Pin It
Favorite

Puppies get basic training at Woods University's weekly puppy socialization workshop 

It’s Saturday, Jan. 9, and I’m at Woods Humane Society, or more specifically, Woods University, the wing of the no-kill shelter dedicated to dog training. Every Saturday morning from 9 to 10 a.m., trainer Michelle Rizzi runs a puppy socialization workshop. New dog owners bring their furry little friends for some basic training and, more importantly, for their pets to learn to meet new dogs and get along with them.

It’s not really puppy season, which is normally late spring and the early summer months, so there are only three puppies in attendance today, but that’s OK because each one is adorable.

Bryan and Brenda Ratkay brought Serenity, an 11-week-old female miniature Australian shepard whose little brown bear butt is ridiculously cute. With no tail to speak of, her entire behind wiggles when she’s excited.

click to enlarge DOG LOVERS:  Woods Humane Society staff members (left to right) Chris Williams (customer service manager), Michelle Rizzi (behavioral trainer and manager), Eric Stockam (animal caregiver), and Chelsea Mills (master trainer and volunteer) are deeply devoted to the animals they care for. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • DOG LOVERS: Woods Humane Society staff members (left to right) Chris Williams (customer service manager), Michelle Rizzi (behavioral trainer and manager), Eric Stockam (animal caregiver), and Chelsea Mills (master trainer and volunteer) are deeply devoted to the animals they care for.

Then there’s Nantucket, a male 4 1/2-month-old golden retriever who seems eager to learn. He’s all gangly long legs and floppy ears, who sits with a graceless plop and goofy grin.

And then there’s Clyde, a male 3- to 4-month-old Jack Russell terrier mix with tons of energy. Highly alert and overly eager, he looks like he’ll take some extra attention to train, but Jack Russells are notoriously smart, and some lucky adopter will have a heckuva dog on his or her hands.

Rizzi explains that their first task to learn is how to separate playing dogs gently. You can’t expect young dogs engaged in play to come when you call them. Instead, you need to walk up, grab them gently by their collars, and in a playful tone say, “Gotcha!”

“You don’t want to stand there calling and calling your dog and not have it come,” Rizzi explains. “You also want to start and stop play to avoid escalation.”

click to enlarge TREAT TIME! :  Nantucket, a 4 1/2-month-old Golden Retriever belonging to Devon Combe and Clair Kingston, was eager to learn to sit …  and get treats for it. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • TREAT TIME! : Nantucket, a 4 1/2-month-old Golden Retriever belonging to Devon Combe and Clair Kingston, was eager to learn to sit … and get treats for it.

Rizzi has the owners practice letting their dogs interact and then grabbing their collars and leading them away, then she has them return to their seats.

“Whose dog knows how to sit?” Rizzi asks.

“Pffft,” Bryan Ratkay exclaims incredulously. Owner of Serenity, the youngest dog in attendance, he and Brenda are here for a reason.

Rizzi shows them how to use a treat held over their dogs’ noses to look up and sit their butts down, then she praises the dogs when they sit. In less than three minutes, all three puppies have learned to sit on command.

“Next week, I’ll show you how to wean them off treats,” Rizzi promises before having the puppies and owners practice free play and the gotcha collar grabs a few more times.

click to enlarge A LITTLE TIMID:  Serenity, an 11-week-old miniature Australian shepard belonging to Bryan and Brenda Ratkay, was a little shy but beyond adorable. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • A LITTLE TIMID: Serenity, an 11-week-old miniature Australian shepard belonging to Bryan and Brenda Ratkay, was a little shy but beyond adorable.

Then it’s question-and-answer time, and the owners air some of their concerns regarding everything from mouthing and biting to behavior issues and potty training.

Rizzi tells the owners that if they find that their pet has made a mess in the house and they weren’t there to see it and correct it, it’s OK to take a newspaper, roll it into a tube, and smack themselves in the head, because it’s their fault, not the puppy’s.

After the session, I ask Chelsea Mills, a Woods volunteer, why she devotes her free time to caring for these animals.

“I love it and I love animals,” Mills says. “It’s very rewarding because you see all the happy endings and see how the animals grow and develop.”

According to animal caregiver Eric Stockam, Woods always needs more volunteers. From bathing to grooming to walking dogs or even just hanging out with the cats or doing some groundskeeping, the opportunities are endless. 

And did I mention there are puppies? 

- VISIT WOODS UNIVERSITY:  Every Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m., Woods Humane Society hosts Puppy Social Hour at their 875 Oklahoma Ave. location, just off Highway 1 near the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office and Animal Services. Bring your puppy for some basic training and socialization with other pups. The cost is $10, and proof of immunization is required. Other dog training classes are also available. Call 543-9316 or visit woodshumane.org for more information. There are also lots of volunteer opportunities, and a volunteer interest form can be found on the website under the Volunteers tab. -
  • VISIT WOODS UNIVERSITY: Every Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m., Woods Humane Society hosts Puppy Social Hour at their 875 Oklahoma Ave. location, just off Highway 1 near the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office and Animal Services. Bring your puppy for some basic training and socialization with other pups. The cost is $10, and proof of immunization is required. Other dog training classes are also available. Call 543-9316 or visit woodshumane.org for more information. There are also lots of volunteer opportunities, and a volunteer interest form can be found on the website under the Volunteers tab.

Glen Starkey takes a beating and keeps on bleating. Keep up with him via twitter at twitter.com/glenstarkey, friend him at facebook.com/glenstarkey, or contact him at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

Tags:

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Search, Find, Enjoy

Submit an event

Trending Now

© 2017 New Times San Luis Obispo
Powered by Foundation