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Puppy class helps new owners

By Kathy Antoniotti
Beacon Journal staff writer

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Instructor Durst (right) holds a tunnel as Gary Miller tries to coax Ben-G through during a basic puppy training class for beginner owners and their dogs at Papp's Dog Services in Akron. (Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal)

The first night of a puppy class can be hectic as excited little ones age 8 weeks to 4 months begin to learn acceptable behavior and how to properly socialize with other dogs.

But for two 10-week-old Akron pups, it was a night of rediscovering the kinship of being littermates.

The owners of two Labrador retriever-mix pups were shocked at the resemblance of the two canines when they arrived at Papp’s Dog Services in Akron last week for their first puppy class.

“They have to be brother and sister,” remarked Papp’s owner Susan Jenkins, who has more than 30 years of experience in animal obedience training.

After a little sleuthing, pet parents Naomi and James Bryant and Pat Doane all of Akron, realized that little Maxx and Roxie came from the same Barberton home within the last month.

The other remarkable thing is that both sets of owners realized their puppies needed a few training sessions to learn how to behave.

While getting some “grown-up” help from Jenkins’ dog Caleb, who has been ranked one of the top obedience Labrador retrievers in the nation, instructor Jennifer Durst of Akron began the class by talking to owners about what is considered acceptable behaviors and what they could expect to learn in the four-week, hour-long sessions.

“Supervision is the key,” Durst told them. When not supervised, puppies should be in a totally empty crate to prevent them from choking on toys, blankets or chew strips.

“Treats are an earned privilege,” said Jenkins. Toys should be given only while the puppy is supervised to make sure it can’t break off pieces of rubber or fabric, she said.

During the first class, puppies and their owners focused on behavior issues they are dealing with, such as housebreaking and biting, a puppy’s way of communicating. The joyful pups were having a great time and had no idea they were actually absorbing new lessons.

Most owners in the class said they were having issues with housebreaking their pups.

“If you are supervising your puppy properly, you will pick up on the signals when they need a potty break,” Durst said.

Durst, who is known in Northeast Ohio animal rescue circles as a member of Cuyahoga County’s Public Animal Welfare Society, explained that getting angry or frustrated with a misbehaving puppy is counterproductive and doesn’t work.

“One of our goals here is to make your puppy comfortable in any situation and help you learn to be comfortable, too,” Durst said.

The four-week course curriculum is geared to helping owners raise the ideal pet. Jenkins has worked with veterinarians, vet assistants, groomers and therapy dog testers for the Delta Society, the largest national group that certifies therapy dogs in the U.S., to develop her curriculum.

Jenkins insists puppies begin learning limited recall — to come when called each and every time they are called.

“In my opinion, [it is] one of the most important things you can teach a dog,” Jenkins said.

It wasn’t long into the session that Durst and Jenkins thought it was time for the puppies to take a break from the classroom and expend some pent-up energy by introducing them to a strange new game of walking through a tunnel. Starting with encouragement from their owners and a treat waiting at the end of the opening, some of the pups were chasing each other through the tunnel on their own by the end of the class.

Throughout each session, puppies will continue to learn how to get along with each other as well as the manners they need to keep their families happy.

Dogs who get a good foundation with early training stand a better chance of a good life. Trained dogs are more welcome in homes and don’t end up abandoned in a shelter for bad behavior, Jenkins said.

“I’ve gotten a 5-year-old shepherd that was a biter that would probably never have gotten to that point if they had brought him to me sooner,” Jenkins said.

“It’s much more difficult to recondition that behavior after an animal has been doing it for a long time,” she said.

Other pets from the news:

• Feral Cat Seminar — One of a Kind Pet Rescue is sponsoring a workshop on the humane control of feral cat populations. Trap-Neuter-Return: How to Manage a Feral Cat Colony is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 26 at the agency’s adoption center, 1929 W. Market St., Akron. Toby Franks from Franks Ferals will lead the program. Registration is not required to attend and there is no charge for the workshop. Donations to the One of a Kind Feral Cat Fund are appreciated. Call 330-865-6200 for more information.

• Feed Nature Realm Creatures — Join Naturalist Renell Simrau in preparing food and feeding an American toad and garter snake at the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, 1828 Smith Road, Akron, at noon Jan. 27 and the tiger salamander and brown snake on Feb. 10. The events are appropriate for families with children ages 5 and older. The free classes last about 45 minutes. Registration is required by calling 330-865-8065.

• 137th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show — More than 3,200 dogs representing 187 breeds will compete in the televised show from Madison Square Garden at 8 p.m. Feb. 11 on CNBC and 8 p.m. Feb. 12 on USA Network.

• Fairytales & Frogs — Cleveland Metoparks Zoo, 3900 Wildlife Way, will sponsor the event to be held in the RainForest from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 18. The event is free with admission to the zoo with a paid adult admission, and limited to children 11 and younger. Everyone is encouraged to come dressed as a princess, prince or a frog.

• Animal nutrition clinic — Learn about feed products and animal nutrition at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Community Center at the Medina County Fairgrounds sponsored by Smith Brothers Inc. To attend, RSVP to

Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Akron Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or send an email to


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