Well-mannered dogs go places
Whenever Jan Gribble sees people out walking or jogging, she wonders if they have a dog at home that they didn’t bring because it wasn’t trained.
Gribble is the owner of ABC Dog Training, and a member of the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors. From her home in Escondida, she leads all kinds of dog training classes and workshops, from basic manners to competitive dog agility, and she travels all over the state, working with shelters and conducting private consultations with owners.
What Gribble tries to do in every case is understand what owners want from their dog, and give them the tools to achieve it.
“People have different expectations of what constitutes a trained dog,” she said. “As long as the dog is not in danger of losing its home, or in danger of hurting someone in the home, and is not a public nuisance — other than that, it’s not my place to tell you how and what your relationship with your dog should be.”
In her most basic class, she helps owners teach their dogs simple commands, such as sit, stay and come. She also works with owners on house training their pet and on curbing unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate chewing, jumping up on people and bolting through doors. If she doesn’t feel she can help you, she said, she’ll try to find you someone who can.
“I want to see people getting where they want to be with their dogs,” she said. “Everyone that comes has different goals.”
Good manners start with good socialization, and for that, Gribble offers a drop-in class called Puppy Antics.
Many dogs are “only children” and don’t learn how to interact with other dogs, which can lead to fearful or aggressive behavior when they see other dogs out in public. One option is just to never take them anywhere, but it’s not the only choice.
Puppy Antics is for vaccinated puppies between 10 and 16 weeks old, and is a little like a play date for your pet. Gribble also offers socialization walks for older dogs (and their owners) who are enrolled in any of her classes and workshops.
Another class Gribble debuted last year, called Two for the Road, is for people who’d really like to be able to enjoy walking their dogs, but don’t, because the dog isn’t much fun when it’s at the other end of the leash.
Again, Gribble finds that people have widely different expectations. Some may be satisfied with a dog that just doesn’t lunge and pull their arms out of their sockets, and others may want a dog that pays attention to their every signal and doesn’t mark so much as a single bush.
“One of the focuses of this (class) is to help people understand what it means for your dog to be a good citizen when you take it out in public,” Gribble said.
Eliminating on people’s front lawns, for example, is not the mark of a good canine citizen.
One of Gribble’s philosophies is that there isn’t one right way to accomplish a training goal, and the method must fit the dog, the owner and even the situation. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, which is why she’s is equally versed in slip collars, prong collars, martingales and buckle collars. Head halters, for example, are not her favorite tool, but if that’s what you want to use, Gribble will help you fit it properly and learn how to use it properly. In some situations, a remote training collar that delivers an electric shock may be the best option.
“The key is understanding how to use it properly,” Gribble said. “I’ve seen a lot of people be very abusive with remote collars. I’ve also seen it done properly. And the fact is, people can be just as abusive with a buckle collar.”
Whatever method or technique you use, Gribble said, what the vast majority of people really care about is results.
“It needs to be effective, and effective in a short amount of time,” she said.
Efficiency is one of the reasons she prefers not to train with food; at some point, she explained, you have to take the food out of the equation, so you might as well not use it in the first place.
Gribble became interested in dog training as a graduate student at UNM; her landlord had a dog with “issues” and Gribble viewed it as a challenge. She began working with an obedience club in Albuquerque, went through their apprentice program, and worked first as the Animal Humane Shelter and then at the city shelter, where she helped develop their training program.
“After I’d put in 10 or so years as a volunteer, I had enough training to start charging for it,” Gribble said.
Now, years later, she works with dogs morning noon and night, both at home and professionally. Two livestock guardian dogs look after her goats, sheep, free-range chickens and turkeys and Guinea fowl, and two working stock dogs help her run the sheep. There are always one or two foster dogs staying at her home that she’s helping to rehabilitate, socialize and make more adoptable. Often she has house guests, in the form of pets belonging to her current and former students who are on the road or out of town for a while.
When she’s not hosting Puppy Antics and socialization walks, Gribble is teaching. Her Companion Dog series of classes focuses on basic, intermediate and advanced obedience training, from sitting and staying to scent discrimination. Her Magical Maze series teaches beginning agility skills, and can be followed by the Incantations and Spells series, for people planning to compete in agility competitions with their dogs. Add to that her Herding Dog and Therapy Dog classes, and she would be one tired puppy if all those classes were offered at once. Fortunately, Gribble rotates her offerings based on the season and the demand, and to allow herself time for her consulting work.
“A lot of it is working with dogs with aggression issues, to see if they’re adoptable, or if they can be rehabilitated and made adoptable,” Gribble said. “As the economy has suffered, that work has slowed down. People are not investing so much in their animals.”
With the economy the way it is, Gribble said people have suggested that her prices are a little high.
“Part of the reason my class fee is what it is,” she said, “is that it comes with a lifetime guarantee. My clients can come back when they need to, to get help with things that come up. I believe in offering ongoing support.”
Another reason, Gribble said, is that her fee allows her to weed out a lot of people who are just looking for a “magic wand” to apply to their dog’s behavior and aren’t going to commit the necessary time to training.
“In an ideal world,” she said, “I really would like to see everyone have off-leash reliability.”
The real bottom line for Gribble, though, is the welfare of the people and the dogs they own.