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All work for dogs and their owners is play at training club in Violetville

Some dogs may hit the box a little too low. Others like to watch their competitors as they run. Many really need to work on their turns after retrieving the ball.

In the sport of flyball, these little details are not obvious to the novice eye.

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What is obvious, however, is the sheer joy the dogs show as they race through the hurdles to get a ball before racing back to their cheering owners and "passing off" to the next dog.

"They either like it or they don't," said Bill Parkent, who, with his wife, Pat, has two dogs competing on teams representing Oriole Dog Training Club, a nonprofit organization founded in 1945 that recently moved to the area. "You find something they like."

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There are a variety of options for dogs at Oriole, which relocated to a facility in a business park off Benson Avenue from Woodlawn the end of last year. From basic obedience classes, to agility, to the fast-paced flyball, dogs and their owners can enjoy learning a variety of activities in a cavernous room that offers plenty of space to sit, run, jump and play.

"We do a lot of dog sports here," said Richard Mathews, agility training director at Oriole. "Mostly, we have a good time."

Unlike an obedience school, the dog training club provides more than lessons. It also offers competitions and activities for dogs of all breeds and ages. All the teachers are volunteers. While members of the Oriole Dog Training Club are given first priority for classes or seminars, anyone is welcome to take part, and the club invites members of the surrounding community to join them.

"We are always looking for more members and people interested in play," Mathews said. "People who want to play [with their dogs], want to learn [how to train their dogs] and want to teach [others what they know]."

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Promotional material from Oriole stresses that the facility does not train individuals how to become professional dog trainers, however. A flyer from Oriole notes that "We also do not train your dog for you. We teach you how to train your dog."

To reach the level of obedience required of such activities as flyball, dogs and their owners must start with basic training.

Oriole offers a variety of obedience classes, including a class just for young puppies — those between the ages of 10 weeks and six months.

"The earlier you start with a dog, the better," said Rachel Lachow, the obedience training director at Oriole. "They're never too old, but they definitely learn faster when they are young. You don't want to start behaviors you don't like and then try to fix it. It is a harder situation."

For 10-month old Tally, a Portuguese Water Dog, learning to control her boundless energy was a challenge. During a recent obedience class at Oriole, she did her best not to wiggle or jump as she followed her owner, Sue Augat, of Pasadena, around the room.

"It's been very good," Augat said, of the class. "She's a very live wire."

Stephanie Kirchner said the class had helped her Labrador/Great Dane mix, Lucky Dog, more than another school.

"In this school, I have seen the most improvement," Kirchner said, of her 1-1/2 year-old dog's behavior.

"I've been looking for a club for a long time," she said. "A club offers a lot more classes and more events. There is a larger group of people whose interest is in canines."

Many people assume that because the Oriole is a dog club, the public is not allowed to enroll in classes. Often, it is through the beginning classes that new members join, Lachow said.

"Classes are open to anyone," Lachow said, adding that her obedience classes especially, typically draw from the local neighborhood, with many continuing in more advance classes.

"We want more neighborhood involvement," Mathews said. "People who want to play."

The club has averaged about 200 to 220 members the last few years, according to Mathews. There are yearly dues and four general member meetings held throughout the year.

With the room the new facility provides, the club plans to host a number of various competitions and community outreach activities, including health clinics, seminars and workshops.

"This building needed an enormous amount of work," Lachow said, of the pristine building Oriole now calls home.

With a large field covered in artificial turf, a classroom and rooms for crates, the building on Azar Court can also be rented by other groups for dog-related sport shows.

"I love it. I absolutely love it," said Penny Miller, an Oriole member for more than 14 years, of the new building. "It's big and it's bright."

It took some time for the canine members of the flyball team to get used to their new digs however. While the old facility had green mats along its course, the new facility's turf made everything green.

"Running in this building is different than the other," Mathews said, as a dog running the flyball course ran outside its lane. "They're still getting accustomed to the building."

The Club also offers another benefit for its members and their dogs.

"It is a social outlet," Miller said, who has three dogs on the flyball team. "Dog people are ...friendly for sure. It's just a lot of fun."

The rain had just let up as the flyball teams completed their practice on Thursday night last week.

The group discussed who was brining what and where everyone was staying for a tournament the flyball team planned to attend in Pennsylvania over the weekend.

"I just have fun doing it," Mathews said, of playing flyball with his dogs. "It's great fun."

The Oriole Dog Training Club is located at 9 Azar Court. For information, call 410-565-6651 or go to http://www.orioledogclub.org.

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