The underdog goes nose-to-nose

Cynologist John Anthony waves flags as he step over Crixus of Gaul to distract him after giving the command to stay during training at Redemption Road K-9, A Working Dog Company in Agua Dulce. Dan Watson/The Signal
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When John Anthony saw Crixus of Gaul for the first time, the barely 5-week-old puppy was in terrible shape. 

Not only was “goofy-looking” Crixus tiny and malnourished, but he was also covered in fleas, he’d already been neutered and he was terrified of just about everything, said Anthony, a cynologist and owner of Redemption Road K-9, a working dog company.

Three years later, that very same pup is paving the way for mixed breeds and fixed dogs alike by starring in A&E Network’s new show, “America’s Top Dog.”

Search and rescue dog in training Crixus of Gaul during training at Redemption Road K-9, A Working Dog Company in Agua Dulce. Dan Watson/The Signal

Crixus finds his passion

When Anthony got Crixus, his goal was to rehab, train and then rehome him, even though the consensus was that altered males did not possess the ability to do protection work.  

“He was far from a natural in the beginning. … The first day I took him out to do protection work, I put him out, he peed and laid down in it, then went to sleep — and this is in front of a police officer,” Anthony said, chuckling. “It was actually pretty embarrassing.” 

Still, Anthony continued working with Crixus every day. “I decided that I would introduce him to work in a fun way, and if he showed that he enjoyed it, we would continue.” 

Sure enough, once Crixus became comfortable with the work, he began to really enjoy it, and now, the 3-year-old is a completely changed dog who excels in protection work as well as scent detection and tracking.

Cynologist John Anthony with service dog in training Lazarus, left, and search and rescue dog in training Crixus at Redemption Road K-9, A Working Dog Company in Agua Dulce. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Crixus is the spokesdog of the underdogs because you don’t expect much just looking at him, but then he comes out and he can do all of this,” vet tech Melissa Lopez said. “He’s very unique in all the good ways.” 

Crixus goes nose-to-nose

“America’s Top Dog,” which was filmed right here in Santa Clarita at Sable Ranch, features four police canine teams and one civilian team facing off in each episode. 

RRK9 was first contacted by the production to consult on the development of the competition and the specially designed obstacle course.

“We started from when they started building the set in a warehouse, and we had some of our best dogs test it out,” RRK9 Manager Shirin E. said. “They had all kinds of different types of obstacles, from water-related to climbing to agility, so it wasn’t an easy job for any of these dogs.” 

Search and rescue dog in training Crixus of Gaul during training at Redemption Road K-9, A Working Dog Company in Agua Dulce. Dan Watson/The Signal

Including Crixus, 12 of RRK9’s dogs participated, some of which became course evaluators as they were developing the show, while others were used as demo dogs during training segments, but once the production had seen what Crixus can do, he was invited to compete on the show. 

“He was the youngest dog on the show and he was the only altered male, which I wasn’t too concerned about,” Anthony said, adding that he did really well. “It was cool because there were so many elements to the show and he was able to perform all of them, and a lot of the police officers were blown away.” 

Among those challenges were apprehending and taking down a suspect in a bite suit and navigating a complex maze for scented items. 

“At the last minute, they changed Crixus’ scent, and it was the one scent he’s never had,” he said. “I literally taught him it in like 45 minutes, and then we went and competed. It was terrifying, but he did really well. I was very proud.”

Anthony appreciated the opportunity to study all of the different philosophies and methodologies each law enforcement canine team had, and the show was able to help him realize Crixus’ passion and skills in search and rescue, which he said he’ll be working on with him in the new year. 

An “America’s Top Dog” Viewing Party is scheduled 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, at Tomato Joe’s Pizza & Taps, located at 19167 Golden Valley Road, where dogs and their owners are invited to watch the premiere. To watch the trailer, visit https://youtu.be/G5Gj9FxTKic.

Rescue dog in training Crixus of Gaul, left, and service dog in training Lazarus during training at Redemption Road K-9, A Working Dog Company in Agua Dulce. Dan Watson/The Signal

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