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Desi Desario and Dioji take a trick break en route to San Bernadino Peak during the 2019 Six Peak Challenge, an epic goal to hike any six of 18 iconic Southern California mountains.

The SoCal Shiba

Before they became a dynamic duo in sunny Santa Monica, Desi Desario and Dioji the Shiba Inu both spent their days in California’s sprawling Inland Empire. Dioji had been living with a family in Riverside who didn’t quite know what to do with the young, energetic dog. Desario, meanwhile, had recently moved to the Los Angeles area from Rancho Cucamonga to attend graduate school ahead of a career in the film industry.

Desario had grown up with an admittedly unruly Whippet, but she had been wanting a dog of her own for years. Santa Monica seemed like an ideal locale for the type of pup she desired – an active hiking and running companion with a confident, adaptable personality. She’d already decided that a Shiba Inu was the dog that fit the bill when a serendipitous message hit her inbox.

“I researched the Shiba Inu breed for two years before I met Dioji,” she recalls. “An old friend knew about this and messaged me that they were looking for a home for a puppy. As soon as I met the pup, I named him Dioji and welcomed him into a world of adventure.”

Dioji and Desario train recall on different types of terrain with distractions. This includes over rivers, on boulders, and even across logs in the Angeles National Forest.

Setting The Stage With CGC

Among other traits, the American Kennel Club describes the Shiba Inu as “clever, resourceful, and quietly determined to accomplish any desired objective.” An ancient Japanese breed and member of the Non-Sporting Group, Shibas can be polarizing pups. In some dogs, the breed’s independent and headstrong traits can tend to manifest as aloofness or indifference.

As such, Desario knew she had to take Dioji’s training seriously, especially if she was to be able to bring him to her job at the movie studio production campus. She also recalled the challenges of owning Leo, the largely-untrained Whippet of her youth. She promised herself that her new dog would have foundational training done the proper way. Cue the AKC Canine Good Citizen program.

“While the Shiba makes a good companion dog, they are a primitive breed known for having a fiery temperament,” says Desario. “I wanted to ensure Dioji was well-socialized as a puppy and considerate of the people and dogs inside my office. Achieving the CGC was a great way to make sure I reached that goal.”

For the Canine Good Citizen test, Dioji had to prove proficiency at ten unique skills. These include accepting friendly strangers, behaving around other dogs, and handling distractions with confidence.  Due in no small part to Desario’s dedicated training, Dioji earned his title and ribbon. It was an early success in what would become an adolescence filled with achievement.

“Before we started training for the CGC, I thought the certificate would be the best part,” admits Desario. “However, it was the training that came out of it that was the most rewarding. I feel ecstatic walking around with Dioji at work and in public places knowing that he’s so well-behaved in any situation.”

One Dynamic D-O-G

With Canine Good Citizen-ship secured, many owners would be content to rest on their laurels. Not these two. For Dioji, the CGC was just a foundational step in his newfound life of adventure. For Desario, the title helped her to realize that the historically tricky-to-train Shiba Inu breed can be taught just as well as any dog, with the right amount of dedication.

Dioji enjoys the view while scaling the smooth rocks of the Valley of Fire’s Pastel Canyon in Nevada.

“Dioji has gained a tremendous amount of trust from me after CGC training,” she affirms. “We’re able to do many things that aren’t often possible with the breed, like agility and meeting new dogs. We can camp and hike in the wilderness around critters and other people, and Dioji has become reliable off-leash. This is something I never would dream of happening when I researched the Shiba Inu.”

Indeed at barely two years old, Dioji has already experienced a lifetime’s worth of adventures with Desario. The pair have earned AKC titles in coursing ability (CAT), FastCAT, and Trick Dog, and have also participated in agility, Scent Work, and Flyball. Desario has hopes to begin entering AKC Agility competitions soon.

Outside of dog sports, Dioji loves taking walks on the wild side, embarking on excursions in all sorts of environments. The spunky Shiba has hiked some of California’s toughest terrain, while doing some trick training along the way, of course. Desario has transported the pup on motorcycles and four-wheelers, and the pair have even shared waterfront meals atop a paddleboard. Any given weekend brings new possibilities, whether that be spelunking in caves, camping in the desert, or exploring new sports.

“It has been almost two years of this constant training to create the dog you see today!” affirms Desario of the importance of CGC and a good training foundation. “But every moment of progress and accomplishment has been a life-changing experience.”

Be sure to follow Dioji on Instagram if you’re interested in keeping up with this duo’s ongoing adventures.

Dioji paddle boarding at Seal Beach, CA. He has even learned to climb on and off and swim to shore on his own.

Earning Your CGC

If Dioji and Desario have inspired you to try to take the Canine Good Citizen test, you can get started right away by finding a CGC class and evaluator. The Canine Good Citizen program is open to all dogs. If you have a special CGC story to share, be sure to tag any photos posted with #ThisisAKC #CGC on Instagram.

The AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program has been the gold standard of dog behavior since 1989. Thirty years later, more than 1 million dogs have passed their CGC test. In honor of over a million Canine Good Citizens, we’ve launched a monthly “CGC & Me” series, highlighting the amazing stories of AKC CGC dogs and their owners. 

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Canine Good Citizen (CGC)

This program is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior. In CGC, dogs who pass the 10 step CGC test can earn a certificate and/or the official AKC CGC title.
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