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TOTALLY EAST TEXAS: Mineola Golden Retriever named 'Top Dog', earns national award for obedience

A former airline pilot uses what he knows about precision and discipline to turn his dogs into champions. "Trap" and David Gannon's connection is pretty impressive!

MINEOLA, Texas — East Texas is home to a lot of greats!

You've got Earl Campbell — a football legend — then, there are country music stars Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves who are topping the charts!

But they're not the only top dogs in their field.

For this week's Totally East Texas, we're taking you to Top Dog Training Academy in Wood County to meet another pair of award-winners in their field.

Tucked behind the piney woods of Mineola is David Gannon's Top Dog Training Academy.

One step inside and you can see from all the ribbons wallpapering the facility Gannon has a gift for teaching dogs obedience, and it all began about 50 years ago.

"There was an ad in the paper saying 'free puppy lessons,' so I took this 8-week old puppy into this chief warrant officer and he said, 'we'll help you with this poodle'," said Gannon. "He got me hooked on training dogs and I eventually moved to Chicago and then I moved to Buffalo, New York and each time, I learned from somebody good each at each place."

The former Navy flight instructor and airline pilot uses his experience landing planes to teach dogs, like 6-year-old Trap, the precision and discipline they need to be champions.

"We train about 15 minutes a day," explained Gannon.

Gannon uses treats and sometimes his golden retriever's favorite ball to reward him for good work during his obedience drills.

"What I do is not on leash," Gannon said. "It starts on leash and then you have to be able to take him off leash."

His training includes heeling, jumping, directional retrieving and scent discrimination. That's where the handler puts his scent on a dumbbell and trap picks it out. During some exercises, Trap only gets signals — no voice commands at all.

"At 2, he became an obedience champion," said Gannon. "At about 1-year-and-half, he was competitive in the advanced classes. My partner runs the show and he's an obedience champion 11 times over. He's really steady, passes and shows well, all the time. [He] rarely fails a class and usually gets a nice score, competitive score."

However, competing proved challenging in 2020 due to COVID-19.

"We all had to wear masks, as I guess everybody did around, but in our show, the judges were masked and we wore masks," said Gannon. "We had the separation. You couldn't even recognize your best friend as we competed against them. We weren't allowed to watch others compete. At times, we had to sit in the car and wait for our turn, so this was a tough year."

Gannon and Trap competed in about 30 or so shows last year. Normally, they go to 50.

So, they were surprised when they were awarded the Top Obedience Award at the 2020 Show Dogs of the Year Awards.

"Yeah, this is a big one," Gannon said. "This is a national award. Honestly, we didn't try to get this award from the day one. We wanted to just keep our head above water during the COVID year."

Now, Trap and Gannon are preparing for the 2021 AKC National Obedience Championship in Wilmington, Ohio.

"So, I haven't ever won one of the national championships, but we've gotten third a couple of times," Gannon said. "I really would like to win. He's capable of winning it, but you have to just put it all together and do a really good job and of course, the others can't do as well. So, I don't root against them. I just root for him."

Gannon also trains about 20 other handlers and their dogs who want to be obedience champions. He does it for free because he loves the sport and giving back.

CBS19 wishes Gannon and sweet Trap the best of luck this weekend, but we already know they're top dogs in East Texas.


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