From underdog to top dog: MV club-trained pit bull named AKC Obedience Trial Champion

Courtesy of Southard Photography
Jasmine, an 11-year-old pit bull, performs for owner Nan Daley at a recent show.

Jasmine kept her eyes fixed on the squirrels trotting between the grass field to trees for coverage, yet she remained still. That is, in close proximity to her treat-in-hand partner Nan Daley.

Seven-year-old Jasmine, sporting a coat of gray and white, with her right ear slightly tucked, is a pit bull. Trained by the Deep Peninsula Dog Training Club in Mountain View, she was awarded the Obedience Trial Champion title from the American Kennel Club in the spring.

Daley and Jasmine met 10 years ago when she was dog sitting for the day for her daughter’s friend. Daley said she started to worry when no one came to pick up Jasmine.

“It turned out she spent the night with us,” the Woodside resident said. “I contacted the local rescue and they said they only take dogs out of the shelter – not from people. There are too many pit bull dogs especially, and not enough homes.”

With a dog, cat and horse already at home and her own concerns about pit bulls being aggressive, she wanted Jasmine to be adopted. She trained Jasmine at the Deep Peninsula club, and the dog received the Canine Good Citizen title. The training consisted of general “sit” and “stay” commands to show that Jasmine is obedient in public and with people.

“So we did the training and we passed. But still, nobody wanted her,” Daley said. “People say she looks mean, but she’s really a sweetheart.”

Daley noted that dogs are not much different from people.

“I think a lot of people, me included, thought that (pit bulls) were associated with gangs, maybe ‘bad boys.’ I think in general, they’re like everybody else – there’s good and bad,” Daley said. “You have to judge them as individuals and by their behavior.”

Eyes on the prize

Daley and Jasmine’s arrangement became permanent. With Daley’s love for animals and Jasmine’s enthusiasm, they next set their eyes on competition. Judy Cummings, instructor for competition and obedience at the Deep Peninsula Dog Training Club, helped train Jasmine.

“In order to get to the level that Nan has achieved, you have to pass the first three levels, which are not easy,” Cummings said.

The levels for obedience competition are novice, open and utility. At the novice level, exercises are done both on- and off-leash. One level up, the dogs are required to work away from the handler, including jumps, retrieving dumbbells, hand signals and commands. The highest level involves verbal commands and no leashes; scent detection is also judged.

“It looks easy, but it’s difficult,” Cummings said.

To win the Obedience Trial Champion from the AKC, Jasmine had to earn 100 points collectively at competitions. It took Jasmine and Daley four years to accomplish this goal; they received their 100th at a competition in Sacramento last May.

“At the shows, some of the judges haven’t seen (a pit bull),” Daley said, adding that most competition dogs are golden retrievers. “The judges are kind of like, ‘Oh, great, probably not going to do very good.’ But a lot of times, they’re surprised and people end up rooting for you, because you’re the underdog.”

Daley noted that Jasmine’s favorite exercise are the jumps.

Since Jasmine, Daley has taken on many other foster dogs from Our Pack, a rescue shelter in Los Gatos. That’s where she fell in love with another pit bull, Olive.

“Jasmine’s taught me a lot, as far as, you know, to judge people on how they act – not what they look like,” Daley said.

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