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Dog obedience classes: Deciding where and how to educate Rover

So you fell for that spotted beagle with soulful eyes and floppy ears. You got the toys, the bed, the oh-so-cute dish set. And now your very own Snoopy is home, and driving you absolutely nuts. Blame it on his ancestors. Dogs are a result of their breeding, even mixed-breed dogs, says Bethany Carvallo, president of the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club, a nonprofit organization in Clearwater. The beagle was originally bred for hunting, to follow his nose and pretty much ignore everything else. But with proper training, Carvallo says, he can learn new behaviors.

Choosing a school

There are many choices when it comes to training, including trainers who come to your home, private schools, shelters and dog clubs. Virginia Papadopoulos, registrar at Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club, says one of the best ways to find a trainer is to check out suggestions from friends and neighbors who have dogs. Then sit in on some classes, and follow your gut feeling. Some things to consider:

• How many dogs per class?

• How long has the business been around?

• What kind of guidebooks are provided?

• What criteria are used for hiring instructors?

• Is the building fenced?

• Is the business AKC-licensed?

• Is the building air-conditioned?

• Does the school offer a variety of classes?

What you'll each learn

A basic class should help owners get a better understanding of their new pets, and help pets get a better understanding of what's expected of them. "Obedience is the foundation for everything," says Carvallo, who has nine dogs.

At the Clearwater dog club, the class focuses on obedience commands (including "sit," "down," as well as no jumping and waiting at open doors) and on topics including grooming, toys, crate-training and health. One of the most important things taught, Papadopoulos says, is to come when called. That could keep your dog from running into traffic and getting hurt.

Is your pet up for the challenge?

In 1989, the American Kennel Club started a program to reward dogs that exhibit good manners. To get the Canine Good Citizen award, dogs must have immunizations and take a test. For details, go to the training club's Web site,, or call (727) 449-8738.

The 10-part test

1. Accepting a friendly stranger

2. Sitting politely for petting

3. Appearance and grooming

4. Out for a walk (walk on a loose leash)

5. Walking through a crowd

6. Sit and down on command/staying in place

7. Coming when called

8. Reaction to another dog

9. Reactions to distractions

10. Supervised separation

Dog obedience classes: Deciding where and how to educate Rover 08/18/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 18, 2008 4:20pm]
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