Training class promises pleasant public pups


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Nov 15, 2023

Training class promises pleasant public pups

An Edmonton dog daycare and training facility offers behavioural classes to help

An Edmonton dog daycare and training facility offers behavioural classes to help dogs and their owners prepare for a public realm that is increasingly open to their presence.

"We made the Community Ambassadors program so that it could be accessed by people who want to participate in the community more with their dogs," said Kristen McKenna, training manager for The Dog House Daycare & Training.

More and more businesses have opened their doors to pets since The Dog House started its Community Ambassadors class five years ago. Linda Hoang's running list of dog-friendly patios included 112 locations in the Edmonton area as of May 8. That large number came about in part because a policy change in May 2022 meant restaurants no longer require a permit from Alberta Health Services to allow dogs on patios.

Just because your dog is welcome doesn't mean it's ready, however.

"Socialization is interesting because a lot of people have an idea of what socialization is, and that's not necessarily what it is in dogs," McKenna said. "Socialization is the normalization of certain things … something that we focus on is dogs being able to exist in spaces without feeling the need to interact or play all of the time, being able to relax, and just being able to be there with their person."

More outdoor areas will allow dogs to be off-leash this summer. The City of Edmonton has launched both the Community League Temporary Dog Park Program and the Pop-Up Dog Park Program, allowing a combined 25 temporary off-leash areas in addition to the established ones. Again, dogs need to be prepared for such places, McKenna said.

"Off-leash spaces are for social dogs. They are not for socializing dogs," she said. "If you need help with socialization, talk to a trainer, get a little bit of help, maybe go to a class. But I would not dive right into an off-leash experience."

Kisbee (a poodle) and Harley (a German shepherd) relax at Omen Brewing, modelling the kind of in-the-world skills taught in the Community Ambassador class at The Dog House Daycare & Training. (Supplied)

The class, which costs $209.10, includes five sessions: three at the facility at 9705 56 Avenue NW and two at a pet-friendly business such as Omen Brewing. The next round starts on July 12.

"The dogs and the humans both have to attend the classroom portion," McKenna said, noting that training begins with some basic obedience skills before heading into more public-space-specific skills. "Some additional skills that we add (are) being left with a friendly stranger, how to accept petting or learning how to walk away for dogs who don't want petting, learning how to relax in public spaces and relax around other levels of activity and distractions."

Other specific skills covered in class are tucking into small spaces, food refusal, auto-relaxation, loose-leash walking with distraction, startle recovery, approaches by friendly strangers, and supervised separation. Each is essentially a way to help dogs be docile and unobtrusive in places that are high-traffic or heavy in stimuli.

But dogs aren't the only ones accountable for well-functioning pet-human interactions. McKenna has a few pointers for people, too.

"Always ask. Some people are happy to let you pet their dog and some dogs are happy to be pet. Sometimes, those same dogs may not be having a great day," she said.

"(That includes) not only managing yourself but also the small people in your life. Children do have a tendency to run up to puppies screaming 'Puppy!' That can be quite startling for dogs that are not used to children."

Though it may seem obvious to most of us, waste collection should also be top of mind for pet owners in public spaces. The consequences for neglecting this basic courtesy could be severe.

"I mean, always pick up after your dogs… and always have a couple of extra wipes, just in case," McKenna said. "Be kind, be courteous about those spaces. They may not always be there for us if we're not."

business, city council, pets, dogs

The Dog House Daycare & Training Omen Brewing