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Some of ODTC's Rescue and Mixed-Breed Dogs

Quinn       Shandy       Gracie       Mozart

Quinn CDX, RE, TC, CGC
Owned and trained by Lizanne Kaiser

Success is not necessarily how far you get, but how far you've come...

We adopted Quinn 6 years ago from a German Shepherd recue group that had pulled him from the animal shelter when he was 1-year old. He was an unneutered, unclaimed stray found running along the highway. After being neutered, he went to his first adopted home, where he was returned after only 2 weeks. In a bout of separation anxiety, he had torn apart the laundry room when left alone. When we adopted him, he came to us a "broken" dog with significant behavior issues. If other dogs were around, he tried to make himself invisible, and would collapse on the floor and submissively-pee on himself. When he was in that state of mind, there was almost no reaching him. You couldn't distract him to play with a toy, and he wouldn't eat treats. He would completely shut down. This was our first rescue dog, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into or the journey it would take us on...

Other than an 8-week training class we had done with our previous pet dogs, I had never done any serious obedience training before. But Quinn - and now I realize all dogs - need more than just one 8-week class to become and remain well-mannered companions. Dogs need continuous and consistent training throughout their lives. Quinn in particular needed lots of exposure to other dogs in a safe environment to help him overcome his fear. No "wild" dog park experiences for this dog! As Quinn started to come out of his shell, what was once submissive fear behavior started to devolve into fear aggression. Quinn had decided that if he barked at other dogs first, maybe they'd stay away from him. And it wasn't just dogs. I also discovered he was afraid of men. He was fine around women and very gentle with children. But he was wary of men he didn't know. Whether his fear was due to some traumatic experience or just to lack of proper socialization, we'll never know...

Quinn and I repeated ODTC's Intermediate Pet and Novice Obedience classes many times, to give him as much practice and exposure to other dogs and people as possible. I learned crucial lessons from the ODTC instructors - for instance, that you can't correct fear out of a dog. I learned to focus closely on Quinn's body language. If he seemed stressed, I would move him further away from the group of dogs and feed him lots of treats as he relaxed. I tried to give him positive exposure, without tipping him over the edge where he would become reactive. I had Quinn on leash, under my control, and a safe distance from other dogs at all times. Nevertheless, there were still times where he would fire off barking at another dog, and I would apologize, explaining he was a rescue dog with "issues." I remember one class thinking with tear-filled eyes, "I just want him to stop barking at other dogs!" ODTC provided us with a safe, knowledgeable, and understanding environment where Quinn and I felt comfortable coming, learning, and working through these issues.

Our milestones in the beginning were not necessarily performing the obedience exercises perfectly, but whether we could get through an entire class without him reacting at all. I found that our goals needed to be very different from what other people in the classes were aiming for. We worked on minimizing his reactivity as much as possible. At the same time, the obedience exercises gave Quinn a job to focus on, and this helped him overcome his fear reactivity. For instance, the Stand for Exam exercise - especially with a male judge examining him - helped Quinn learn to trust men he didn't know. And Sits & Downs were an excellent way to teach Quinn he had to mind his own business around all sorts of other dogs. We broke our training down into manageable steps and proceeded slowly at a pace Quinn could handle.

As we progressed in our training, we started to compete in Obedience and Rally. Our initial goal was to get a CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certificate. For a rescue dog, some of the CGC exercises can be even more challenging than those in Novice Obedience and Rally. Our first Obedience title was Quinn's CD (Companion Dog - my "Novice A" dog). But our scores were low - barely above the passing level. We started completing in Rally, and passed through all three levels to earn an RE (Rally Excellent). In the meantime, we took a long time working on heeling, attention, and behavioral manners before getting our CDX (Companion Dog Excellent - the Open Obedience title). With all the exercises off-leash and with the sits & downs being out-of-sight, I wanted to make sure Quinn was solid before entering him in Open. Last year Quinn demonstrated his good manners in a variety of situations, by earning his TC (Temperament Certificate) through the German Shepherd Dog Club of America. We're now working on Utility Obedience. Quinn currently has 1 leg towards his UD (Utility Dog) title, which he won with a 1st place!

Most importantly, Quinn has grown tremendously in his confidence and manners. He loves to train, and is now comfortable being around all sorts of dogs and people. Those who didn't know Quinn early on are shocked to learn he was a rescue dog. And those who did can't believe how far he's come (Ed Note: yes we can!). At ODTC, I've met the most wonderful, dog-knowledgeable people. The experience of the other club members is so deep; I always feel I have someone I can turn to for training or behavior advice. Every day I thank Quinn - that he joined our family and introduced me to ODTC and the amazing sport of dog obedience. Quinn is now helping to mentor Dante - our 10-month old German Shepherd - also rescued from the pound.


I adopted Shandy when she was five months old from the humane society. "Likes to play with toys" was her description on the website. Her playfulness and happy, expressive face with its two tan eyebrows completely charmed me. I knew that this silly puppy was meant for me. While I do not particularly believe in portents, her shelter name was Dawn, my name. First order of business, however, was to find a new name for her. For starters, I already know how to sit.

Likes to play with toys was right. Play, play, play, bark at squirrels, play, bark at birds, play, bark at me to play with her, play with other dogs, bark at passersby, play, spread her toys all over the house, choose a toy to play with, chose another toy to play with, then another, then another, play some more, climb six feet up into the tree to chase a squirrel, play, play, play.

