Annapolis dogs and owners make New Year's resolutions

Selene San Felice

In a room full of jumpy good boys and girls, one word echoes to calm the excitement.

“Down. Dooooown. Down.” Then, “Good boy!”

About 10 dogs and their owners gathered Saturday morning at Leash Free Living in Annapolis to learn some tricks and work on obedience for the new year.

Trainer Sam Miyamoto led the class with her “demo dogs,” Rugby and Bourbon.

Before owners start working on tricks with their dogs, Miyamoto shows them how to give gradual rewards to help dogs learn. She calls Bourbon — a 5-year-old, female doberman pincher — down from her place to demonstrate “roll over.”

Bourbon is well-versed in this trick, but gets plenty of treats as Miyamoto goes through the steps.

If the dog can only get on its back, that gets a treat. If it can roll a little on his side, that’s a treat. Owners should keep practicing with rewards until the dog can do the whole trick, then get a treat.

Next, Miyamoto calls 10-year-old Rugby down to demonstrate “sit pretty.” The purple-dyed ears of the tiny, white male Maltese bounce as he sits and brings his front paws off the ground.

“Sit pretty” is a fitness trick, so it requires muscle strength for dogs to get their front paws off the ground. This means keeping up practice.

Miyamoto assures owners that, yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks.

“Dogs learn the same at any age, but the older they are, the more bad habits they may have to overcome,” she said.

As owners teach dogs their tricks, they also look forward to making some canine resolutions for 2019.

Artoo, a 1½-year-old husky collie mix, works on “sit pretty” and “bow.” In the new year, his owner, Carla Repko, of Annapolis, wants him to finish therapy dog training so Artoo can visit nursing homes and hospitals.

Jameson, a hound mix owned by Cris Benyo and her 9-year-old daughter Bailey, of Annapolis, works on “roll over.” The Benyos have a couple of resolutions for Jameson to work on as well.

“We’re hoping he decides to stop barking at phantom squirrels,” Benyo said. “He’ll see a squirrel, but the squirrel is then long gone and he keeps barking.”

“He’s working on not jumping on people too,” Bailey said.

Jayna Fenton, of Pasadena, works on “bow” with Yoshi, her 2½-year-old Beauceron mix. Instead of sticking his butt in the air as his front half goes down, Yoshi is basically just throwing his body on the floor in excitement for a treat.

Fenton teaches a beginner’s class at Leash Free Living, where Yoshi is the demo dog. In the new year, she’s ready for him to step up his game by enrolling in obedience tournaments.

Jennifer Mau, of Pasadena, sits on the floor with her 20-month-old German, shorthaired pointer, Gracie. Mau wants Gracie to earn rally and obedience competition titles in 2019, so the two are learning an advanced trick.

Mau pretends to sneeze, shouting, “Achoo!” Gracie grabs a tissue with her mouth out of a box sitting between the two and drops it in Mau’s lap. Somehow, this turns into Gracie howling a strangely human-like “achoo” on her own.

Rachael Francis, a trainer at Leashless Life, works on leg weaving and roll over with Tiggy, a 6-month-old golden retriever.

In the new year, “Tiggy needs to work on paying attention,” Francis joked.

Amy Davis, of Annapolis, constantly has to untangle the leashes of Lily and Zane, her bouncy 2-year-old Italian greyhounds, before they can get to work.

Zane sits and stays on a mat patiently while Lily learns “swing.” She follows her owner’s shoulders with her back legs while keeping her front paws on the platform.

In the last year of training at Leashless Life, Lily and Zane have become well-behaved enough to go out without leashes.

“It takes a lot of consistency and patience, but they’re amazing now. They love going to outside bars and parades. I can leave them on a bench at the vet’s office and they’ll stay,” Davis said.

“It’s a bonding experience with you and your dog.”

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