Riesen, Chocolate Labrador, enjoys thrilling the crowd with her high flying leaps into the pool and/or ball pit pool, or racing through the weaves for the agility races. At the end of each show she enjoys getting pats and hugs from her fans. Groot, the Papillon and Rime, the Australian Shepherd bring a smile to everyones faces with their freestyle dance tricks and their silly antics.
Jo Crickenberger

The Canine Stars


Dock Diving, Freestyle Dance

United States




Interview with

Jo Crickenberger

March 11, 2021



Q: What’s your specialty in The Canine Stars shows?

Our performing highlights are dockdiving in the pool and/or ball pit pool, agility, high jump, freestyle dance, distance frisbee and flyball racing.

Q: Tell us about your pack…your family of dogs.

I have a “variety” pack of four. Each dog is a different breed and each brings its own individual character to the group. My Australian Shepherd Rime is probably the silliest. She is always creating new ways to keep us on our toes. From opening doors, to calling for five minutes and realizing she has been sleeping behind you the whole time. Riesen, my Chocolate Lab is our shadow, if she is not training (which she always wants to do), she is happily chewing on a bully stick at your feet. Groot our Papillion of course steals the show because he and my cat, Minerva are always playing. Minerva is in training too. Last year, she did a small part in a movie part and I am working on expanding her knowledge. She to lets me know when it is time train. She will sit on the Klimb waiting until she gets her training turn. Yuma is my rescue. He is a Australian Shepherd/Jack Russell Terrier mix. He is 12 yrs old and enjoying the snuggles and “special” moments that come with retired life, like getting the last piece of steak on the your plate.

Jo Crickenberger

Jo Crickenberger


performing dogs

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Jo Crickenberger


retired stars, and those waiting at the bridge

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Q: What are your favorite Canine Stars shows and adventures?

Some of my favorite shows that I have attended are the Calgary Stampede Dog Bowl in 2018. The camaraderie of the cast to make the show amazing cannot be surpassed and hosting some of the finest trainers in the world, including Blanco Kim from South Korea! But the best part is being able to perform several times a day to packed crowds of 10,000 people per show!

Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the Alaska State Fair. What an incredible to experience!! To meeting and participating in a flyball demo with the local trainers to breath taking views of Alaska, and seeing my first moose (Mama and baby) to the pumped shows each day! Just a blast!

I also have to say I really enjoy doing the small shows too. The small shows are where the baby dogs shine and we get to show the crowd a new trick we’ve been working on. I also get to learn to learn a new backstage performance skill which I always enjoy.

Every show brings something fun and unique. Being a part of The Canine Stars is my second family. They are the best!!

Q: What are your top FOUNDATION skills that you like to train?

There are several foundation skills I always start my dogs with.
1) Recall/Come – Having a strong recall is a vital tool. It can be used in an emergency and you have more confidence when you have your dogs off leash.
2) Kennel-up – Since I kennel my dogs to help keep them safe when traveling, I like my dogs to look at the kennel as a positive place. Additionally, if my dog needs to spend any length of time at the vet’s office, I know my dog is comfortable because being in kennel is familiar environment.
3) Wait – I use wait so they are not jumping all over me at meal time, or so they don’t go flying out the front door. This helpful start to impulse control training.
4) Walking on a loose leash

Q: What are your favorite TRICK skills that you teach all your dogs?

Foundation to teaching a trick.
Tools to use:
1) Treats. You want the treats to be very small, about the size of small dog kibble. The reason for this is you want to dog to have instant gratification when getting the reward. A dog biscuit or something similar is not helpful because the dog will chew and chew and reward will loose its meaning. If the dog does a behavior really well, this is called “jackpot”. You will then give the dog multiple treats in quick succession (one at time; 3 or 4 treats in a row).
2) A clicker is a marker. This is used to show the dog it did a behavior you desire. Timing is everything. When the desired behavior it shown, it must be marked immediately. If you do not have a clicker, you can mark the behavior with “yes” or “good”. If you are using a word instead of the clicker keep your voice flat or monotone. I will only pick up my voice in happiness when I’m jackpotting.
Fundamentals of teaching a trick:
3) Keep your training sessions very short. I would rather keep my sessions to 3 to 5 minutes and positive then drag out a session to 10 minutes and my dog fizzles out before I end the session. My goal is to keep the training sessions fun, engaging and the dog more when I end a session. The sign of a good trainer is knowing when to end a session. It very hard to stop yourself from trying it one-more-time, especially when they have already done it correctly several times or even just one time throughout the session. End on a positive.
4) Reward the small things. If I am trying to get my dog to turn left around a construction zone, I’m not going to start it 5 ft away and expect my dog understand. I am going to stand right next to the cone with my feet stepping on the sides, put the treat to the dog’s nose and “lure” the dog by showing them what I am asking. Reward, repeat-reward etc. Next session or maybe more if you dog is still struggling (maybe its afraid of the cone for example). I will then ask the dog think it through, I’m not going to show them what I want, I am going wait for them to offer. This is called “shaping”. I stand right at the cone, if the dog looks at the cone, I will click and treat, dog steps toward the cone click and treat etc. I am rewarding the small steps along the way to help get to the final behavior.
Go at your dog’s pace. If you go to fast or skip steps your dog will show you by being inconsistent or offering steps it feels more confident with. When the dog is offering turning around the cone consistently 95% of the time, then I will step away and ask my dog to go around. Once the dog as has this, then I will back 1 or 2 ft with the dog and ask the dog to go around the cone, etc until I ask for the dog to around from 10-20 ft away. From here you want work on changing our body, from facing the cone to turning sideways and asking the dog to wrap the cone laterally (you may have to go back to up to the cone until the dog understands what you are asking and start the steps all over again). This is called “back chaining”. Next maybe try it from a sitting position etc. Have fun with it. Imagine how you can impress all your friends by sitting in chair and sending your dog around a tree or chair from 20 ft away!

I hope this you helps you to work with your dog at home. Use your imagination.

Happy training!!

Q: How did you get started in dog sports and dog training?

When I was a little a girl I would go with my Dad to dog training classes with our German Shepherd. My Dad taught him obedience and although they never competed he was easily worked from a distance. At 8 yrs old my Dad signed me up for our first small obedience trial and although we didn’t win, in fact my dog stared at my Dad the whole time waiting for him to give him a command and didn’t listen to a single thing I asked him to do, I was hooked! I knew when I was an adult I was going to have a dog and train and compete.

Q: Outside of performing with The Canine Stars, what is your “normal” life like?

In 1993, I got my first Labrador retriever. At the same time I was apprenticing under another dog trainer and learning different handling skills, different breeds and personalities. In 1999, I got my first agility dog and rest from their history.

I’ve traveled all over North America competing with my dogs or doing shows with The Canine Stars. Dogs are my passion, and to be able to share my love of dogs combined with The Canine Stars fans just adds another element of fun.