Dogs are great.
As I write these words, my wife’s and my little wheaten “terror” is snoring loudly at my feet, legs sprawled out like a road-kill deer, brightening the room with her goofy presence. Seeing her now, I am reminded of our walk this morning where I was fortunate to catch the sunrise over Lake Superior through the cold January air, something I would have undoubtedly missed had she not gotten me out of bed to be let out. She’s a good girl.
Dogs are great in so many ways, but they can also be a lot of work, especially for first time dog owners.
Dogs need walks. Dogs need to be let out multiple times a day to pee and poop. Dogs need to be fed and watered and taught how to behave in a world that doesn’t always make sense. They need to go to the vet more often than you might think, and they have an uncanny ability to get themselves in trouble. Dogs make questionable life decisions—they chew things that shouldn’t be chewed and eat things that would be best left uneaten.
I love my wife’s and my dog, Lana, but as with so many things in life, there is a lot that I know now about raising a dog that I wish I had known when we first got her seven years ago. My biggest regret was waiting six years to take Lana (or, more important, my wife and me) to a professional trainer.
Training is an integral part of dog ownership, and it is a part that is too often overlooked. A well-trained dog is going to lead a happier, less confusing life, and put so much less stress on its owner and the community that it moves through.
Dog owners along the North Shore are fortunate to have several great options for dog training not far from home. The dog training professionals offering their services between Thunder Bay and Duluth are a unique bunch who love what they do and do it well.
As one might expect, quite a few dog training services can be found around Duluth. A quick google search will pull up half a dozen options, one of which is Dog Dynasty Duluth LLC (DDD)—a family business whose roots date back to the 1970s.
Located in Lakewood township just a few minutes north of Duluth proper, DDD is owned and operated by Diane Craig, her husband Jim, and daughter Robin. Diane says DDD currently offers classes and private lessons in “all levels of obedience and agility,” ranging from puppy and adult “foundation classes” that focus on teaching basic social skills, to more advanced courses in competition training, rally obedience, and scent-work.
“It’s an old wives’ tale that an old dog can’t learn new tricks,” says Diane. “The only thing that makes an older dog need more work are bad habits that need to be changed or eradicated.”
“[Humans] do not think in dog terms,” continues Diane, “and unless an owner has had the proper instruction that enables them to converse effectively with their dog, they often give the dog incorrect signals. When [dogs] do not get answers that they can understand, they get confused, and confusion is what breeds unwanted behaviors.”
Diane “caught the bug” for training dogs back in the 1960s, when at age 10 she trained her first dog, a golden retriever, in obedience and began competing. She has since competed in numerous competitions, including obedience, agility, Fast CAT, rally, as well as tracking and scent-work.
Diane’s top piece of advice for new dog owners is “get their dog into a class setting with a reliable, knowledgeable trainer.”
“There is so much incorrect information on the web,” says Diane, “and since it’s important for a dog to behave in a public setting, teaching them in a group environment is essential.”
To learn more about DDD, its merchandising venture, and border collie breeding program Perfect 10 Border Collies, visit their website at: dogdynastyduluth.com.
Further up the shore in Two Harbors, local trainer Angela Bata is offering “positive reinforcement dog training” opportunities through her business Serenity Dog Training.
“My number one piece of advice for a new dog owner,” says Bata, “is to remember that your dog is a dog—enjoy and celebrate that!”
“Nothing a trainer suggests should cause your dog any harm,” continues Bata. “Advocate for your dog and find a trainer that will do the same. How you train your dog matters; choose kindness.”
Bata has been passionate about dogs her whole life, competing on and off since the mid-1990s. Her list of certificates and dog training accolades is too extensive to fit in this article, but can be found on the “Meet the Trainer” page of her website, where she also provides an insightful take on what it means to be a professional in an unregulated industry.
For Bata, the most rewarding part of her work is helping families struggling with their dog’s behavior break through the “language barrier” between our species.
“Humans use words to communicate,” says Bata, “while dogs use their bodies. They are masters at reading our body language, but we are terrible at reading theirs.”
“Knowing and appropriately responding to a dog’s body language,” continues Bata, “is key to changing so many common behavior issues. Helping people see what an amazing dog they have and showing them that behavior can be changed is so heart-warming, especially when they’ve been feeling a bit lost, or maybe even hopeless.”
Through Serenity Dog Training, Bata offers mostly private training sessions, either in-person or virtually, depending on what works best for the client. She also offers in-person group classes for puppies and basic manners in the summer, and has developed a unique service of “customizable virtual classes” for small groups of up to five people that can be designed to cover anything from basic manners to more complicated tricks and recalls.
More information on Angela Bata and Serenity Dog Training is available on their website, serenitydogtraining.com, as well as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Bata also writes a column for the Lake County Press entitled “Catch the Good.”
Even farther up the shore in Grand Marais, professional dog trainer and certified sports canine massage therapist Brittany North has tailored the services offered by her dog training business, North Paws Wilderness, to creatively meet the needs of her Northwoods community.
In addition to offering private lessons, small group classes, and workshops, North also provides virtual training opportunities for people living further out of town, as well as something she has termed “Adventure Dog Training.”
“My favorite offering is without a doubt Adventure Dog Training,” says North. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to go on adventures with their dog?”
“During my Adventure Training sessions,” continues North, “you can learn how to do all types of adventure with your dog—skijoring, bike-joring, backpacking the Superior Hiking Trail, camping, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, whatever interests you!”
North first started working with dogs professionally in 2018 at a sled dog kennel in Alaska.
“Working in Alaska is where I discovered my passion for dogs,” says North. “When my assignment was done at the sled dog kennel, I came back to Minnesota and started North Paws Wilderness to continue doing what I love.”
Now six years since returning from Alaska, North is sharing her passion for dogs in more ways than one. In addition to running North Paws Wilderness, North hosts a podcast (also titled North Paws Wilderness), a monthly WTIP Radio segment entitled All Things Dogs, and has plans to start a sled dog kennel with her husband later this year.
North’s advice for anyone considering getting a new dog is to talk with a professional before making the decision final.
“For someone thinking about getting a puppy or bringing home an adult dog,” says North, “I always highly recommend consulting with a dog trainer first.”
“A good dog trainer is going to ask thought provoking questions that you may not have thought of or considered yet,” continues North. “It’s always best to have a training plan before bringing a dog or puppy home.”
For further information on North Paws Wilderness and everything else that Brittany North is up to, visit her website at: northpawsmn.com.