This time of year, as we send our kids off to school so they can become well-adjusted, polite and knowledgeable citizens, we may want to provide the same for our four-legged family members as well.
Some dogs do experience a bit of separation anxiety when the youngsters are gone all day. Structured training offers a way for them to get out of the house while deepening their bond with you.
It's also a great chance for them to lay eyes on those doe-eyed Beagles and sassy-looking poodles with the rad haircuts.
Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club, an air-conditioned facility tucked in an industrial complex near Clearwater's Long Center, offers a wide range of classes from beginner to advanced levels. They also hold a junior handlers class for ages 8 to 17 years.
With guidance from the trainers, and a little patience and practice on your part, Fido will learn the rules and be on the road toward better behavior in no time.
"Training can help your dog gain confidence and you gain control," said Karen Toth, president of the nonprofit established in 1964. "We start with obedience classes and teach our dogs to be good canine citizens. After that, your dog is only limited by your imagination."
Once he has learned to sit, stay, and to not drag you down the street on a leash, Fido can move on into a variety of disciplines such as agility (the whole chutes and ladders thing), conformation and more advanced obedience.
Upper Suncoast offers plenty of opportunities to trial for those who thrive on competition. Recently, the club placed first among 55 teams in the statewide Dog Agility Competition of Florida.
Social activities and events abound.
The club is helping to stage AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day at the Florida State Fairgrounds Sept. 17. An annual open house with food, demonstrations and a canine costume contest is slated for Oct. 16.
Dogs can also become certified as canine good citizens, learn to provide therapy, or engage in a bit of dance, known as freestyle, where owners and dogs learn to move to music while showing off some cute little steps.
"People come to freestyle because they are curious," said trainer Sandy Clark. "They stay because the dogs love it."
Submit ideas for Diversions features to Terri Bryce Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org. Events must take place in north Pinellas.