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STANTON – Stefanie Swan didn’t grow up as a training dog.
On the contrary, the Saranac native grew up training cats and other farm animals as if they were dogs, just to prove that she could.
“My dad, when I was little, wouldn’t let me have a dog, so I showed it to him by training everything I could,” she laughs. “I have fully trained a cat to fetch, call back, sit, lie down, roll over and shake. After that, I completely trained a goat to do the same.
Now living in Six Lakes, Swan began using her skills to become a professional dog trainer in 2011.
After concentrating on private training, while occasionally renting a horse arena a few times a year for group training, Swan felt it was time to offer his services from an official storefront.
About a month ago, Swan opened the Heartdog Obedience Academy at 120 W. Main St. in Stanton. The company offers its customers a number of different classes for their dogs, depending on the age range of their pet.
For puppies aged 10-16 weeks, Swan offers a puppy preschool that teaches basic manners, handling skills and socialization.
“These are things that are kind of needed right now during COVID,” she explained. “Right now, we’re seeing a lot of people are stuck and home and think it’s a great time to go out and have a puppy. There’s really nowhere for them to socialize (the dog), which causes them to miss out on some crucial developmental skills. When they reach a certain age, the dog can get out of control and be afraid of everyone. We want to help prevent this.
Puppies four to six months old can enroll in Puppy Kindergarten, which uses positive reinforcement methods to teach dogs to respond to their name, walk on a free leash, sit, and others. basic skills.
At the age of seven months and older, Swan introduces a different type of training which she believes is more relationship-based.
“We teach people to develop a proper relationship with their dog and train them based on that so that they don’t become addicted to the rewards,” she said. “What we’re finding is that when you’re really rewards based on food, (dogs) do really, really well when they know you have treats. As soon as you are in the world and need them to sit down but you don’t wave a hot dog in their face, they won’t. We fight this with relationship-based training so that their obedience is truly reliable.
Each course lasts four weeks, is held in the evening and costs $ 100.
“People can choose to continue progressing through classes, or they don’t have to,” Swan noted. “They can stick to the four-week commitment, if that’s what they chose. Right now, we’re limiting it to four people per class just because of COVID and social distancing. Quatre gives us a nice space to work with each other. “
Having just finished puppy preschool, Gina Holcomb from Vestaburg says she is getting ready to enroll her dog for the next wave of classes.
“As soon as we get back from vacation, we’ll take (puppy kindergarten),” Holcomb told the Daily News. (Swan) impressed me a lot with his ability to communicate with humans and dogs. I tell my husband that she is the dog’s whisperer. I highly recommend her to anyone who talks about wanting to train their dog.
While still offering a few private training sessions, Swan says she plans to start a program that involves walking outside with a trainer.
“We could actually go for walks and I’ll be there to guide people through the issues they face as they experience them,” she commented.
For Swan, working with dogs in this way is always second nature.
“I was working as a vet-technician for a little while at Sheridan while doing my training on the side,” she explained. “Seeing that the demand was there, I thought it would be a nice central location for Montcalm County to set up a studio.”
The Heartdog Obedience Academy is open from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday to register for classes.
“I need to have the registration forms filled out before the next class, as well as the veterinary files,” Swan said. “There is a 50% deposit to keep the place in class as they are limited, full payment being due at some point until class night.”
Heartdog Obedience Academy
Location: 120 W Main St. in Stanton
Hours: 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday to register for classes
Information: Visit heartdogacademy.com or call (616) 788-8248