By Amelia Blades Steward
If you are like me, you may have purchased or adopted a dog during the pandemic. Accomplishing obedience training for your pup when we couldn’t mix with the public during that time created challenges. But spending time with your pet the last two years may have also afforded you insight into your dog’s nature and personality. The Talbot Kennel Club asks the following questions to see if your pet may be ready for one of its many classes and events.
Do “welcome home” jumps ruin your clothing when you walk through the door? Performance or Family Obedience can re-direct that excitement.
Can your pet hurdle the sofa and take your spot at TV time? Agility might be in your future.
Is your shadow a thinker who really understands you? A Rally title makes a nice thank you gift!
Does your bubbly buddy strut whenever there’s an audience? That’s a winning distinction in the Conformation ring.
The Talbot Kennel Club (TKC), founded in 1959, is an all-breed, all-volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to helping dogs and their owners develop positive, rewarding relationships. The TKC is affiliated with the American Kennel Club (AKC). The organization’s founding goal was to teach individuals how to train their dogs using reward-based training methods. With this goal in mind, the slogan was formed “Training Your Dog with Kindness and Compassion.”
TKC hosts events throughout the year, including agility trials, rally and obedience trials, conformation shows, scent work trials, and more. To get dogs ready to participate in these activities, the Talbot Kennel Club offers six-week classes, including Puppy and Family Dog, Agility, Barn Hunt, Conformation/Handling, Obedience, Rally, and Scent Work.
Initially, TKC rented space for classes in various venues around Easton, including a garage near the Post Office, the National Guard Armory, the Talbot Ag Center, and Hog Neck Community Center. As membership and class participation grew, members decided to rent a more permanent location in what is known as “The Packing House,” located in Cordova. This location was used as TKC’s training center from 1992 to 2013. It was soon obvious the club would need to search for a larger facility. In 2013, a new building was found and TKC moved to its current location at 405 West Belle Road, Unit 6, in Ridgely. This new location has made it possible for the club to add instructors who teach a variety of new classes for all levels of instruction. Today, the club has over 100 members.
“When dogs were first brought to this country, they served a purpose – either to herd animals or keep predators away. We don’t live that way now and for 90% of people, the role of a dog now is as a companion. People not only have purebred dogs as companions, but they also have a lot of mixed-breed dogs as companions. A dog that has somebody to engage with it, train it, and interact with it is going to be a better pet than one that is just left in the backyard,” states Marian Shaw, TKC President.
“My main focus when I started in this club, was to get my children to do something with their dog and have a dog that didn’t pull them down. It was really only obedience that was offered at that time, but they offered a little teaser at the end of the obedience class and let the dogs do agility, which involved going through a tunnel and jumping. So now I’m an agility addict. I am one of only two people in all of AKC that has two agility grand champions.”
According to Marian, the things that are popular in AKC right now are things that are designed not to be breed-specific. Agility is one of the sports that they make inclusive for all breeds. Mixed breeds can do it as well.
She adds, “So that’s one of the things that we tell people is that you do not have to own a purebred dog to come and train and do things with us. As the demand happens, we’re increasing what the club is offering,” she adds.
Talbot Kennel Club also offers agility demonstrations at the Queen Anne’s County and Talbot County Fairs, which helps to generate public interest. They also offer mini seminars to 4-H groups. It offers a synopsis of a particular dog sport so they get kind of a potpourri of different things that you can do with your dogs.
One of the activities you can do with your dog that is gaining popularity is scent work. Scent work was started by dog trainers and shelter people to give shelter dogs something to do. Because every dog wants to find food, they pair the scent that they were looking for with food and so the dogs learn to search for a scent.
“It’s inclusive – even a very elderly dog or a blind dog could do it because all you need is your nose. Because it’s so inclusive and because it’s so fun for the dogs, it’s very popular. It is probably one of the fastest-growing sports in AKC,” comments Joann Beavers, TKC Board Member.
Barn Hunt is another scent game. According to Marian, it was invented by a person who wanted something fun to do with her dog. Scents are hidden in straw mazes. It’s like an Easter egg hunt. This sport is also very inclusive of mixed breed dogs and is another one of the more popular sports in terms of rate of growth.
“I’ve been a member of Talbot Kennel Club since 2010 and started training at the Cordova location. My dogs have been rescued dogs, particularly Brittany Spaniels. With good instruction from The Talbot Kennel Club, I have been able to train these dogs to do all sorts of things and I’ve had a lot of fun. I’m not super competitive but enjoy having something fun to do with my dogs. I do various things like agility, rally, obedience, and barn hunt. I have met so many nice people. You’re going to be successful because there are so many good things about being involved with the club,” comments Shirley Bigelow, TKC Board Member.
“A lot of people with young puppies start in our puppy classes, which is a good way to socialize the puppies, get them used to people, and start training. But for the older dog, then we would suggest Family Dog. TKC now offers two family dog classes – Family Dog One and Family Dog Two. And then for those people who want to continue, we have a Canine Good Citizen prep class that works for even more obedience,” Marian adds.
She explains that the Talbot Kennel Club also encourages kids to come to classes with their dogs. Youth are also encouraged to learn to show their dogs through Junior Showmanship classes.
“I always tell people, the more you play with your dog, it doesn’t matter what you do, the better your relationship will be. And that relationship is what everybody strives for. Most people want a dog that’s well behaved that you can take out in public,” says Marian.
“Come and play with us,” adds Joann. “Dogs just want you to smile at them and most of them will do whatever they need to do to get a smile and maybe a cookie.”
The public is invited to visit the TKC training center and observe one of the classes. TKC instructors can guide you to the class that will benefit you and your dog the most. Discounts are offered to 4-H members and anyone under age 18, as well as for rescue dogs. Each of the member clubs with AKC is required to have at least one breed dog show a year. Talbot Kennel Club is doing two dog shows on September 24 and 25 in Harrington, Delaware, at State Fairgrounds.
For further information about Talbot Kennel Club, call 410-820-1229 or visit talbotkennelclub.org.