Look at the intensity expressed on Ann Carter’s face and you will know how serious she is.
Carter, 60, and a resident of rural Orange County, is on a quest to put 80 AKC titles on her eight-year-old German short-haired pointer Marvin. The goal is within reach after six years of running Marvin in a variety of AKC venues.
It all started when Carter had a conversation with another dog lover also on a title journey.
“I talked to someone who was seeing how many titles she could get on her dog and it sounded like fun,” Carter said. “I wondered if we could do that. The goal then was 25. Now we almost have 75. I would like to go to 80.”
Marvin’s varied track record is impressive: grand champion in conformation, 51 titles in agility, plus titles in hunting, obedience, rally, lure coursing and barn hunting.
Whether Carter and Marvin have achieved records, the AKC does not know. Statistics covering such subjects are not kept.
“This is quite an accomplishment for her and her dog,” said Lisa Petersen, an AKC spokesman. “They are viewed as a great team.”
“I have a few more agility titles I would like to get,” Carter said. “Then I want to go back to training for the upper levels in the upland game hunt tests … I would also like to start tracking.”
The fun and enjoyment of teaching are Carter’s motivators. Her professional vita shows a history of teaching from kindergarten through junior college. She is retired.
“Titles are a permanent recognition of successful team work …” Carter said. “Training keeps me focused and a title means I have done my job in explaining the task and that he (Marvin) totally understands it because he will do it even under a variety of distractions.”
Through the years Carter has developed a philosophy of training that works.
“Simply, it’s the consistent, timely communication to the dog what you want and don’t want and to be able to read the dog as to whether he understands,” she said.
Her techniques include rewards, praise and punishment no harsher than a stern voice.
“Dogs do things that are good for them,” Carter said. “After the learning, showing phases, I only ask Marvin to do things he knows how to do. When he does it right, I do something good for him. If he does it wrong I communicate that he has made a mistake.”
The key to her success with dogs boils down to “being fair, consistent and mainly timing …”
Carter’s love of dogs can be traced to her childhood where family photo albums usually show her holding a dog. Introduction to pure bred dogs and their training came when she was a freshman in college.
“I’ve done it all myself, the training and showing,” she said. “No pros have been involved but I have asked for help from my friends when I needed it.”
For 25 years Labrador retrievers were Carter’s love. In addition to competing in events, she was involved in Lab rescue and placed more than 300 dogs in new homes.
“It was not only satisfying but taught me a lot about dog behavior,” she said.
Carter broke with Labs because of the split between conformation dogs and performance dogs.
“I was frustrated with Labs,” she said. “I wanted a dog that could do it all and not be penalized for not being in field shape or conformation shape.”
With German short-haired pointers, Carter found she could show and hunt her dog in the same day if she was so inclined. Little if any difference existed in appearance and temperament of the breed.
“The breed just fits me,” she said. “It’s active, athletic, enthusiastic , intelligent and has a willing nature.”
She points to Marvin as a good example of the versatility of the short-haired pointer.
“He’s a good representative of the breed’s ability to combine health, temperament, type, sporting ability and athleticism. He serves as a good example.”
Although Carter spends many hours dog training, she has other interests: three other short haired pointers, a husband, a love for travel, landscaping and hiking.
“I’m never bored as long as I’m outside,” she said.
How long does Carter plan to keep up this pace?
“I don’t want to quit training dogs because I’m having too much fun,” she said. “I’ll just go to another level.”