Fort Lewis obedience classes response to banned dog policy
July 6, 2009
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - An Army policy banning aggressive-breed dogs from on-post housing, coupled with the occasional dog attack occurring on Fort Lewis, led to The Pet Brigade's decision that it was time to do something. Two weeks ago, the brigade started offering dog obedience classes and I was there soon afterward.
In February, Regis Jackson, the owner of The Pet Brigade, the Fort Lewis full-service pet spa and boarding facility, was bitten by a Pit Bull at the on-post dog park.
Nervous about the danger to children around untrained dogs, Jackson felt it was time to do something. Entering in a contract with the Family Dog Training Center, The Pet Brigade began puppy and obedience classes June 13.
"People think the classes are for the dog, but it's not at all," Jackson said. "It's like parenting classes; you don't bring your baby to become a baby. It's teaching consistency in training your dogs."
Two classes are currently being offered on Saturday mornings. At 9 a.m. a "puppy manners" class offers the chance for owners to socialize their 12-week-old to 5-month-old puppies. At 10 a.m., the obedience class puts the responsibility on the dogs, while helping owners to understand different training methods.
The one thing trainer Cheryl Bednar stressed is that "your dog is never too old to start."
I decided to bring my 9-month-old, out-of-control, 100-pound Yellow Lab/White Shepherd mix to the 10 a.m. dog obedience class.
This class, I thought, was going to be a challenge.
I showed up around 9:45 a.m. and was forcefully dragged into the training area by my dog. After managing to get him under some control, I joined the group by sitting in one of the chairs.
This was the third class of the seven-week session, and there was a noticeable difference between the seven other dogs in the class and mine. While their dogs sat quietly by their owners' sides, mine whined and constantly changed positions.
The focus of this class was having our dogs walk by our sides prior to asking them to sit when we stopped. My dog would sit for about two seconds before either lying down, leaning his 100-pound body against my leg, or getting up and refusing to sit back down.
The trainer was great about correcting mistakes. She worked one-on-one with owners who were having a difficult time - which seemed to continuously be me.
As the class progressed, we also worked on teaching our dogs to stay and lie down.
After only one hour, my dog could sit for more than five seconds, lie down and stay if I stepped a few feet away.
But the biggest change was being able to walk him out of the training area after the class - a completely different experience from the way we came in.
Kelly McGrath is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.