Junior Spotlight: Junior & Her Mixed-breed Win Top Placement at AKC Juniors Classic

Fourteen-year-old Olivia Hernandez and her adorable Poodle-Cocker mix, Cali, won second place in the Novice Obedience class at the 2015 national AKC Juniors Classic in Orlando, FL. The event spotlights junior handlers under age 18 who compete with their dogs in obedience and rally. Cali is Olivia’s first dog. Her parents made her promise that if they got a dog, she would train her. Obviously, Olivia has held her up her end of the bargain!

Name: Olivia C. Hernandez

Age: 14

Grade: 9th

Family: Parents, Daniel & Carolyn; sister, Christina, 17

Hometown: Damascus, MD

How did Cali come into your family? How old is Cali and what mix is she?

We got Cali from a family that we met through 4H and our county fair.  We needed a dog that did not shed as some of my family members have bad allergies to animals.  We tried for a year to rescue a low shedding dog but were not successful.  Cali is a 2 ½ year old loveable Cockapoo – a mix of Cocker Spaniel and Poodle.

What got you started training Cali? Is your family involved in dog training/showing? Are you involved in 4H?

Cali is my first dog.  My parents told me that they would only get us a dog if we trained it enough to be a good family pet.  They said this would give the dog a better life and make it a better family member.  I attended “Puppy Kindergarten” class with Cali to teach her basic manners.  I enjoyed the class so much I signed up for the next level class.  My mom and trainer often would tell me about AKC Obedience competitions, and I asked my mom to take me to see an AKC Obedience show. 

We spent the day watching the different levels of classes.  I was so amazed at how the handlers and dogs could work as a team.  Ever since that show, I have wanted to train Cali to earn a Utility Dog (UD) title.  My mom competed in Obedience and Agility many years ago so she could explain the competitions to me.  Since Rally had not started when my mom showed dogs, it has been fun learning about the sport together.  I have been a 4H member for eight years with dairy goats and community clubs and with Cali in the canine program for one year.

What do you like best about working with Cali?  In addition to obedience and rally, what other sports do you compete with her in?

My favorite part of training Cali is the challenge.  Cali is very energetic and sometimes is smarter than me.  I love how the amount of effort I put into training her reflects in her performance in the obedience and rally rings. I do hope to sometime in the future train and compete in dock diving as the sport has always fascinated me.

What titles/honors have you earned with Cali?

This is the list of titles/honors we have earned in chronological order:  AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy, AKC Canine Good Citizen, AKC Beginner Novice Obedience, AKC Novice Rally, AKC Rally Advanced, AKC Novice Obedience, Second Place in Preferred Novice Obedience at the 2015 national AKC Juniors Classic.

How did you decide to enter the National AKC Juniors Competition? Was this your first year attending? What contributed to your success at the event and also, what did you win at the event?

Two years ago while competing at an obedience trial, my judge mentioned to me that he would be judging the Junior Classic that year (2014) and that while it was too late for me to submit my entry for 2014, I should try to get in for 2015.  I began to train with Mary Brookey and Jeannine Rash to show in Preferred Novice so that I could attend the 2015 AKC Nationals.  This was my first time ever attending and competing in a national competition.  I was a little overwhelmed at first, but the adult competitors were so kind to Cali and me.  We won second place in the Preferred Novice Titled class and we earned a score of 97 out of 100 in Novice Rally.

Do you own any other dogs or pets?  Any others that I compete with, if so, in what sports?

Cali is the only dog that I have.  Besides Cali, I have a 10 year old parakeet named Daisy.  I also lease a dairy goat named Liesel that I compete with at state and local 4H Dairy Goat competitions and American Dairy Goat Association shows.

What are your future goals in the sport of dogs?

My future goals are to title Cali in Utility and to earn our AKC Rally Excellent title.  In a few years I will hopefully get a new puppy (most likely a Portuguese Water Dog) and train it in obedience and rally. My other biggest goal is to become an AKC Obedience Judge for Novice and Open.

Do you plan to do something animal-related as a career?

I would love to open my own dog training facility to help people achieve their goals as my trainers have helped me, but first I want to become an architect or engineer.