No More Zombies | Training kids to train dogs

The undead used to keep eight year old Sawyer McMullan awake at night. “He knew it was an irrational fear, but he still wanted someone to sleep with him,” Sawyer’s mom, Dawn McMullan, explained. A Halloween story spurred the sleepless nights, and the family spent two years trading out zombie watch duties. “Sawyer’s older brother slept with him, and when he was gone I would fill in,” McMullan said.

Finally, the family decided a four-legged companion might help young Sawyer (now ten years old) slay his fear, or at least sleep in his own bed without their help. The family adopted Malcolm, a sixty pound mix, from a rescue group, and decided to recruit the help of a trainer to help transition their newest family member into their home.

Robin Terrell is the owner of Good Dog Fetch, a company which provides obedience classes for pets and their people. “I was able to help Malcolm and Sawyer form a bond and learn to trust one another,” she explained. Unlike many obedience instructors, Terrell’s dog training process does not include any adverse techniques such as pulling on the leash, pushing the animal or swatting the dog. She teaches owners to use tactics which involve positive re-enforcement and communication. “I encourage people to speak in a soft voice, pet the dog, and to reward them with treats. Dogs respond much better when treated with respect and kindness,” Terrell explained.

In May 2012 Terrell will begin offering weekly classes for kids and their dogs. Those 14 years of age and older are encouraged to take part in the classes without their parents.  This process helps them learn how to treat animals and respect animals.

Terrell developed her dog training classes through her ten years experience in the field. In addition to teaching obedience classes, she and her two Australian Shepherds, Charlie and Zoe, are a registered therapy team. Together they help children who have been in domestic violence situations, or have been victims of physical or sexual abuse.

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