When I first got Shandy, we took a couple of obedience classes where she did learn some basic manners. Once the classes had ended, though, I didn't particularly keep up with the training. Meanwhile, Shandy continued to play (OK), and bark at everything (not OK). About a year later, at the suggestion of a friend, we started taking classes with ODTC. I had a very busy, very distracted, very bark-y dog, and I wanted to learn how to teach her to be a calm, well-mannered dog.

At our very first class, Shandy barked almost the entire time. I was mortified. Clearly, I did not have control over my dog. Of course, this was part of the reason in taking the class, but this was difficult to remember in the midst of being mortified. I was sure that we were going to be expelled. We weren't.

In fact, we have taken many more classes since then, including some in Rally Obedience. When we first started taking classes, I had no idea what Rally Obedience was, or any other dog sport (a phrase, I must admit, still makes me laugh), for that matter. Shandy loves the quick pace, and especially anything that involves maneuvering around cones. We not ready to compete though. Shandy still needs to practice staying focused, and I need to practice remembering which is right and which is left.

As for the calm, well-mannered dog: Shandy has made great progress. Taking classes has really helped. She is still gets distracted, but not nearly to the extent that she did a year ago.

That said, anyone up for playing with some toys?

Midnight's Amazing Grace, CDX, RE, CGC
Nov 1, 2001 - Jul 24, 2009

Gracie was my sixteenth foster dog for German Shepherd Rescue. She was a 3-month-old stray in Stockton who was rescued from the shelter. I fell in love with her affectionate impish manner and Gracie found her "forever" home as my third German Shepherd Dog. Gracie taught me that not all GSDs are easy to train. She had a number of issues: fear of new places, new people, loud or sharp noises and new dogs. She was convinced any new dog was going to bite her, all of which made training and going to AKC Shows difficult. We failed to qualify in a number of Novice classes because she wouldn't let the Judge touch her in the stand for exam. After 6 years of training and socializing, she saw people as an endless treat source and became much better with new dogs. Gracie earned her CD when she was 3. She earned her AKC Rally Novice, Advanced and Excellent Obedience titles in 9 consecutive trials. Her CDX was more difficult, always finding one part of one exercise to NQ, including the inventive drop 3 ft from Mom as she was coming in to front following the broad jump (never to be repeated in training or trials before or since). In Sept 2007 we completed the CDX. After 3 NQs at trials in Utility A, she convinced me she wasn't really interested in getting a UD so I retired her in March 2009. On July 7, x-rays showed advanced lung cancer (metastasized Hemangiosarcoma), by July 24 her breathing was labored and it was time to let her go. Dear Gracie: I miss your wagging tail waking me each morning. Thank you Gracie for teaching me so much.

Owned and trained by Janice Tan

On May 19th, 2013, at the Oakland Dog Training Club trial, Mozart won the Utility B class with a score of 197.5 and completed his OTCH with 105 points.

Words cannot express how it feels to have gotten here. It has been a long journey . . .

When I adopted Mozart over eight years ago from Border Collie Rescue of Northern California, I could not have imagined this day. At a year old, he had lived his life in a crate, and I highly suspect he had been abused. He could not walk on a leash and he could not handle the lightest verbal correction without completely shutting down. If I swatted at a fly in the house, Mozart would flee the room and not return for hours. For the first few months, he couldn't look me in the eye or focus for even one minute of basic training. He submissively urinated ALL of the time . . . every time anyone (including me) approached him, every time I called him over, every time I put the leash on, every time he heard me raising my voice at one of the other dogs. . . . It was so bad that after a year, I decided to tile the entire downstairs of my house to aid in the clean-up of his submissive urination accidents (which were at least five times a day for the first couple of years).

I didn't think he had the drive or confidence to be a high-level obedience dog, but after my two GSDs retired due to health problems, I started to focus more on Mozart's training. Although it took about five years for the submissive urination to really stop, his confidence and drive slowly started to go up, and in 2010 he became the first dog I had ever trained or showed in Utility.

When we started to show in the B classes in 2011, my intention was to get more experience as a handler, and perhaps be lucky enough to complete a UDX. I really did not plan on going for points. But his second time out in UB, Mozart won a huge class in Vallejo to rack up 20 points on the spot, and I started to think differently about the OTCH.

It has been a long road, but Mozart has continued to surprise and impress me with his amazing spirit and will to please. We have had setbacks, like the time a large dog jumped two sets of baby gates at a trial to charge him in the ring on directed jumping, and a seven month period when I "retired" him after a string of failures on scent discrimination (his most stressful exercise). But our relationship and our trust in each other have grown with each obstacle. He has taught me a lot, and he has proven that there WAS a high-drive, working BC inside of that meek little dog who cowered and peed at my feet eight years ago. I fully believe that he has earned the title "Champion."

Thank you to all of the trainers (Lori Drouin, Lora Cox, Judie Howard, Denise Fenzi, Lynn Kosmakos) who have helped us in our journey, and thank you to all of our friends at ODTC and in the obedience world for their support. Most of all, thank you to the BEST dog I have ever had the honor of sharing my life with--not because he is an OTCH, but because he is the most amazing partner I could ask for.