ANDERSON, Ind. — Max rolls around on the floor. He naps for a bit. Then, he starts playfully pawing at his neighbor, tail in full wag.
When it’s go-time, however, the young pup gets right with the program, paying attention and responding to simple commands. The 11-week-old Labrador puppy is already acquiring the demeanor of a well-behaved dog, thanks to the love and care of the Jariwala family – with a helpful assist from puppy kindergarten.
Every Tuesday night for five weeks this summer, the Jariwalas loaded into their car in Fishers and made a beeline for the National Guard Armory in Anderson. That’s where Anderson Obedience Training Club offers classes. The not-for-profit organization seeks to promote dog training and responsible dog ownership.
The Jariwalas made the puppy project a family affair.
“It is an exciting ride. Just like a baby. After he came along, we had to make so many adjustments,” said Ritesh.
Ritesh, along with his wife, Jayana, 10-year-old Aakash and 15-year-old Aditya got Max on a Friday and brought him to kindergarten the following Tuesday.
Training the family
Michael Kennedy has been teaching the class for puppies 7 weeks to 5 months for years.
“It’s more training for the family than the dog,” said Kennedy. “I try to give them a good background as to what to do and what not to do.” Kennedy brings Becky, his 3-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, to class with him – the model of a well-behaved dog.
At puppy kindergarten, Kennedy seeks to get owners to consider how the dog looks at his world, and what the best methods of training are with that perspective in mind.
“I teach about dog behaviors and how the dog will look at the family unit as a pack,” said Kennedy. “If we get them as puppies and start them out right and people are knowledgeable, it reduces a whole lot of problems.” Part of starting them out right is providing consistency in training, and Kennedy applauds families like the Jariwalas that take on the training challenge with linked arms.
“They’re very good about it,” said Kennedy. He said the fact that the entire family is participating in the training will make a difference. “It is atypical, but it’s very beneficial.” That’s because the pup will get the same kind of reinforcement from everyone in the family.
“If they take the time to do that, they’ll have a well-adjusted dog,” said Kennedy.
Treats eventually phased out
As Kennedy gets class underway, the Jariwalas sit together, alert and focused. While the rest of the family watches carefully, it’s 15-year-old Aditya who handles the puppy during class. Aditya takes Max by the leash to practice simple commands under Kennedy’s supervision. Six other puppies, all shapes and sizes, have brought their owners to the class as well.
“By the second week of class, they say ‘sit’ and the puppy’s sitting,” said Kennedy. He uses food treats to get the training to kick in, then eventually phases it out. Indeed, on the last night of class, the puppies were all doing pretty well at responding to a variety of commands.
Kennedy sent his group of puppy kindergarten graduates off with diplomas and encouraging words, “You’re all on the way to having well-trained, well-behaved dogs.”
Aditya said the key seems to be patience. “The secret is to have patience and consistency. You can’t get frustrated if he doesn’t listen all the time,” said the teen.
The Jariwalas’ acquisition of their new puppy was a carefully thought out decision. Although everyone wanted a dog, Aditya had allergies and he went through allergy shots first.
“My wife wanted a dog that looked like Marley,” laughed Ritesh. “He’s behaving like Marley, too.” You wouldn’t know it watching his exemplary performance on graduation night.
Ritesh and Jayana came to the United States from India in 1998, and they easily identify what Max means to them. “This is the American dream,” said Ritesh.
They’re living it as a tightly knit family. The puppy training is not their first family learning adventure.
“We do a lot. We all four went to karate class together,” said Ritesh. “The family that does things together stays together.”
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