MORRIS – Tessa Brancato’s English Labrador, Waders, was named for his skills as a hunting dog, but these days, Waders spends more time being pampered than tracking wild game.
Tessa is reforming her father’s old hunting hound into a prize-winning show dog.
“My husband hunts, but she took over and now he’s a show dog,” Tessa’s mother Karen Brancato, said.
This will be Tessa and Waders’ second year attending the 4-H dog obedience training program sponsored by the Grundy County unit of University of Illinois Extension and held every year at the Grundy County Fairgrounds.
In the words of longtime instructor Diane Mcluckie, the 10-week obedience class is designed to teach dogs “how to be a good canine citizen.”
Wednesday marked the fourth week of class for more than 10 dog owners enrolled in this year’s program.
“It’s teaching your dogs manners to work on in public, like not to jump on people,” she said.
That is etiquette 4-H member John Wolfer hopes his English springer spaniel, Cooper, will learn. Wolfer said this is their third year in the obedience class, but Cooper is still too full of energy to settle down.
Cooper spent much of Wednesday’s class sniffing and bestowing slobbery kisses on anyone nearby.
“His one weakness is that he is very excitable around people and other dogs,” Wolfer said. “He will jump, and he will slobber. It’s something we work on every day.”
This was the first year of obedience training for Crystal Mclaughlin and Craig Glogowski, who are training their dog Bristol. The two rescued the pup after she was abandoned at Glogowski’s job site last year.
“This is more about socialization for her,” Mclaughlin said. “We didn’t know what kind of background she had, so we wanted to get her used to other dogs and people.”
The obedience classes are free for 4-H students, but are offered to the public for a $5 fee.
Mcluckie teaches a showmanship class alongside obedience training, which prepares students for the upcoming 4-H dog showing competition held at the end of July.
John Davis, 4-H youth development educator for Grundy County, said the program grew this year with more students and members of the public enrolled than usual.
He credited the expertise of Mcluckie who has competed in some of the world’s largest best dog shows throughout the past eight years.
“You can see when you work with her that she’s got a real passion for dogs,” Davis said. “When you have somebody who is good and passionate about it, people will flock to the program.”
To compete in the 4-H dog showing competition, the students have to answer questions about their dog’s breed, perform a myriad of tasks for a group of judges and make sure their dog is properly groomed.
Mcluckie teaches students all of this, but she said showmanship is about more than winning. It teaches students, especially the young 4-Hers, confidence and improves their self-esteem.
“What I like is you learn to work with your dog,” she said. “You and your dog learn to be a team.”