Fall is about school, even for dogs! |

As school bells ring across communities and students sharpen their pencils this fall, doggie school also offers your favorite K9 the opportunity to sharpen their agility skills, strengthening your canine sidekick’s knowledge.

Today’s training opportunities go beyond sit, stay and come. Your dog could learn to be a nose detective or to get schooled in new, fun tricks. Pups to senior dogs, the well-behaved and misbehaved, anxious or high-energy dogs can all benefit from professional training services.

“It becomes addictive to see your dog learn and progress,” said licensed veterinarian technician Barks and Rec owner/instructor Alicea Howell.

The region’s training formats range from private coaching, group classes, online and in-home instruction to immersion boarding. However, in the United States there exists no licensing standards for dog trainers. Howell said dog owners should exercise caution and do their homework when selecting a trainer.

“You want to know the trainer is qualified and that they will be kind to your dog,” she said. Barks and Rec instructors train using empathy- driven and science-based positive reinforcement techniques.

Dogs as young as six months and owners may participate in the center’s agility training for learning handling and targeting and to conquer challenges in obstacle work. “It’s for anyone who wants to have fun with their dog, and is open to competitors,” Howell said.

Barks and Rec skilled trainers teach even old dogs new tricks. Tricks for Treats classes and themed Funday Workshops create shared good times, deepening the human/dog bond.

Barks and Rec certified nose work instructor Lisa Meleski also serves as an American Kennel Club scent work judge. She said K9 nose work transforms a dog’s favorite activity into sport for enrichment or competition. Dogs learn how to search for a specific odor or odors and detect the source. It takes minimal investment to start and can be done anywhere.

“It’s the fastest growing dog sport out there now,” Meleski said.

Meleski explained scent work is an inclusive activity available to any dog old enough to understand commands, shy or reactive dogs, even blind dogs or amputees.

“It’s the dog’s innate sense to find something,” she said, stressing that nose work is a sport in which the dog invites us into their world, providing us opportunity to appreciate their abilities and develop mutual respect.

Meleski chairs the Grand Traverse Kennel Club’s second annual Scent Work Weekend Sept. 23 to 24. The event is expected to draw novice to detective level dogs and handlers from throughout Michigan and surrounding states. Trials involve container, interior, exterior, buried and handler scent searches.

Such training and competition offerings increase doggie skill, and boosts their happiness.

Happy owner, happy dog is the philosophy at Always Faithful Dog Training of Traverse City. If Fido is the misbehaving sort, or a puppy needs to learn the ropes, and owners/instructors Dustin and Rachael Sinkes may be of help. They are Instinctive Dog Trainers Association certified, and the couple offers one-on-one, in-home coaching.

Following the Leadership Dog Training approach, the Sinkes help establish the dog owner as pack leader. “When you’re in charge, they have much less to worry about,” Dustin said.

Instruction focuses on teaching owners to interpret the dog’s means of communication using the pet’s instincts and natural abilities to train.

“As humans, we want to put human emotions in training, dogs don’t understand that,” Rachael said.

Always Faithful training options include “One Lesson Wonders,” 90-minute in-home sessions designed to solve any problem standing in the way of a happy owner, happy dog.

Consult a veterinarian if in doubt when selecting a trainer or the type of training most beneficial to you and your dog.

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