India: the competition-winning Cocker Spaniel who thrives on challenges

July Next Top Pawdel Cover

Written by Cora Llamas

Content strategist, project manager, and reluctant cat whisperer. 🙂 Going back to my love of and care for pets. Used to have a lot of dogs years ago until life and work happened. Now I still got an azkal-jack-russell terrier and a cat who keeps on insinuating herself in my life. My 5-year-old grandnephew loves pets so who knows? our menagerie just might grow.

07/05/2021

Atty. Jennifer Cerrada is a lawyer by profession, a pet parent since childhood by inclination, and a dog trainer by avocation.  As she describes this last activity simply, “It is my passion.” 

Dog trainers are certified canine instructors who teach our favorite animals, who are now members of our family, to behave properly at home while performing tricks and other activities that make us love them even more. On an advanced level, dog training can make the pet sufficiently smart, agile, and precise in doing the numbers that he can enter and win in local and international competitions.

India, Jennifer’s 6-year-old American Cocker Spaniel, is one such winner. She is the first dog in the Philippines, and the first in her breed to win the Trick Dog Championship on April 2021, one of the most prestigious and toughest contests in the world. India has been entering competitions and won medals since she was just a one-year-old puppy back in 2016. 

 

The quintessential Superpawdel
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The quintessential Superpawdel

 

Jennifer affirms that the little cocker spaniel “loves training time because she gets lots of treats, attention, and praise when we’re working. I love working with this little girl because she’s such a hard worker.”

India also possesses raw courage and a love for life that belies her small stature. Jennifer first noticed that trait while monitoring the puppy on video from the time she was born in the dog breeder’s kennel in General Santos City, up to the time that India was flown to her home in Paranaque. “The breeder would send me videos frequently, it’s one way for prospective dog parents like me to see how the puppy would interact with human beings or how they would act inside a house,”  Jennifer explains.

The other puppies in the breeder’s place expectedly walked to the low-sling lookalike and sniffed around. But India was the only one who jumped on top of the piece of wood while it was still swinging. That brave act was one of many that won Jennifer’s heart.

Right away, Jennifer saw that India had confidence, “she was a puppy who was not afraid to take on challenges.” She gave us an example of that one time when the breeder set up a hanging platform off the ground. The other puppies in the breeder’s place expectedly walked to the low-sling lookalike and sniffed around. But India was the only one who jumped on top of the piece of wood while it was still swinging. That brave act was one of many that won Jennifer’s heart.

“I want a puppy who is willing to explore,” the dog trainer says. “India was a fearless little pup and very confident. She was smart. I knew she was special and I knew she was meant for me.”

India’s dad and mom were well-known, agile performers in the dog training performance circuit. Hearing that their owners had decided that the two cocker spaniels should have a litter together, Jennifer immediately signed up for one of their puppies. Dad and mom Cocker Spaniel had a litter of three; India was the only female from the bunch.

India and her two siblings were pitch black, the same color as their father. Jennifer named her because of it, as a reference to Indian ink, possibly the most pristine black color there is.

India was also a departure from Jennifer’s other choices for dogs who she trained for the competition. The lawyer would usually get a Golden Retriever like her now-deceased pet, Hunter, also a circuit-winning pet who became India’s adopted sibling for a year before he passed away, because of a tumor in his spleen, just short of his 10th birthday.

“It is expensive to fly big dogs for nationals competition. There are no cash prizes in the competition, so the owner is just spending for glory…”

In looking for a second pet to train and enter in the contest circuit, Jennifer admits that she had wanted a small one for economic reasons:  “It is expensive to fly big dogs for nationals competition. There are no cash prizes in the competition, so the owner is just spending for glory. The usual small dogs competing in the dog sports circuits are terriers, shelties, and mini pinschers. None of those appealed to me.”

“I wanted a cocker spaniel because they’re gorgeous dogs, and their ears flying as they happily jump over obstacles are a joy to watch. They’re also working dogs so they’re loyal, easy to train, and extremely intelligent.”

 

Business turned Personal
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“Business relationship” turned personal.

 

“India became my everything. The puppy that I got for a ‘business relationship’ slowly became my heart dog after Hunter passed.”

Jennifer’s relationship with India also evolved especially after the death of Hunter, who had been a part of her family for eight years.  She looks back, saying, “India became my everything. The puppy that I got for a ‘business relationship’ slowly became my heart dog after Hunter passed.”

India also did her own share of reaching out to her new master.

Jennifer recalls, “India was a typical puppy — boisterous and was bouncing around constantly. And yet that morning after I had come home from Hunter’s vet where I spent that awful night, she was unusually subdued. As I lay in bed sobbing, she climbed up, laid herself on my chest, and started licking my tears away. I think I would have gone crazy with grief had India not been around. She’s been my rock ever since Hunter passed.”

India could comfort Jennifer because, aside from her natural empathy, she also loved the older golden retriever. Jennifer describes the two dogs’ first meeting, “India immediately hero-worshipped my golden retriever, Hunter, when she met him. She followed him around to his annoyance and she copied everything he did. Everyone at home fell in love with this sweet little black pup.”

The cocker spaniel’s natural empathy can also be seen in her “off-switch,” as Jennifer puts it. She can distinguish when she is doing tricks in front of a live audience with judges, or when she is just playing with her human family at home.

“India understands competition and she has a work ethic,” Jennifer says. “But when we are at home, we are chill, she is not bouncing off the walls.”

Jennifer also corrects the mistaken popular notion that “trained dogs are like robots” who perform mechanically their techniques in and out of the arena. “They are not,” she maintains. “They know when they have something on the line.”

Jennifer also corrects the mistaken popular notion that “trained dogs are like robots” who perform mechanically their techniques in and out of the arena. “They are not,” she maintains. “They know when they have something on the line.”

 

Trained dogs are not robots
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Trained dogs are not robots.

 

Another myth that the dog trainer debunks is the one-size-fits-all dog training, a lesson that India helped her learn. Unlike the persistent Hunter who would not stop until he learns the trick, “India would shut down if it was too difficult,” says Jennifer. “She didn’t like the pressure. This frustrated me in the beginning. However, my training mentors said I was frustrated because I expected her to be like Hunter.”

She also advises other dog owners who train their furry pets, “You need to be more patient and more flexible with your training methods.   Adjust to the dog’s temperament and personality. Each one’s learning curve is different, and some dogs are slow to learn.”

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India tends to shut down when the training is becoming more difficult.

 

The dog trainer also names the one most important lesson she learned from India: “She made me a better dog trainer. I thought I was already a good trainer. In retrospect, I was spoiled by Hunter who was extraordinary and got tricks super fast. But India tended to shut down when the trick became too difficult for her.

 

 

“I learned to be more patient and be more methodical in my teaching, and to break things down to make them easier for her to learn. As a result, India has now surpassed Hunter’s level and she is now the first Trick Dog Grand Champion from the Philippines. That is an extraordinary achievement.”

 

Indie showing one of her countless tricks.
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Indie showing one of her countless tricks.

 


 

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