Kids aren’t the only ones having to endure summer school.
On an unbearably hot afternoon, Remy’s attention is straying from the commands of the instructor. He does what he’s told for a while but then he appears to hear or see something that might be a bit more interesting and he looks away.
Likewise Bailey goes along for a short time but seems more interested in stretching out on the floor and getting back into the familiar cool shadow of the young woman who brought him.
Remy and Bailey are two canines who spent part of their summer enrolled in a dog obedience class held at the Decatur Recreation Center.
Instructor Jeremiah McClendon’s four-week intensive behavior modification class is open to dogs of all breeds that are 6 months and older.
McClendon, who has been training dogs for more than 30 years, said he has only been bitten once and that no dog is unteachable. His observation of how canines were trained while he was in the army and stationed in Germany is the foundation for much of his techniques, he said. He’s had no formal training.
“It’s a gift from God,” said McClendon. “I can do things that other people never heard of.”
Common mistakes that owners make with their pets include food rewards and not curtailing unnecessary barking, which can lead to biting, according to McClendon. Rather than rewarding an animal with treats, he suggests training the animal so that it’s using its brain in doing the desired behavior.
“If you mess up when you start that’s what the dog is going to live with,” he said.
Zirka Thompson of Buckhead said that Bailey, an 8-month-old mutt that she thinks is a lab/hound mix, is a “pretty good” dog that doesn’t always pay attention as much as she should.
“She’s distracted a lot,” says Thompson as she waits for the class to begin. “She has a lot of things to work on.”
When McClendon enters the room he immediately begins putting pieces of black tape on the floor, then takes 2-year-old part Chow Remy by his leash and walks him a few steps and tells him to heel, sit. Remy complies. Then the animal, which despite a recent shearing still sports a fluffy coat, rises to his feet.
“Down, down,” says McClendon in a no-nonsense tone. Remy sits again. McClendon drops the leash and walks away. Remy seems to conclude that the lesson is over and begins to walk away. McClendon quickly steps to the dog and tells him to sit and stay. The exercise is repeated and repeated.
Susan Tanner of Decatur, a friend of Remy’s owner, has been shepherding the dog to class for the past four weeks.
“He’s really good but he does get distracted when out in the community,” she says. “He’s very sensitive to noises.”
Wind, the sound of cars, voices disturb Remy, causing him to growl and bark, according to Tanner.
McClendon, who has a Pomeranian and a German Shepherd at home, points out that Remy and Bailey have common challenges and that both have been rescued from shelters. Dealing with rescue animals means the owners (and trainer) don’t know what the dog has experienced in other environments.
Tanner said that 20 years ago she had enrolled in a pet obedience class when she owned a small dog but couldn’t remember all the fine points so she was taking this class as a refresher for herself and to help Remy.
“The coolest thing we learned last week is to stop at the curb before crossing the road and the dog begins to look for cars,” said Tanner. “It’s a very good course.”
The dog obedience classes at the Decatur Recreation Center take place on an ongoing basis throughout the year. Class fee is $55.