Stephen Kinder has been conducting canine education programs at the Cleveland PetCo store for puppies, adult dogs and working dogs for six years.
“Both individual and group classes are available,” explained the personable, longtime canine training instructor.
“Since I began teaching at PetCo I’ve seen owner interest in having well-trained four-legged family members grow tremendously. At the outset, we held only one or two classes per week. Now I teach up to 10 classes a week,” he said.
His upbeat puppy classes provide puppies and owners with a head start in the areas of reward-based learning involving commands such as “sit,” “come” and “stay” along with valuable socialization opportunities.
Based upon his some 20 years of experience of working with pets and people, he urges careful consideration prior to adopting a puppy.
“Think about what size will be right for you. Will that cute, quiet 4-pound puppy grow up to become an energetic 48-pound dog? What will his/her activity needs be? Will you have time to leash walk with your dog up to 40 minutes a day? Will you have fun time to spend with him/her, keeping in mind that dogs are social beings who need companionship? How much professional grooming will be needed? Can you afford veterinary costs?
“Research breed traits while remembering that each dog is an individual. Talk with a veterinarian for advice on what breeds and/or breed-mixes would be best for you.
“Before adopting think about what will happen if you have to move. Before a move make absolutely certain that pets will be permitted in your new residence.
Our pets are our four-legged family members and they must always be able to go with us wherever we go. ”Who will take the puppy or dog if you become ill or worse?”
Addressing questions puppy owners often ask about how to house train, he advises “doing it via your feeding patterns. From the weaning stage to 6 months of age, I feed puppies three times a day. From 6 months of age to 1 year old, I feed twice a day. After that it is up to the person whether it works best to feed once or twice a day, but I never leave their food down longer than l5 minutes at a time.”
“The important part of feeding in this way is to take the puppies or dogs outside right after they eat, after they sleep and awaken, and also for puppies to take them outside about every two hours during the day.
“Lots of praise is also effective when they relieve themselves in an appropriate place outdoors. Don’t ever rub their noses in their pee when they make a mistake! I can’t believe some people still believe in this old myth. It doesn’t work, never did work and it is downright cruel,” he emphasized.
When the owner is away from home and the puppy for brief periods, he suggests putting the puppy in a crate in a nice location with a radio playing and a favorite toy.
How can you prevent puppies or dogs from such pastimes as digging up the yard?
“Make sure you are giving them enough activity such as leash walking with you or playing ball with you that involves lots of activity.”
What can be done to deter excessive barking?
“I use an empty soda can, put nine pennies and one nickel inside, tape the opening tightly and shake the can the minute barking begins. This diversion works,” he said.
How can puppies be taught not to chew up the wrong things, such as furniture legs or rugs?
“Give them interesting toys such as the Kong toy or the new ‘Pickle Pocket’ toys to chew on. I don’t give rawhide chews but I do give bully sticks or hooves or deer antlers — all of which have hard surfaces,” he noted.
In explaining the objective of the adult dog classes he teaches, Stephen said this is often aimed at “fixing problems developed in puppyhood. You can change unwanted behaviors with positive training,” he stated emphatically.
In defining what training is involved for a “working dog,” he explained that he trains these dogs in four categories: bomb detection; drug detection; search and rescue; and as personal protection dogs. His own dog, Max, 3, is an outstanding German shepherd, born and bred in Germany “for workability.” American-bred German shepherds are, by contrast, “bred more for looks,” he said.
“Max is a very fast runner, extremely bright, and he has a slightly different appearance than American-bred German shepherds. He has a shorter snout and longer hair,” he said of his fine four-legged companion who sometimes happily joins him at work at PetCo.
To learn more about enrollment in one of Stephen’s classes or for individual training for a dog, contact him at PetCo or call the store at 478-9103.
Paws up this week to: Dr. John Owens; Jeff Morelock; Lindsey Smith; Pat Hardin; Barbara Hanson; Connie Harmon; David Adams; and all who rescued a pet with the assurance of providing a long, wonderful life.
To reach the municipal Cleveland Animal Shelter at 360 Hill St., call 479-2122.
Call me with your pet and wildlife stories, 728-5414, or write to: P.O. Box 4864, Cleveland TN 37320.