Photo by Patrick Dove, Patrick Dove
Photo by Patrick Dove, Patrick Dove
SAN ANGELO, Texas —
Meet Pam Surley and her dog Sydney. They have a problem for which, they hope, the Concho Kennel Club has a solution.
With its new Canine Good Citizen classes, the club is grooming San Angelo dogs for success. Club President Valerie Tillery last March became certified to instruct the American Kennel Club courses, which train mixed-breed and purebred dogs via their handlers to be well-mannered companions and competitors.
“I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to offer our dogs and the public these classes,” Tillery said. “We’re a canine club; we’re supposed to do some education, and I thought, ‘Hey, what better than some type of canine citizen class?'”
Handlers and their dogs train with Tillery once a week for six weeks, and at the conclusion of the course the canines are tested on 10 skills, including accepting a friendly stranger, walking through a crowd and sitting politely for petting.
“This training is good for the dog; it’s beneficial to everyone,” Tillery said. “There are even cities (that) — if there are issues with the dog — they can nearly court mandate the dog attend one of these classes.”
According to an AKC Canine Good Citizen Program brochure, the courses also provide a foundation for training in competition activities such as rally, obedience and agility, areas Surley, a kennel club member, hopes to explore with Sydney.
But first, Surley hopes to address the 5-year-old Cardigan Welsh corgi’s aggression issues with the aid of the CGC program.
Surley has three other dogs, all of whom are “very sweet,” she said. “I have two cocker spaniels that we have to keep separated (from Sydney), and that’s not good.”
During Sydney’s first class two weeks ago, Surley said, the corgi tried to nip at a canine classmate.
“I popped her back with her lead really fast so she didn’t make contact,” Surley said, adding that she hoped Sydney hadn’t scared off the other dog’s owner, who was absent from the next class.
Surley purchased Sydney — her first show dog — 4½ years ago when she was a puppy.
Surley wanted Sydney to participate in conformation, the beauty competition of dog shows, but could not get the dog’s ears to stand up.
“I would try anything everybody said,” Surley said. “Her ear was not going to come up no matter how much I taped, no matter how much yogurt I gave her.”
By the time Surley resigned herself that Sydney wasn’t going to work in the show ring, the dog had become a family member, she said.
Arlene Wuertenburg Rodriguez, whose Afghan hound Bronzee is a show dog enrolled in the program, said some owners give their purebred dogs away once they realize they can’t compete in a specific arena, but “there are all kinds of other events your dogs can go into.”
Surley said she would like to enroll Sydney in obedience classes once she graduates from the CGC program, then try her in competitions other than conformation.
In the second canine citizenship class, after spending nearly an hour learning about dog behavior, grooming and walking techniques in a classroom behind Tillery’s home, three of the four women and their dogs who are enrolled in the CGC program moved outside for walking drills.
“Let me just apologize now for what my dog may do,” Surley told the other women as one by one they guided their leashed dogs around orange cones, sometimes purposely adding distractions.
“It’s harder than you think,” Tillery said. “You think the dog will just go.”
As part of the class, handlers and their dogs also are given a homework assignment each week. At the conclusion of the first class in late May, they were assigned a scavenger hunt that required them to expose their pets to situations involving public places and strangers.
Surley recruited a woman riding her bicycle past their home for help with Sydney’s scavenger hunt, she said.
“She was learning to ride her bike, so I think it was good for both of them,” Surley said.
The woman rode past repeatedly while Surley and Sydney moved closer and closer.
Sydney “was a little apprehensive because of the bicycle being something different,” but he didn’t show aggression, Surley said. “And the woman did not fall off her bike.”
Those enrolled in the CGC program will continue practicing the 10 skills needed to become a Canine Good Citizen through June 29 with graduation July 7.
A new phase of classes starts in August or September and costs $45, Tillery said. Dogs that have the training and need to be tested can do so for a $20 fee. Registration forms and more information are at conchokennelclub.org.
Watch the Standard-Times for the next installment in Pam Surley’s efforts to make Sydney a good canine citizen.