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Dog owners learn to train their furry friends

Bob Haney kneels and listens to the instructor along with his 7-month old retriever Maise, one of the largest puppies in the class. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
May 12, 2010
New owners and their puppies dipped their paws in the water last Wednesday during the first of several Lakes Region American Kennel Club puppy school programs to be held at the Gilford Youth Center.

One obedience dog program on behalf of the AKC includes the S.T.A.R. Puppy Program that stands for socialization, training, activity, and responsibility, which is what the five or so dogs and their human companions will be striving towards for the next few weeks. If the puppies complete the class with flying colors, they will be awarded with a medal and a certificate.

Linda Heath, membership and performance chair of the Lakes Region AKC, and currently the instructor for the puppy class now held at GYC, took the first class to set down some ground rules with the owners and try out basic training skills.

Heath and Cathy Borne, president of the Lakes Region AKC said there has been a need for more dog obedience classes in the region, now that more rescue dogs have been adopted and may battle with behavioral issues.

"We are offering these classes for much needed service. Happy people have happy dogs. There are a lot more rescue dogs being trained," said Borne. "These dogs are sweet and caring, and people are concerned. They want to do the right thing, and the right thing is paying off."

Borne said some motels and other accommodations are now looking for particular certification with dogs before allowing them to stay in their establishment.

Throughout the class, Heath worked on leash and food corrections with owners and their frisky puppies, although it was evident that each puppy had their own personality, whether more dominant or aggressive. Heath said owners would have to adjust the way they communicate with their furry friend accordingly.

With her own puppy in hand, Heath demonstrated how to properly walk a dog and use commands to get them to sit, lie down, or stand up, either using dog treats or words of encouragement. Some dogs seemed more reluctant than others without food as incentive.

"It is important to interact with your dog, and teach them that you are the leader of the pack," Heath said during class.

She said many of these maneuvers should be practiced at home, and the owner can take control through the role of leadership.

Each owner worked on keeping their dog lying down on the floor for an extended period of time, while more dominant puppies had a harder time standing still. Heath said these particular owners had their work cut out for them.

When walking through a narrow doorway or an opening, Heath said the owner should proceed through the opening first, to show their pup they are the leader. The owner should also eat before the dog eats, make the dog move out of the way, rather than going around them when they are making themselves a road block, and place restrictions on beds and furniture.

"Don't let the dog run ahead of you, and don't chase the dog. Run the other way, so they will follow," said Heath. "Call the dog to you to give them affection. Ignore and discourage whining, and make sure you win tug-o-war games."

Heath said positive reinforcement is a must as well, and when a puppy completes an exercise, they should be rewarded with a treat or a pat down.

She said her own 19-month border terrier is a tiny yet dominant dog, and it took a lot of hard work and training to get her where she is now, explained Heath, as she handed out homework sheets to the owners, addressing housebreaking rules, and other tools owners could work on at home.

Heath said she has been teaching dog obedience classes since the '80s and finds the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program to be a necessary beginner class for pups and owners who learn to communicate with their dogs and train them to heed their manners. Heath added that mixed breeds are now welcomed by the AKC for obedience and rally classes.

Klumb Environmenta;
Varney Smith
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