Eau Claire dog/handler team win big: Prized-pup named 2021′s most obedient

Karen Thompson and her four-year-old golden retriever Kasper, pawed their way to the top of the podium at this year’s AKC Classic in Orlando,FL.
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 6:17 AM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - For the better part of the week, you’ll find trainer Karen Thompson splitting her time between the Twin Cities and Eau Claire, training prospective show pups and their owners what she knows best.

Her partner in crime? A four-legged friend who waits for no introduction.

“Kasper is four going on four months,” laughs Thompson.

The dog/handler team have been training for years. “You’ll always have the people that train the dogs, ‘you have to do this,’ but then that comes through in the show ring too,” explains Thompson. “Where they’re just like oh okay, I’m doing it because I must. He’s doing it because he loves it,” pointing to Kasper.

At every corner Kasper is met with ‘good boy,’ dog treats and plenty of praise.

“They’re my companions and friends first, my teammates second I mean they sleep with me they’re my friends and so I don’t want to treat my friends like that,” Thompson says.

There are three levels in competition obedience: novice, open and utility. Each division is met with a series of new obstacles but all are rooted in discipline and heeling.

An area where Kasper has never bitten off more than he can chew. Non-verbal discipline is where he thrives, Thompson says. “They tell you with their facial expressions, with their body and it’s just really very cool.”

“Good boy, super, he just thinks this is a blast,” Thompson laughs.

And now the dynamic-duo are the newly crowned novice division champions of the AKC Obedience Classic down in Orlando, Florida.

Pawing away the competition and 82 of the nations top dogs for the title.

Accolades and awards aside, “What’s really cool about teaching classes is watching the students start where I started and get better and better and better and better,” Thompson says.

She thanks her students and four-legged friends above all, “Because if you watch them close enough you can tell what they’re thinking and then you can help them be then you help them connect, and they succeed, and it’s just really fun.”

In the end not a ‘ruff’ life to lead.

Thompson has had dogs her entire life but started training and showing competitively 20 years ago. She’s since trained four dogs including Kasper to the highest level of obedience show competition.


The top dogs in the nation were crowned in the eighth American Kennel Club Classic in Orlando, Florida, on Dec. 18-19 – a competition pitting 248 of the nation’s most prestigious pups against each other. Kasper, a golden retriever owned by Karen Thompson of Eau Claire, won in the Novice category for most obedient dog/handler team.

The competition was held in conjunction with the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canon at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

The other four winners in the most obedient dog/handler team category were Willie, owned by Kathleen Keller/Stephen Keller of Flemington, New Jersey (Open); Ember, owned by Linda Montgomery of Mount Crawford, Virginia (Utility); and Prada, owned by Jeannie Dennard of High Point, North Carolina (Masters).

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