In 2014, “Baker” the Golden Retriever was only about 8 weeks old when his owner-handler and trainer Kori Bevis knew he was “different and special.” Even then, the Cannon Falls, Minnesota, resident saw something in him that’s developed into their future successes together in the world of Obedience. Over the last two years, Baker, NOC2 OTCH14 High Times Shake ‘N Bake UDX9 OGM SH, became the first dog to win the coveted “Triple Crown” of Obedience competitions: he placed first in the 2022 AKC National Obedience Championship (NOC), AKC Obedience Classic, and the 2023 Westminster Kennel Club Masters Obedience Championship.
A Repeat Champion
Bevis and 8-½-year-old Baker also recently won the 2023 AKC NOC, held June 18 and 19 in Wilmington, Ohio. Even after this back-to-back NOC win, they’re not done yet. Team Baker will attempt to leave their mark in as-yet uncharted territory. “As part of winning the NOC, Baker earned an automatic qualifying spot for the 2024 NOC. We will do local trials that we enjoy as a means of staying fresh,” Bevis explains.
Baker’s mother won NOC in 2015, and his sister took the title in 2021. “The NOC has always been my favorite event,” says Bevis. “This year was my thirteenth time competing.” She notes that “not only is the competition there premier,” with only the top Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH) dogs invited to compete, “but the format is extremely challenging, 20 rings in two days. It’s very different from what we do on a normal show weekend.”
Baker and Bevin’s Unbreakable Bond From the Start
Baker was part of a litter of 10, eight females and two males, bred by Bridget Carlsen of High Times Golden Retrievers in Yorkville, Illinois. “I vividly remember the day he was born,” recalls Bevis. “I got texts all day from Bridget. I wanted a boy, and all the girls came out first. It was nerve-wracking. I let Bridget pick Baker for me, but we definitely had an immediate bond. His brother was bigger and blonder than Baker, but I felt an attraction to the little red dude.”
A week later, she met Baker at Carlsen’s home. “That moment was something special that I have never experienced,” Bevis smiles. “After I picked him up at 8 weeks old, we went to a nearby hotel where I was prepared to chase this little puppy all over the room, stop him from eating things, and having potty accidents. But no, I put Baker down on the floor. He simply stared up at me and followed me around as I put my things away.”
Baker’s Natural Knack for Obedience
Baker was exceptional from the moment Bevis began training him. That earned him the nickname “Little Genius.” “He would learn new behaviors after three repetitions, not three whole training sessions,” says Bevis. “He has always been exceptionally focused. He simply doesn’t get distracted, which is unbelievable. Each new environment we encounter, he acts as if he has been there every day of his life. He sometimes gets ahead of himself, however, and thinks he knows better than I do what’s coming up next.”
Learning comes easily to the enthusiastic Golden. “He loves learning new things and is energized doing so,” she says. He learned how to spin in a circle for a reward as a young puppy. “He has remembered this his whole life and uses it to communicate things he wants,” she adds.
High-Scoring Obedience Dogs
Baker isn’t Bevis’ first Obedience dog. She got started in the sport in 2003 with her Labrador Retriever, “Harley.” “I knew I wanted her to be well-behaved, so I took her to a local dog training school and pursued competition with her. Quickly, I was hooked.” Harley went from Novice A Obedience all the way to her OTCH. Bevis and her husband, Chris, also owned a Labrador Retriever, “Cedar,” and a Golden Retriever, “Teego,” both of whom attained OTCH titles.
“I enjoy the pursuit of perfection that is inherent in Obedience,” she explains. “I also appreciate that I can compete in this sport without the need for a lot of expensive equipment or space. Obedience is the basis for all other dog sports. When I started Retriever Hunt Test, Baker had a huge advantage due to his Obedience skills. Obedience has room for many different goals for participants. Some want a perfect 200 score and national championship. Some want to obtain three qualifying scores and earn a title. Both goals are great and do not conflict with each other.”
Baker’s show career was off to a good start when he began at 2 1/2 years old. In February 2017, he earned his first Companion Dog (CD) title, 3/3 with all first places and high scores of 199, 199, and 198.5. He tied for High in Trial with Bevis’s older dog Cedar, who won the runoff. A month later, Cedar won the AKC National Obedience Championship with Bevis.
Big Supporters in the Dog World
Barbara Wedekind Selton, an AKC judge from Bloomington, Minnesota, and Diane Schultz, AKC director of Obedience, Rally & Tracking, are some of Bevis’ many admirers. “Kori is one of the most dedicated trainers and handlers that I have ever met and Baker is that one-in-a-million dog,” Selton says. “Baker has that rare quality that he performs best under stress.” She notes that Baker’s energy level never declines. “So when other dogs get tired after showing on Day 1, he is revved up and ready to go again at any moment.”
Schultz adds, “Experience is key to their successes. [Baker] is a seasoned dog, having competed at several tournaments, as has Kori with her previous dogs. When an experienced handler develops a dog from puppyhood up, a unique relationship develops and becomes stronger every year.”
A Strong Relationship for a Strong Obedience Team
Baker has been bred twice so far. “His offspring are young and just starting their working careers and are already excelling in several different sports,” Bevis says. Of course, these include Obedience but also Agility, Retriever Hunting Tests, and Nose Work.
Bevis continues to hone her partnership with her Golden. “Baker certainly contributes a lot of exceptional raw talent in terms of his intelligence, stamina, and work ethic,” she reflects. “But I believe that almost any dog can become an obedience champion if the owner is dedicated enough. That percentage probably depends a lot on the particular team.
“As talented and intelligent as Baker is, that does not necessarily make him an ‘easy’ dog. It’s challenging to campaign a dog in our sport for years on end, doing the same exercises and not have the dog either get bored or start to anticipate before the handler’s commands, which would be a non-qualifying fault.” She adds, “A friend recently commented that Baker would do well with most handlers and I would do well with most dogs, but together we are exceptional.”