History of the Club
by Donna Cleverdon (with assistance from Joan Adler and Every Obichaff Editor from 1946 on)
Capital Dog Training Club (CDTC) was formed in 1938, just two years after the AKC licensed obedience tests in June of 1936. Some of the early members included Calvin and Laurene “Skip” Pierson, Bertha McCullough, Dick and Virginia Garret, Rita Geist, Arlene Lapierre, William Claudy, Dorothy Grover, and Cornelius Doremus. Incorporated in Washington, D.C. on January 13, 1947, CDTC is one of the oldest obedience training clubs in America. The club Constitution states that our mission is to educate and assist the dog owner. From its very inception, the club has offered training classes to the public.
The first AKC Obedience Advisory Committee was formed in 1939 to further standardize judging procedures and define the Utility exercises. World War II made participating in dog sports difficult in the U.S., when many people donated their dogs to Dogs for Defense, and rationing made feeding pets problematic. However, after the War, interest rebounded.
In those early days, the group hired an instructor, and the cost of classes was determined by how many came to class each week. Those present chipped in to cover the instructor’s pay, so the fee could be 25 cents, or $5.00! Training happened outside at various locations, such as public parks and public schools. Calvin Pierson started to publish the newsletter, “Obichaff”, in 1945 when the membership and interest had grown to the point where it was needed. These early Obichaffs mention circumstances that we might consider odd today, such as pleas to return metal training collars to the club. Metal dog collars were hard to come by during and just after the War, so they were a scarcity that required sharing!
CDTC held its first Obedience Trial in 1946. Heavily subsidized by the Piersons, the Club introduced two new classes: Novice C, now called Graduate Novice (devised by Skip Pierson), and the Brace class (originated by Mary Edith Gregoire). CDTC also campaigned to standardize scent articles to wood, metal, and leather. In 1949, the membership unanimously elected to become a member club of the American Kennel Club. Our membership was also instrumental in forming the Association of Obedience Clubs and Judges.
In addition to hosting an annual obedience trial, the club also had annual tracking tests. At that time, Utility titles were awarded only to dogs which had also passed a tracking test.
Helen Brigham was Training Director in the 70s and wrote the Instructor’s Manual. Another important publication for club use was the “About Your Dog” manual put together in the 80s by members Jerusha Gurvin, Joan Adler, Wendy Eli, and Mary Allen Hood.
Dog training styles and venues began to proliferate during the 80s and 90s. The dog fancy in the United States developed Flyball, Agility, and Freestyle. The club held its first Canine Good Citizenship test in the mid-90s. Mary Sullivan started Flyball training in 1992, and Freestyle was added to activities in 1994. The club also developed an Agility Program and Freestyle classes. As an added service to the training community, 1994 saw the first of our popular obedience run-thrus at the clubhouse, which continue through the present: 3 winter Sunday run-thrus, and 3 summer Sunday run-thrus. The Flyball team traveled to tournaments and continues today. The Demonstration Team entertained and educated at many schools and nursing homes, with an occasional appearance at shopping malls. A big yearly event is still the big demo at the Montgomery County Fair.
One of the most exciting and egalitarian characteristics of Capital Dog Training Club is the participation in classes at all levels, dogs of every description. Our instructors welcome all dogs from the tiniest Papillon to the most impressive Irish Wolfhound. It is truly inspiring to see the range and variety of dogs and handlers in our activities. It is apparent from reading the first issues of Obichaff that even in those earliest days of formal and competitive dog training in the U.S., our membership has included owners not only of breeds one expects to see, but those breeds one may not expect as well. Breeds mentioned frequently are Doberman pinschers, cocker spaniels, poodles, and German shepherds. However, Siberian huskies, Wire-haired fox terriers, Welsh terriers, and Irish setters grace the lists of winners as well.
This inclusive attitude continues today. If you have a dog, and want to learn how to train it, Capital Dog Training Club will help. If you “catch the training bug” Capital offers a training home to all.