Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Sit, Stay and More: Once your dog knows the basics, you can take training to the next level.

Dog training isn’t just for dogs. It can bring many moments of discovery and learning for both pet and owner.

At first, instruction will be directed towards basics such as potty training and how to sit, stay and go for walks. Just having a well-mannered four-legged companion can be an enjoyable experience and bring a sense of accomplishment.

But, once the basics are mastered, the training doesn’t have to end. In fact, taking it to the next level is pretty simple. The key is to figure out your dog’s strengths and then pursue an outlet for those behaviors, which can be shaped into something constructive and amazing. These may include teaching your dog tricks, dock diving, agility, lure coursing, freestyle Frisbee or flyball. He or she can even be trained for search and rescue or to be a therapy pet that visits the infirmed or interacts with children.

Figuring out what your dog has to offer is the key. If your dog has a great nose and likes to hunt, then search and rescue or tracking might be a great outlet to shape its behavior into a useful and productive activity. Dogs that have an obsession with balls or playing catch may do well in activities such as freestyle Frisbee or flyball, a type of relay race for dogs. There are activities that include dancing with your dog and traveling with other dog-lovers (and their pets) to great vacation spots.

Your dog does not have to be selectively bred to perform such feats. Yes, certain dogs, such as service dogs, are bred for specific jobs and tasks. However, dogs are quick learners and, if given the right instruction and bond, will do almost anything to please their humans.

Age is of no matter. Most people think that training must be started at the puppy stage, but just like with humans, a certain level of maturity needs to be attained before development is fully possible. There are many YouTube sensations that were once pound puppies and are now stars of the internet. Dogs have personality and the potential to learn new tricks at any age. Just because your pup was not selectively bred to be a therapy dog does not mean it cannot be a grand champion in other arenas.

Facilities that offer basic obedience classes sometimes offer advanced classes that include introduction to agility, Rally-O, therapy dog programs and other specialized activities. The internet is a great resource to find classes or clubs that specialize in the activities offered in the local area.

Here in central Pennsylvania, we have clubs that offer activities for both the novice and the competitor. Internet resources include www.akc.org and www.apdt.com, which not only provide information on local facilities and clubs but also offer descriptions of the different activities that are available beyond the basics.

Canine Spa, located in Dillsburg, is a great place to visit if your dog is a water hound. You can see, for instance, if your pet would make a good dock diver, a sport in which a dog leaps off the end of a dock to retrieve a lure thrown into the water. The sport part is how far your dog can jump. There also are several facilities that offer agility classes in our area. In agility, a handler/owner guides the dog through an obstacle course that might include jumps, teeter-totters, tunnels and chutes. Several dog-training facilities offer classes for “Canine Good Citizen” certification, which is the first step in attaining therapy dog status.

Whatever your pet’s hidden talent, it’s great to be able to tap into his or her potential and take the human/dog bond to the next level, fully enjoying your dog’s unique personality and your relationship.

Amy Powell is a dog trainer and Owner of Doggie U, LLC.

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