Combining obedience with play
Most pet owners will agree that their canine pals live the life of Riley on Bowen Island, with endless trails for walking, fantastic beaches for swims and great fields for endless games of catch and throw. Among the amenities available to man’s best friend is the Bowen Island Dog Ranch, a full service facility on five acres of land that caters to the canines’ well-being.
Over the years, the Dog Ranch has transformed itself into a one-stop shop with dedicated staff, offering a multitude of services that include day camps for dogs where proper social etiquette is practiced and overnight boarding where the dogs play during the day off leash and sleep on warm comfortable beds inside at night. A full grooming salon offers pampered pooches nail care, stylish cuts and baths using only the finest non-allergenic shampoos. Recently added to the list is a range of training programs that meet the needs of most dog owners.
Owners Karen Munro and Scott Wielbicki brought on board certified master trainer Angie Shields whose credentials include government certified personal protection and civil patrol dog handler and government certified detection handler for explosives and narcotics. Both Shields and Wielbicki (certified through the Karen Pryor Training School) provide individualized training classes that range from basic obedience and leadership for puppies and older dogs to advanced classes for more stubborn breeds.
Apprenticing under many different trainers, Shields’ knowledge of training techniques is vast. “Every dog is different and not every training method is going to work with every dog,” she says. Her base coaching method is the “praise and play reward method” that combines obedience with play. The dog learns to be part of a team while boundaries are set – this makes learning fun for both the dog and the owner and strong relationships are formed. “I like to model nature as much as possible in life, and in training. When faced with a training challenge, I ask, ‘How would a balanced lead dog handle this scenario?’” Quoting one of her favourite animal behaviourists, horse trainer Buck Brannaman, Shields says, “I help dogs with people problems - I don’t help people with dog problems.”
In 2009, Shields was hired by a Canadian company to train police service dogs in Musqat, Oman. Not an easy task as many of the officers had limited or no interaction with dogs prior to entering the dog section. The dogs were mostly various types of shepherds, labradors, and spaniels. Towards the end of the program, as both handler and canine became more confident, Shields noticed a transformation of attitudes with strong bonds being formed, “That is what I love about dogs - they open people up to new possibilities. Most of these handlers grew up in a traditional Muslim home where interacting with a dog was not even in their realm of possibility. And there they were graduating from our program with a new partner, and more importantly, a new found respect and powerful friendship like nothing they could have imagined. It was an amazing, emotional journey,” says Shields. She also helped rescued street dogs and says, “It was a privilege to work with them. The lack of human influence for most of their puppyhood allowed them to develop into some of the most well balanced dogs I’ve seen. They were free of the projected anxieties seen in North America’s pet dogs.”
According to Shields, the three most common mistakes pet owners make is lose their temper with the dog, encourage excitement at the wrong time and then expect the dog to behave, and lack consistency when enforcing boundaries. The Dog Ranch training classes focus on how to read the dog’s signals in a controlled environment, where simulated situations give pet owners the opportunity to practice techniques and to provide confidence when dealing with these situations in the real world.
The Dog Ranch has a new fully-lit indoor arena. It’s offering additional Board ‘n’ Train services, private sessions and soon a Hike and Train class. Start dates for the next round will be February 23 for basic and advanced classes and February 24 for puppy Kindergarten and leash manners classes. For more information, see www.bowendogranch.com.