CEDAR FALLS — Jazz is a handsome, happy Bernese mountain dog cross. He’s a good listener and an eager learner who is working on barking less, but he’s easily motivated with cheesy treats.
Jazz has already mastered a few Doga-Yoga moves and isn’t afraid to balance his front paws on a large, doughnut-shaped ball, or try rolling on a skateboard at the Finishing School for Dogs LLC.
His furry BFF, Phillip, is a 2-year-old Irish wolfhound-St. Bernard mix. The gentle giant is sweet, quiet, affectionate and a trifled dignified, but he loves playing and working out at the doggie gym alongside Jazz.
Certified dog trainer Roxy Anderson opened the Finishing School for Dogs at 1804 Waterloo Road earlier this month to offer pet parents a place to take their dogs where they can play, socialize and learn good behavior using her positive reinforcement methods.
“People tend to hibernate in the winter. Their dogs don’t get as much exercise because it’s cold, or get the socialization they need because they are indoors all the time. Dogs get bored. I think people need a place to bring their dogs for enrichment activities, exercise and socialization,” said Anderson, who graduated from Animal Behavior College in 2006.
She studied under professional trainer Tommy Grammer in Charleston, S.C., and helped rehab one of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs using her experience in positive reinforcement method. Vick, a former NFL quarterback, was sentenced to 23 months in prison in 2007 for running a dog fighting ring.
Anderson is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and Guild for Pet Professionals.
Keeping a pet happy, healthy and engaged is her mission at the school. There are plenty of toys and Jolly balls for romping and playing and a variety of enrichment classes, including indoor play time, Wags and Wine social hour for humans and their dogs, skateboard and Doga-Yoga.
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“Doga-Yoga is about balance, core body strength and stretching exercises. The skateboard is for agility, balance, concentration and fun,” Anderson explained. She also offers group classes in basic, intermediate and advanced manners, AKC Canine Good Citizen classes and testing and therapy and service dog classes and testing.
A Cedar Falls native, Anderson has always loved animals, particularly dogs, and was determined to become a trainer who humanely trains dogs and advocates for mistreated animals. Her mom, Harriet Goodman of Cedar Falls, now 88, encouraged her daughter to become a certified dog trainer.
Positive reinforcement methods “set your dog up for success immediately. Positive reinforcement creates harmony, enjoyment and bonding between pet parents and their dogs,” Anderson said. “Science shows animals have physical and emotional feelings. Positive reinforcement training techniques teaches dogs to use their brain to choose appropriate behavior.”
She believes all dogs, including service and therapy dogs, hunting dogs, military and K-nine police dogs benefit from positive reinforcement.
For example, she uses “uh-oh” instead of the word “No.” Dogs trained with positive reinforcement learn to think about “how to win your approval and get a treat. If dogs are always hearing ‘no’ and are getting shouted at, or have negative reinforcement like prong collars, e-collars, shock collars, they will never learn the behavior you want.”
Instead dogs learn fear and frustration and can become depressed.
A variety of specialty classes will be offered at the Finishing School for Dogs, such as “Hard-to-Handle Dogs/Over-Reactive Dogs,” “Agility for Fun,” “Dancing With Your Dog,” “Indoor Dog Play,” “Kids and Their Dog” and “Pregnancy and Your Dog.”
She also offers private lessons in home and at the training center, rescue animal meet-and-greets and canine birthday party rental space.