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Six months ago, in the middle of a statewide stay-at-home order, my husband and I decided to buy a dog. We started our quest with great organization – meticulous notes were taken on the demands and exercise demands of specific breeds. We have spent hours perusing articles, the product of a series of internet searches on our future dog’s care, dietary needs, introducing him to our cats, and preparing our home for a new family member of four. paws.
Then we met JoJo Mario, a young lifeguard whose former owner was no longer able to take care of him. And, after a glance, all of our research and planning went out the window and JoJo Mario, the little rat terrier with a big personality, walked through the door of our house. We were in love.
Having a rescue puppy introduced us to a whole new world of dog training, as well as some downright weird dog behaviors, which led us to seek expert help. This expert was Jennifer Loup from Loupine LLC. Jen provided tangible tactics and science-based positive reinforcement training methods to deal with some of our particular dog’s peculiarities.
Like most trainers, Jen offers group classes, behavior counseling, and in-home training.
But, three years ago, Jen decided to take some of that training on the streets for workout walks twice a week. “I started these walks to give students the opportunity to practice in fun environments,” Jen says. “It’s really the training thing: you have to go out and train. Plus, it’s just a good opportunity for dogs who might need to learn some social skills. They get to be around a group of rotating dogs in their class, but with a walk-in walk, different dogs can appear from week to week.
Jen says the key to these pack walks is recognizing that there will be multiple distractions for dogs and their humans. While walking through downtown Traverse City, dogs adjust to all environmental distractions – the rustling wind, the sounds of traffic in the distance as shoppers cross the street, and cyclists ply the cycle paths.
“Dogs learn to listen to each other and to share space. We walk with a sense of purpose, stopping periodically for training in different places. This allows some of the more responsive dogs to calm down and other dogs to learn to practice a little patience.
Jen leads the pack, starting at the Open Space in Traverse City, where some of the more responsive dogs are able to practice commands like “staying” with other dogs walking around them. Many dogs may start to come into the group barking and pouncing on other dogs, but after a few weeks these dogs are able to walk side by side without a problem. I ask Jen if that means dogs become friends and she laughs, “I think dogs are capable of forming individual friendships. Just like the people. But, like people too, some dogs may not particularly like each other, so it’s more about learning to tolerate and socialize with each other.
Jen’s favorite part of practice walks are the reactions of people who meet the pack.
“They often ask what the group is doing. Seeing so many dogs walking downtown together is definitely a real eye-catcher. I think this is a great representation of dogs being polite in public and polite with other dogs.
With Jen’s help over the past six months, it has been amazing to see the progress of our puppy with special needs. But I think my husband and I have improved the most.
We have learned to stay calm and consistent with JoJo Mario, to recognize that his training has no real end date, and to understand that he is not our pet; he is a member of our family and his only desire is to love us and be accepted by us.
When we started to watch JoJo as he looks at us, with unfettered loyalty and unconditional love, we realized that we weren’t just training our dog to be a better dog – our dog was training us to be better humans.
As a spectator of the pack, watching so many dogs confidently walk Front Street and beyond isn’t just a sight to behold, it’s a goal to be achieved. Hopefully one day we can join the pack, JoJo Mario can form friendships with other dogs, and even learn to tolerate those he doesn’t really like. In fact, we all might need a refresher course on this type of acceptance. And, who better to teach us than our dogs.
Jennifer Loup invites all dogs – even those who don’t attend a Loupine class – to be part of Pack Training walks with the precondition of meeting Jen one-on-one before attending a class. Jen can be reached at 231-392-3253 to schedule.
Pack rides meet at the Traverse City Open Space on Sundays at 12:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. Visiting fees of $ 12 will be charged.
Loupine LLC offers a variety of obedience classes – from Puppy K to Advanced Communication Fundamentals and even K-9 Good Citizen prep classes – at their training center located at 10789 E. Cherry Bend Road, Studio 9 (the former nursery room at Norris Elementary School).
More information on in-home training, behavior counseling, upcoming classes and more can be found here.