When a group of four pit bulls first gathered in the lobby of the self-service dog wash and day care that would be their training classroom for four weeks, their excitement made it difficult for handlers to control their behavior. Some dogs barked while others would not stop pulling toward their neighbors.
By the final class on July 24, they could lie still while handlers placed treats, squeaky toys and balls within reach. When entering or exiting the classroom, the pit bulls could sit at the open door and wait for the signal to go through.
The pit bulls had learned obedience.
The group met once per week at Mud Puppies, 12233 N. FM 620, a self-serve dog wash and day care that partners with Love-A-Bull to provide a space for free training classes for members.
Trish Jones, a Certified Canine Behavior and Training Specialist, showed the group how to use positive reinforcement to achieve training success.
“The most rewarding part for me is having these wonderful dogs in my classes and seeing the difference between the first class and the last class, she said. “It is an amazing feeling to me to see these people really working hard and taking the time to make their dogs well behaved.”
Trainer offers skills
Jones, owner of The Confident Canine, has been training dogs professionally for more than 12 years and shares her home with 9 dogs rescued from shelters. She started offering her skills to Love-A-Bull in May.
- Trish Jones knew she wanted to be a dog trainer after she met pit bull Rocky. While in school to be a veterinary tech, a classmate brought the sick puppy into class. After nursing him back to health, Jones became his guardian. Training the stubborn pit bull convinced her to help others overcome the difficulty of caring for challenging dogs. Photo courtesy The Confident Canine
“Love-A-Bull is such a great organization. The amount of work this organization does to educate the public about pit bulls is remarkable,” she said. “I am proud to be a small part of that.”
In class, students learned a variety of commands, such as “watch me,” “stay,” “leave it” and “heel.”
Jones encourages her students to take the dogs as many places as possible on a regular basis to practice the commands.
She hopes the people who have attended her classes will continue to do more with their dogs, such as getting a Canine Good Citizen certificate, doing therapy work, learning search and rescue skills or participating dog sports, such as agility.
“The more visible these well-trained dogs are, the more their reputation will improve,” she said. “I hope they take my advice to heart so that everyone can see that these dogs are special.”
When the free class started July 3, a white pit bull mix with black spots called Kimbo was so excited by the new surroundings and other dogs, he slid across the polished cement floor as he entered Mud Puppies. When Jones gave instructions, he often got up to sniff nearby classmates.
- Kimbo spent countless hours in and out of class to learn the skills needed to pass the Canine Good Citizenship test. Photo by Joseph M. de Leon
As the weeks progressed, he learned to pay attention to his handler. Kimbo usually stayed when told and when his mind wandered, he responded more quickly to corrections.
He was beginning to master obedience.
“Kimbo is such an adorable boy — he draws you in with his doe eyes and he reminds me of a marshmallow! I can’t help but smile when I see him in class,” Jones said. “Kimbo has a wonderful temperament. He’s fun and loves to play, but he is also capable of being calm.”
On July 31, Kimbo is scheduled to take the Canine Good Citizen test at South Paws Playschool, 2324B South Lamar Blvd. It will be his second attempt. Two months ago, he passed seven of 10 sections of the test.
If he passes, Kimbo will be one step closer to joining the Pit Crew as a therapy dog.
Those interested in taking the next Canine Good Citizen test, noon July 31 at South Paws Playschool, can visit Love-A-Bull’s Meetup.com page for details.