Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Sit, Stay, Click: Doggie U combines online, on-site training.

Many people take classes and do professional training through online courses, videos and other distance-learning methods. Now, so can your pooch.

Until recently, most training was done at brick-and-mortar locations or in the home, but that’s beginning to change.

“I can train clients anywhere in the world via video,” said certified dog trainer Amy Powell, owner of Harrisburg-area Doggie U.

Maintaining a virtual business model has allowed Powell to focus efforts on her mission—keeping dogs in their homes with their owners rather than being given up to rescues because of behavioral issues.

“I can get results with behavior modification immediately,” Powell said.

This is not to say that she won’t visit your home. Under certain criteria, she will. Some of her work with rescues is on-site, as well. But the online consulting gives her educational arm greater reach with long-distance dog owners and rescues, and it gives her more time to spend helping more dogs.

During her two decades of dog training, Powell has encountered a lot of common issues: separation anxiety, dominance, aggression, anti-social behavior and OCD (incessant barking, licking, pulling when walking). So, she has developed her own methods, which she teaches online and in person.

“The textbooks aren’t always right,” she said. “I train from my 20 years of experience, which doesn’t necessarily match the textbooks. For example, if a dog jumps up on you, kneeing them or holding their paws is not the most effective way to fix the problem. Rather, walking forward into their pace asserts you as dominant without having to use force.”

Long-time client Sheri Shadle has trusted three of her dogs to Powell over the years.

Amy understands the psychology behind the behavior and is able to explain it in a way so that you understand why your dog behaves in a certain manner,” Shadle said.“Then she develops a training plan to change that behavior.”

Tammy Newcomer, who is herself a people trainer and Powell’s client since 2006, sees a lot of parallels between Amy’s training methods and practical adult learning approaches. Some of it goes beyond training, into “offering support and empathy,” Newcomer said.

“Her support has aided in providing a good environment for my family, furry kids included,” she said.

While Powell specializes in training dogs with problem behaviors, part of her community-building emphasizes properly socializing dogs to help prevent problem behaviors. Doggie U hosts dog walks around dog-friendly area parks, which are promoted on its Facebook page and Meetup.

It’s a chance to socialize dogs and give them space to be their crazy selves, along with a reminder that non-social dogs need more space than others.

“Aggression isn’t genetically linked to breeds,” Powell said. “Certain breeds get bad reps that they don’t deserve. I’ve met more dangerous labs than pit bulls. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the owner to make sure they have a social, stable dog.”

Doggie U client Vanessa Foti-Pietrolaj enlisted Powell’s help with her dog Toby’s aggression issues.

“We went from avoiding other dogs and social engagements to having playdates and even puppy-sitting for friends’ dogs,” she said.

Training most of her clients by video allows Powell to turn some of her energies toward decidedly non-video training delivery.

For instance, a revived, mission-related pet training project for Doggie U is HOPE (Hounds of Prison Education) Dogs, which is sponsored by the Central PA Animal Alliance in conjunction with the PA State Correctional Institute at Camp Hill and CPAA member rescues. The program pairs carefully screened inmates with dogs that have moderate behavior and social issues.

Online training has not only helped Powell free up her schedule for other efforts. It also has allowed her clients to train at their discretion, while dogs get the constant reinforcement of her lessons.

“My clients can refer to the videos over and over again,” Powell said. “I can have consistent communication with the owners.”

For more information, visit the Facebook page: Doggie U LLC.

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