The Pawsitive approach: Academy teaches dogs — and their owners — new tricks

ammy Barslund and her English Setter show off the techniques involved in a rally competition during a demonstration at Pawsitive Directions K9 Academy in Clifton. The business offers a variety of training courses for dogs and their owners. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Tammy Barslund and her English Setter show off the techniques involved in a rally competition during a demonstration at Pawsitive Directions K9 Academy in Clifton. The business offers a variety of training courses for dogs and their owners. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Not every dog necessarily starts out as man’s — or woman’s — best friend. But Noelle Blair and Tammy Barslund believe every dog should end up that way.

With the right training, even the most ill-behaved dogs can learn the manners that endear them to their owners. And, yes, old dogs certainly can learn new tricks.

“We want people to fall in love with their dogs,” Blair said.

Blair and Barslund, both independent dog trainers, have opened Pawsitive Directions K9 Academy, a Grand Valley business that offers a wide range of classes as well as other services to dogs and their owners.

Beginning classes covers the basics of obedience, puppy training and socialization. More advanced classes prepare dogs and their owners for various competitions. Private classes and individual interventions also are available. “If you have a dog, we can find a class for you,” Barslund said.

Blair and Barslund opened Pawsitive Directions in Clifton in June, bringing to the venture their combined decades of experience in working with dogs.

Blair has taught dog training classes for 25 years, often in public parks where Blair said she and her students were subject to weather that was often too hot or too cold. The indoor training area offers a far better venue, she said.

While Blair and Barslund acknowledged they face a lot of competition from other trainers, they said their operation is unique in the variety of classes offered and also more affordable at $20 a session.

A five-week manners class teaches dogs and their owners the basics of obedience, including commands for sit, down and stay as well as come and heel.

The class can be especially helpful for people who adopt dogs from rescue shelters only to discover their new pets come with some troublesome behaviors, Blair and Barslund said.

Other classes are designed specifically for puppies and to teach dogs socialization skills around other dogs and people.

Pawsitive Directions also offers a Canine Good Citizen class. Dogs and their owners that complete the class and pass a 10-step test earn a designation many insurance companies now require to cover homeowners with certain breeds of dogs, Blair said.

Another class is geared for older dogs age 7 and up, while yet another class covers the basics of pet first aid.

In addition to basic training, Pawsitive Directions offers advanced training, including a class that prepares dogs and their handles for rally competition. In the sport, dogs and handlers proceed through a series of stations in which they demonstrate various skills. Unlike the conformation competitions at dog shows that allow only purebred participants, rally competitions are open to mixed-breed dogs, Barslund said.

Still another class trains dogs and their owners to participate in freestyle events, which are similar to dance routines, she added. “It’s dancing with your dog.”

Regardless of the class, Pawsitive Directions offers training that’s always fun and gentle, Barslund said.

Customers at Pawsitive Directions offer testimonials about their experiences.

Melonie Southam brings Daisy, her Havanese, to the academy for training. Southam said she adopted the dog as a puppy, but was able to overcome the usual puppy behaviors. “She just really matured through the training.”

Lynne ViGrazia said the training helped her turn her golden retriever, Holly, into a therapy dog that visits with patients at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Grand Junction.

The classes are not only helpful in training dogs, Southam and ViGrazia said, but enjoyable for the owners. “You learn how to enjoy and have fun teaching your dog,” Southam said. “I just love it.”

Pawsitive Directions K9 Academy is located at 570 32 Road, Unit E, in Clifton. For information, call 314-2853 or visit www.pawsitivedirectionsk9academy.com.