How we handle it makes all the difference in how we see ourselves and how others see us. CGC allows a reasonable “retry” offer, but if the cut isn’t made, the youth knows that more time and work will be required.

This article is more about the benefit to our youth, but the CGC benefits our dogs as well. A confident, well-mannered dog is a pleasure to be around. Owners will want to include their pet in family activities if they can trust their companion to behave. Because of this, the animals have a greater chance of remaining in their forever home and not being a nuisance to society.

Thank you AKC for making a program that works to make a better society for all of us. Thank you to Gail Hesscock, CGC evaluator, for helping make this experience a positive one that will make a difference in lives for both people and dogs.


Riverbend Volunteers,

Shelly Leary

Marti House

& The Swiss Silhouette Bernese Mountain Dogs:

Ollie, Liesl, Bindi, Freja, Coda, Sera, Terra, & Niquita

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Riding in the Car: An AKC Urban CGC Skill

AKC’s Urban Dog program teaches the skills a dog needs to live safely in a city — no matter how big or small.

One of Urban Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test items involves the dog riding safely in a car. To keep your dog safe in the car, follow these five basic tips.

  1. Secure the dog

dogs_in_back_of_car_headerA crate is the safest place for a dog to be when riding in a car. You can also use a canine seatbelt. Owners of well-trained dogs will often allow them to ride unrestrained in a back seat. Whatever you do, don’t have a loose dog riding in the front seat of your car.
2. Take a break

On long car rides, both you and your dog will benefit from a break to stretch your legs, have some water, and visit the “bathroom.” Keeping your dog from being physically uncomfortable will increase the chances that she is calmer during the car ride.

3. Keep an eye on the weather

If the temperature is 80 degrees outside, the inside temperature of the car with the windows rolled up can exceed 100 degrees in 15 minutes. Cold weather can also be dangerous. In extreme temperatures, have a plan for not leaving your dog in the car, or leave your dog at home. Read more hot weather safety tips here.

4. No head out the window

It may look like a load of fun when dogs are cruising down the highway with their heads out of the car window, but this can result in ear and eye injuries. Don’t let your dog ride with his head out of the window.

5. Identification for your dog

In case you are injured in an accident and can’t handle your dog (or the dog gets loose), make sure you have a form of identification on the dog and on the dog crate in the car. While traveling, your dog should wear a collar tag with identification. Microchips are important for dogs whether or not they are traveling. AKC Reunite provides a 24-hours a day, 365-days-a-year recovery service, learn more at http://www.akcreunite.org.
Following these tips will ensure that your Urban CGC dog will be comfortable and safe when riding in the car.


And to ensure you have the proper auto insurance coverage while taking those rides, get a free auto insurance quote from our CGC sponsor, Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance. Call 855.531.9301 or visit ameriprise.com/akc.

Sponsored by Ameriprise

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It’s Never Too Late for Training…Dogs or People

In February, 2014, a beautiful red Doberman Pinscher named Devon came to live with Carole Moen and her husband, Bill Rock.

Things haven’t been the same since. Devon was 4-years old when he went to live with Carole and Bill. Bill had never shown a dog before, but he and Devon didn’t let that stand in their way.

Here are some photos of their journey.  Devon’s first title was Canine Good Citizen. Carole showed Devon in Beginner Novice and got the first of 3 legs with a 2nd place. Bill then entered Beginner Novice and got a first place for the second of three required legs.

Devon a new beginningThey didn’t stop there…after Beginner Novice, Devon earned the CGCA (AKC Community Canine) title and in November 2015, he got his CD (Companion Dog, the novice title) in obedience.

Devon (with help from Bill and Carole) shows that for many dogs, Canine Good Citizen is just the beginning.

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It’s Time for Spring Cleaning

Springtime is here! Even though you may live in a place where you still have some melting snow, it’s time to clean up your property. My top two tips for outdoor Spring cleaning follow.

Maintain your property
Start this Spring season by keeping your lawn waste free. Remove grass clippings, tree branches, and any trash. “Ranger,” a German Shepherd puppy, cut his foot as he walked through a large pile of grass clippings in his owner’s yard. No one realized until it was too late that there was a piece of rusty metal under the grass.
Woman With Dog Having Coffee Break Whilst Working Outdoors In Garden

Cleaning up trash and repairing walkways can prevent accidents. While you’re cleaning up the yard, check all outdoor lighting to make sure it’s working, including outdoor lights and stair lights.

Use Dog Friendly Gardening Practices
Springtime isn’t all about cleaning. It’s time for planting new plants, fertilizing, and watering. Make sure that all of your gardening products including fertilizers and pesticides are stored in a secure location and that you have selected pet friendly, non-lethal products for the safety of children and pets.
Several years ago, we had a very close call at our home. Not realizing that the product would be a problem, my husband put snail and slug bait at the base of some plants. My beloved Border Collie, Laddie, ate the bait and was rushed to the emergency veterinarian just in time to save his life. Laddie was not a dog who went around eating things on the property, but it turns out that snail and slug bait actually attracts animals.

By keeping a watchful eye and closely inspecting your property, you will ensure that dogs and visitors stay safe.

And to ensure you have the proper home insurance coverage, get a free home insurance quote from our CGC sponsor, Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance. Call 855.531.9301 or visit ameriprise.com/akc.

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Quincy Kennel Club (IL) Gives CGC Test to Vets & Service Dogs

The Quincy Kennel Club in Quincy, IL conducted a CGC test with veterans and their service dogs. Here’s the story:



Photo: Michael Kipley



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From AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy to Diabetic Alert Dog

Today’s guest writer is Michael Burkey of Michigan Dog Training.

SaoirsePuppyStarClick here to read about a STAR pup that is on the way to becoming a service dog.

Future Service Dog becomes a S.T.A.R. Puppy

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Historic FUN Obedience Event at Westminster

Photo: Cathy Sheeter Fine Arts

Photos: Cathy Sheeter Fine Arts


Never say never. That’s what I learned this week at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The nationally recognized Westminster show takes place every February in New York City. For nearly a week, dog people from across the country descend upon New York and the city is abuzz with everything dog.

For many years, I’ve heard obedience people say, “wouldn’t it be great if some day our sport could be at Westminster to show the public about the benefits of training dogs?” And every time, someone would inevitably respond, “It will never happen.” That’s because Westminster has been a club steeped in tradition and that tradition has always been conformation shows.

But then, there was a change. Westminster Kennel Club decided to add AKC Agility to the show, and this year, everyone cheered at the show (and at home as they watched via television) for this year’s National Agility Champion.

And this year, in another beyond-belief extraordinarily progressive move, the Westminster Kennel Club decided to give AKC obedience a try. AKC obedience staff went to work on the idea. Doug Ljungren, the Vice President of Sports & Events (who is responsible for Obedience) gave the team one requirement: “This can not be like watching paint dry. You have to make it fun.”

And that is exactly what they did. Borrowing an idea from figure skating where there are both compulsory and creative (freestyle) events, the format for this national obedience championship event had required exercises and then handlers did their own creative thing.

Some of the creative routines bordered on canine freestyle, some bordered on tricks, and MAGIC happened. The crowd cheered, and clapped and roared, and everyone held their breath in suspense during the run-off between two dogs. Judge Sharon Ann Redmer played to the crowd, with her stage-presence voice and dramatic flourishes as she tore score sheets off her note pad.

And so it was, at this historic event, the crowd screamed and roared for AKC obedience. It was entertaining and it was fun. And it was at the Westminster Kennel Club.

If you missed it, watch the live stream on the Westminster Kennel Club web page at http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org

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