DOG TRAINING CLASSES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My daughter, Sarah, is involved with a dog rescue group in LA called Angel City Pit Bulls. A rescue group is different from a shelter in many ways. A shelter is often a city or local entity that keeps a, usually large, number of abandoned dogs in cages awaiting adoption. Many euthanize animals when they run out of space or if a dog seems “unadoptable” for a variety of reasons, including medical reasons.

Rescue groups pull dogs from shelters and put them in either foster homes or brick and mortar facilities with much nicer ‘rooms’ for the dogs. There are a manageable number of dogs and each dog gets more human attention and training than shelter dogs can get.

A rescue utilizes mostly volunteers to do their work, which includes taking dogs to vet appointments, supporting the foster families and helping them whenever needed, as well as socializing the rescue dogs as much as possible. Rescues pay for all the dogs’ shots and spaying and neutering, and all medical care that the dog may need before they are ready for adoption.

Rescues make an effort to get their dogs used to dealing with people and other dogs. They learn which dogs are good with kids and which may not be so good with cats.

This helps with the primary job of the rescue group – matching a dog to an appropriate family. Rescues are much more particular than shelters in vetting their potential adopters because they want to find a ‘good fit’ between the animal and its new home. They want to minimize the number of ‘returns’ as much as possible, although this does still happen.

Angel City started offering free dog training classes a few years ago and my daughter assists the trainer in these classes. Today they offer three different classes on six consecutive Saturday mornings.

I visited Sarah in LA for a week and I went with her to her Saturday classes. It was great fun watching the interactions between the owners, the trainers, and the dogs. The first class is open to the community but most of the students are recent Angel City adopters and their new dogs.

It’s a Movement Class, which works on leash skills for both the dogs and their masters. Walking on a leash without pulling or getting distracted by other people or dogs, is not as easy as it sounds. Dog and human have to work together and at first, this process involves lots of treats. The dog should eventually learn to walk by the owner’s side when the owner is walking, and stop and sit when the owner stops. That’s a goal I have never reached with my two current dogs.

The second class works on Owner Focus and attempts to establish a relationship where the dog looks to the human for direction – what should I or shouldn’t I be doing now? The trainer teaches basic commands, like sit and down and works with owners to keep their pets focused on them and not the other dogs or the environment. This again involves lots of treats.

The third class is just for current Angel City fosters and residents. Volunteers commit to taking one dog through the six-week class, which will help the dog get adopted because basic training and social skills are a big selling point for potential adoptive families.

Sarah with a new student

One dog in this class had a unique story – he had just been rescued off the street two weeks earlier by a wonderful family. This dog, who was one or two years old, was still decompressing from his life on the streets and needed a lot of patience and TLC. His new owner was great with him and was committed to giving him a good life in a loving home.

I’m very proud of my daughter for devoting her time and energy to such a good cause. Her example has stimulated me to try to get one of my dogs certified as a therapy dog. I did this with one of my other dogs, many years ago and it was a gratifying experience. The dog loved it and the seniors at the senior center I lit up when they said, “me and my dog.”

I can’t wait to do this again!



Categories: dogs, Education, Ellin Curley, humor, Pets, Photography

Tags: , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. My son recently took Loki to such a place. They were expecting a dog with no training or ability. They were stunned at how well behaved he was and how much he already knew and did. They were helpful in giving him refining tools because…being a pup…attention span can be limited, especially when outside and other distractions appear, particularly dogs, cars, cats and birds. He’s improved incredibly. Eye contact is greatly improved and he’s listening so much better! It’s awesome. Little things can make such a difference!.

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  2. What a great network for care of those dogs, Ellin. Both dog and owner need the training.
    Leslie

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    • All dog trainers will tell you that it’s the human who needs the most training. Usually the human is reinforcing bad behavior and disinsentivising good behavior and is totally unaware. People have to understand what dogs understand and how they think. They don’t have our complex logic and see things differently than we do. Also, the trend now is to totally positive reinforcement with no negative. No yelling or shouting “NO!” Half the time the dog doesn’t know what behavior you think was so bad and gets the wrong message from your attempts at discipline. Positive reinforcement is seen as more humane and more effective – and also enhances your relationship with your dog. You don’t want your dog to fear you but he should want to please you. It all makes great sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article about the work being done at Angel City by your daughter and many others! Before moving to a different area, one of my daughters worked with a rescue group as a cat adoption counselor. She found it to be very rewarding, and several of the adoptive “parents” have even stayed in touch with her:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, great article, Ellin. The Duke clearly needs more classroom time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m enrolling one of my dogs, Remy, in a basic obedience class. If she does well, I will continue to work with her and maybe try to get her qualified as a therapy dog. But the criteria now are ridiculous – your dog needs a PHD to pass all the behavior and obedience tests! They should make it easier to become a therapy dog, not harder!

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    • Rescue groups are usually all volunteers so the more people who volunteer, the better. I was thinking of being an adoption counselor or interviewer at a local rescue group. Glad to hear your daughter enjoyed doing that and found it rewarding. I will go back to tht idea again.

      Liked by 1 person

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