Training working dogs

Christa Haefner walking with her detection K9, Rogue. Photo by Leah Dawn Photography/Courtesy photo

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Dogs embody love, loyalty and are invaluable members of the families they’re a part of. For Christa Haefner, it’s her love for dogs – and animals in general – that’s kept her around them her entire career.

Before opening Cornerstone Canine Concepts in Winters, Haefner focused on training horses while training dogs was something she did on the side. After 20 years of horsing around, she decided to retire from horses and focus solely on dogs.

“Training dogs is easier on the body than training horses,” Haefner said about getting deeper into dog training. “My relative was a canine sergeant for 25 years and has his own business. He taught me how to train dogs to detect contraband, drugs, guns and those kinds of things. Then I got two of my dogs certified as contraband canines and myself certified as their handler.”

Haefner certainly got her paws wet in the dog training business having produced two certified detection canines, a canine rogue certified detection, canine for narcotics and guns and canine creed certified detection.

Christa Haefner holding up two of the puppies that she bred.
Courtesy photo

In her time as a trainer she’s also competed with some of her dogs in Schutzhund. Comprised of tracking, obedience and protection, the sport fit seamlessly with Haefner’s pedigree of passion.

“My ultimate goal is to do contraband searches in schools to deter students from bringing drugs or weapons. It’s been done in southern California successfully and my plan was to do it in northern California, but then COVID happened,” Haefner said on adjusting her goals. “When that opportunity died, I got into bed bug detection work. You go to hospitals, hotels and nursing homes and use dogs because they’re less obvious than having a pest company come in and make people staying there uncomfortable.”

Although Haefner’s services include pest-detection and training sport-dogs for Schutzhund competition, her focus remains on personal protection.

“With COVID and crime on the uptick, people have become more unsure and decided they want a dog that’s trained to bark and at least look scary. That’s why dogs with personal protection training have seen an uptick in sales,” Haefner said about the reality of this emerging trend. “I have a feeling next year will be a big hit. So many people have been buying dogs that look intimidating and I’m concerned for the dog’s safety. These are working-bred dogs. People don’t realize if they don’t have a job, train them and teach them, you’re going to have a big problem on their hands.”

When she’s not training dogs, Haefner also helps a vet in the San Francisco SPCA find homes for country/ranch-oriented dogs. She’s also taken in shelter dogs who’ve been food and love deprived. With time, love and training, she helps turn these dogs’ lives around.

“I enjoy working with animals and seeing their progress, working with people and teaching them how to interact with their animal. It’s rewarding,” Haefner said about what she gets out of work. “You’re helping the animal, teaching them to be a better animal which makes life easier for everyone. People are happy they have a dog that they enjoy rather than destroy their house. It’s consistency, patience and repetition. That’s what gets your dog trained.”

 While Haefner continues to train through COVID, one can check out her business and body of work on Facebook by searching Cornerstone Canine Concepts. She’s also available by email at

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