Developmental dog classes begin for summer

Jehad Abbed, News Editor

Monday marks the beginning of puppy and dog training summer sessions for Charleston’s parks and recreation department.

The classes are held at the dog training facility at 63 Mitchell Ave., just next to the Charleston Rotary Community Aquatic Center, which shares parking with Charleston Middle School.

Instructor Ellen Johnson said the programs start with Puppy Class for dogs 12 weeks to 6 months old. This class is divided into four 15-minute sections starting with supervised play.

“You pick other puppies for your puppy to play with,” Johnson said.

She said the dogs are taught how to socialize and play appropriately with other dogs during supervised play.

An entire section is dedicated to dog safety, which Johnson said depends on how much the owners in the class already know.

“If I get a class where the people are very experienced dog owners, then I spend more time on other things,” Johnson said. “If this is their first dog in the family then we spend a lot of time on the basics.”

She said the sessions include 15 minutes of discussion on whatever the topic of the day is, whether it be housebreaking or what types of products owners should have for their dogs.

The last two sections of Puppy Class cover an introduction to obedience by going over simple commands from owner to dog and getting the dog used to being handled by a groomer.

An Advanced Puppy class is available for dogs that complete the program.

Obedience is carried over into another course called Basic Obedience for dogs older than 6 months. The class is taught with positive training methods using a philosophy developed by Chris Bach known as “The Third Way,” Johnson said.

“Most of the time we use food rewards with puppies because puppies really like food,” Johnson said. “You can’t train a dog unless you have something the dog wants.”

The facility offers a Canine Good Citizen class, which she said builds on what the dogs learned in Basic Obedience and Advanced Puppy classes. The dogs can be tested after completing the course and can earn the Canine Good Citizen degree from the American Kennel Club.

Therapy Dog classes will be held for dogs that earn the degree, and they will be trained in therapeutic interaction for places such as hospitals, nursing homes and schools.

“You can’t train a dog to like people and interact therapeutically with them,” Johnson said. “They have to have that personality.”

She said the facility likes to keep classes small so each dog can have as much one-on-one attention as possible. Johnson said if there are more than five owners to a class, they will add a class.

Agility and Swim classes are offered along with the others. Johnson said mostly retrievers and German shepherds or any “water dogs” take the swim classes.

“It is not true that all dogs can swim,” Johnson said. “Some of them swim like a brick.”

Classes begin Monday and are held outside during the summer. Johnson said they try to finish up by July 4 because of hot weather.

Jehad Abbed can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].