"We're not spot on and absolutely perfect, but we do have a helluva good time," said Judy Leonard, a longtime dog trainer who offers obedience and agility classes through the City of Delta Recreation Department. She works with a "cast of characters" which includes Chet Wise and his dancing dog Rico; Melody Willey and the singing Rufus; Char who owns Buddy, the senior citizen of the group; Buddy's roommate Ozzie, an Old English sheepdog owned by Debbie Fischer; Amy and her cattle dog Aaron; Carrie Hinton and Hanna; Rayna Stout and her border collie Raven; Troy Pandelos and the vocal Darby; and Jodi Wagner.
"We love to get together and have a little fun with our dogs, and we like to share that fun with an audience," Leonard said. Last week they performed for the residents at Crossroads Assisted Living Center; this Thursday they'll be at the farmers' market in Grand Junction.
Lately they've had to turn down appearances because of schedule conflicts. "We need at least six or eight dogs and owners to perform," Leonard said. She hopes to recruit more participants so when someone is unavailable, there will still be enough owners to run their dogs through the performance.
"Sometimes we have to cancel performances if two or three people can't make it," she said. Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Fabulous Fido Follies is encouraged to call Leonard at 234-1643.
Their first act is a canine rendition of a square dance. "When we were trying to choreograph this dance, we thought a better name for our group might be ‘Canine Chaos'," Leonard told the seniors at Crossroads as the dogs and their owners do-si-doed to a country and western song.
The dogs also compete in musical squares, a variation of musical chairs, and race head-to-head through an agility course.
The Fido Follies are in their second year and still trying to smooth out the rough spots. "We don't practice a lot," Leonard said. "If a dog messes up, we just do it again."
"It's more entertaining when they screw up occasionally," a fan added.
Leonard has been training dogs since she moved to Delta County in 1978 and joined the now-defunct Black Canyon Kennel Club. "Obedience classes really turn people on to their dogs," she said. "I love to see owners proud of their dogs and what they can do."
Whether you participate in an obedience class or an agility course with your dog, you'll be building a stronger bond with your pet. While obedience classes will teach your dog better behavior, agility classes give them a purpose, which in turn can result in better behavior. "One of our slogans is ‘Make your pet a pleasure instead of a pest'," Leonard said. "Pets can give you so much satisfaction, just by being with them."
Leonard was a 4-H dog leader for several years, and was the superintendent of the dog obedience competition at this year's Delta County Fair. She was a judge at the Ouray County Fair, a role she has previously filled at the Montrose County Fair. She says she "sticks her fingers" in a lot of organizations, from Delta Fine Arts to the Surface Creek Ladies Saddle Club. At this year's Delta Fine Arts exhibit she was thrilled to earn the "People's Choice" award for her sculpture of a purple dragon. A co-owner of Double J Disposal, Leonard is also associated with Paws with a Cause, which trains service dogs for the handicapped. She is more than happy to give programs at local schools, telling schoolchildren how to approach strange dogs and how to care for their own animals. She usually recruits a couple of friends to join her with their dogs, to do demonstrations for the kids.
For years, Leonard was the only trainer in Delta County. Then Rayna Stout, a 1993 graduate of Cedaredge High School, became certified through the Triple Crown Academy near Austin, Texas.
"Rayna is an exceptional trainer," Leonard said. While Judy works only with groups, Rayna offers private training through Biscuit Eaters K9 Training.
Rayna has worked with animals since she graduated from high school. After completing three months of hands-on training, she obtained an apprenticeship at the Triple Crown Academy. She was later hired as kennel manager. She moved back to Delta County in July 2008, and resumed her job at Best Friends Animal Hospital where she works part-time while training dogs on the side. She has a pack of 12 animals which also keep her busy. She has hopes of using the animals in her own canine performing group, so she spends a lot of time teaching them to work together. She also competes in obedience, agility and a new dog sport, rally. In rally obedience, dogs and owners move at their own pace through a course of 10 to 20 stations, stopping to perform a specific exercise at each station, building communication between dog and owner.
While in Texas, Rayna had an opportunity to work with one of her border collies, Raven, in a national television commercial for Valero gas stations. That was so much fun, she'd like to pursue additional opportunities to work with her dogs in front of the camera.
As a trainer, Rayna says she meets a lot of owners who want to baby their dogs. Dogs need rules, she said. She teaches people how to clearly communicate those rules. "Obedience opens up the line of communication between you and your dog," she says. "With that, the dog can understand what's expected."
Bad behavior is often a means of gaining attention. In that case, you have to ignore the behavior, Rayna advises. If your dog is jumping on you, just turn around and ignore them. As soon as all four feet hit the ground, praise them. Barking is harder to ignore, but the principle is the same. If you'd like more tips about training your dog, call Rayna at 361-7785 or Judy at 234-1643.blog comments powered by Disqus