SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
When a new member is welcomed into a family, there is a period of adjustment where everyone assesses their roles and responsibilities, especially when the addition is a rambunctious, energetic, barking puppy.
The Spangdahlem Air Base Pet Spa offers families support through the challenging puppy adoption process and an avenue to learn how to deal with their new shoe-eating bundles of joy.
"Everyone has questions; even experienced dog owners can have problems and need a little advice," said Anna Taylor, Pet Spa dog obedience trainer. "It is important for a puppy to start socializing with others when they are young and learning a few basic obedience commands can help the puppy adjust to his new role in his new family."
The Pet Spa Puppy Kindergarten training class is for dogs less than six months old. It focuses on basic obedience commands like "sit," "stay" and "lay down."
"I also hope to teach owners how to deal with the new member of their family, from potty training advice to how to curve bad habits young," said Mrs. Taylor, a Penn Foster Career School certified trainer.
The class takes place Mondays with sessions typically from 6:30-7:30 p.m. if the puppies concentrate and pick up the lessons quickly. If the puppies are distracted and need extra play time, the class can last until 8 p.m.
Mrs. Taylor believes dog training should be a family activity, so children who don't pose a distraction are welcome in the class.
"It is important for everyone in the family to be involved in training the new puppy," she said. "Puppies respond best to people who work with them the most and training is a good bonding experience. I also encourage those with children to get them involved in training at home."
The puppies can be a challenge to keep on track at times; however, Mrs. Taylor enjoys figuring out what method of learning each puppy responds to best.
"The most rewarding part for me is when the owners are shocked at how well their puppy is doing," Mrs. Taylor said. "I love to see owners when their puppy finally gets a trick that they have been working on and struggling with -- they are more excited than the puppies are about getting a treat."
Staff Sgt. Christina Johnson, 52nd Medical Operations Squadron Mental Health technician, enrolled her puppy Mojo to get help teaching him basic commands.
"He is a lot calmer now and he listens better," she said. "I think the class is awesome because she does such a good job getting the puppies to focus."
Mrs. Taylor hopes the puppies' owners will take away the knowledge and skills they need to continue training with their pets when the class ends.
"I don't expect the puppies to be completely trained in only one hour of class for six weeks," she said. "Pet parents need to work with their puppies at home daily."
Senior Airman Nick Guerrero, 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron air transportation specialist, enrolled his puppy Swarley into the class based on the recommendation of former students.
"It is good to see how he interacts with the other puppies and for him to socialize," he said.
After graduating from the class students are invited to attend Yappy Hour, a dog playgroup, Wednesday evenings to help the puppies continue their socialization skills.
"It is important for dogs to start socializing as young as possible because the older the dog gets, the harder it is to socialize them," Mrs. Taylor said. "Socializing basically is introducing your puppy to new people, places, things and dogs. The more things that are introduced to puppies the better so [the puppies] will have fewer things to be scared of when they are older. Once a dog is scared of something it is hard to reverse the fear. It is much easier to show puppies that there is nothing to be afraid of in the first place."
The next Puppy Kindergarten class begins Feb. 23. To sign up a puppy for the $30 class, call 452-9362 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
(Editors note: training classes for adult dogs are all offered at the Pet Spa. The next Dog Obedience Class begins Feb. 24. The cost of the six-week course is $60.)