Rubin Johnson, Dog Trainer

Competitive Dog Obedience

We had a chance to see Finn not long after he was born in July 2017, although he didn't join our family until he was 8 weeks old. We'd not had a puppy since Hunter, who was born on 9/11/2001. Both are Chesapeake Bay retrievers; Hunter's father was Finn's grandfather. Dog training has evolved much over that time span, although the changes have not been embraced uniformly.

After working with Finn's first dog obedience instructor, I wanted to write a book explaining those methods. After some research, it became apparent those ideas were neither original, nor new. Finn and I took several other classes (obedience, advanced obedience, agility, and more obedience) from a variety of instructors. We also experimented on our own based on techniques from the 1800s, military training manuals, clicker training books, and various youtube channels...

When going to my first Woodworkers of Whittier meeting at a local park, there were at least a dozen dogs on the grass. It turns out, a local club meets there. After a few questions, I was invited to come back with my dog for their regular Thursday practice sessions. The group is focused on American Kennel Club activities and competitions including Obedience and Agility. That put us on a path toward Companion Dog via AKC obedience trials.

Finn earned two legs of the three required for his first award in 2019. Unfortunately, beginning in March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic completely disrupted our official progress because classes and trials were all suspended.

In 2021, group events resumed. Finn got the third leg of Beginner Novice at an August event in Torrance. In three days of trials in November at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Finn earned his Companion Dog certificate with two first place blue ribbons along the way. We're not sure how much further we'll go with the AKC, but we're enjoying being a team.

Usually twice a day, we're at a local park hiking and playing fetch. We interact with other dogs and their people, many of whom mention how well Finn listens. They don't usually reflect on how much I listen to Finn. From my perspective, working with dogs requires two way communication. I'm happy to share my experiences with others to help them along their way.

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