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Puppies learn social skills at Beagle's Landing

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

To better interact with their owners and other canines, Fido and Rover can learn proper doggy manners during weekly "Puppy Parties" at Beagle's Landing, a cage-free, dog daycare, training and grooming facility.

The parties are every Monday, 6:30 p.m., to 7:30 p.m., at 406 Eagle's Landing Parkway in Stockbridge. The sessions are free, and offer the chance for puppy owners to bring their pets to learn social skills and self-discipline.

Two satisfied pet owners, who take their puppies to the weekly sessions, are Allie McFadden and Jay Johnson. McFadden, who owns Ace, an 8-month-old Sharpei, began taking her puppy to the weekly sessions at Beagle's Landing when he was 4 months old, as a way to foster his trust in people.

He is now considered an adolescent, she says, so she can no longer take him to the puppy parties. Instead of those, McFadden now boards him one-and-a-half days a week in the Beagle's Landing daycare program. She has also enrolled him in the facility's adolescent dog obedience classes.

Her dog has had experience with pet training before. McFadden says Ace attended a Puppy Kindergarten at Pet Smart this summer and graduated at the top of his class in July, but because of his short attention span and the distraction of shoppers walking by in the store, he had trouble concentrating on the lessons.

But her dog anticipates coming to Beagle's Landing for his regular classes, she says. "I kid you not. I ask him, 'Do you want to go to school?' and he runs and sits by the front door."

The time spent at Beagle's Landing is paying off, she continues. "He's come a long way. He loves other animals [and] he loves the dogs," she says.

Johnson, who owns Beau, a 40-pound, 5-month-old Labrador, began taking his puppy to Beagle's Landing seven weeks ago, because Beau's playful biting was too rough.

"He [Beau] didn't realize how much pressure to bite with," Johnson says. The positive results were immediate, and now his dog is gentler.

Beau had another issue as well. Johnson adopted the dog from the Atlanta Humane Society at 9 weeks old, but he noticed his pet was afraid of other dogs before coming to Beagle's Landing. "If they barked, he would tremble in terror," Johnson adds.

The regular sessions playing, exercising and socializing with the other dogs at the sessions, Johnsons says, helps the puppy get rid of his excess "puppy energy," so he is more relaxed. Plus, the dog is no longer fearful, says Johnson.

Beau has just completed the "Puppy Kindergarten" at Beagle's Landing, a six-week course designed to teach puppies skills, including how to refrain from jumping on people, and the proper way to walk on a leash. He also learned simple commands like "sit," "stay," "lay down," "off" and "here now." The "here now" command is used to summon dogs from a distance and encourage them to sit quietly by their owner. The "off" command is used when the owner wants the dog to refrain from touching or picking up an item.

Beau has completely mastered the "off" command, explains Johnson. "I can even do that with his food, and he just sits there," he says.

Both Johnson and McFadden say they would recommend the parties to other puppy owners needing help getting their pet to behave.

Suzanne Harris, the owner and manager of Beagle's Landing and a certified pet dog trainer, says Beau conquered his biting problem right away, after starting his visits at her facility. "The play-biting changed immediately. [He] was biting too hard, but within one puppy party, he was biting dramatically softer," she says.

Harris explains that the parties serve two purposes: One goal, she says, is to change the puppies' lives for the better. The other is to show the owners how the sessions can help their dogs.

The sessions focus on dogs while they are still young, she says, because the younger animals are easier to work with. "Once they reach two [years old], they completely lose their puppy sense of humor."