On Monday and Wednesday afternoons, a normally near-silent Centennial mall is full of friends, including top men.
For several seasons now, dogs and owners have gathered at the Craig Mall to socialize and practice their skills with the help of local expertise.
The group’s founder and Craig native, Shelly Pinnt, is a certified trainer who has always worked with animals. When she returned home to Craig in 2020, she wanted to do something that would benefit the community.
“I put everything into dog training, it’s my life and my passion,” Pinnt said.
Pinnt is the owner of Rocky Mountain Happy Paws, which offers a wide range of individual and group dog training, including: American Kennel Club (AKC) puppy classes; service animal training; obedience classes; and a two-week intensive therapy camp for dogs with behavioral issues. Pinnt also runs a 4-H group called Happy Paws for youth ages 8-18 to learn how to train dogs.
She started the Dog Group in the Mall, which meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 4-5:30 p.m., because she saw the community needed a place where dogs could socialize and owners learned. manage different social contexts with their dogs.
“It’s a guide to showing people different ways to work with their dogs and how to respond to situations,” Pinnt said.
A typical session goes like this: In a large open space in the mall, a circle of owners hold their dogs on leashes by their side. From the center of the circle, Pinnt demonstrates how to properly handle a dog on a leash and hold its attention. By following these instructions, owners begin to walk their dogs around the circle using the techniques described by Pinnt.
Most group exercises focus on practicing impulse control, educating owners, and building owner and dog confidence. For Pinnt, the best thing about working with dogs is seeing their progress.
“I love watching them train,” Pinnt said. “When a dog comes in with aggression, you start working with him and then he gets to where you can place him in society. You see trust built between the dog and the owner”
This was the case for Paunita Muset and Blue, her four-year-old Husky. Blue had been attacked and was starting to get aggressive with other dogs. Muset said Blue was jumping on other dogs and walking down the street was stressful.
“Now we’re going for a walk and going to the park,” Muset said, “I wish I had met Shelly sooner. She takes her time and really understands what works for each dog and each person.
Pinnt said many dogs, like Blue, start on the outside of the circle when they first come into the group and are slowly introduced.
“It’s about slowly building comfort,” Pinnt said.
For Robin Spiker and his dog, Happy, lessons and training with Pinnt have been “life changing”.
Spiker was one of Pinnt’s first students, and when they started, Happy was a very insecure dog who hid behind Spiker like a shadow. In the first lesson, Happy was nervous, barked, and wouldn’t let any of the kids touch him. They took a few group classes followed by the intensive therapy program.
“Now he’s a whole different dog,” Spiker said.
Spiker is a regular in the group who now helps guide other dog owners through the exercises and activities. Happy spent the evening in the youth circle, with Happy Paws 4-H participants who come to group nights to train more with their dogs, and now sits calmly next to Spiker as she talks. to visitors.
“It’s about setting dogs and owners up for success and meeting your dog where he is.” said Spiker.
Dogs and owners of all ages, knowledge and skill levels will be welcome in the group. The fee for each class is $30, allowing Pinnt to provide the proper supplies and training for each dog to succeed.
Samantha Blose and her Great Dane, Theo, have been with the group for a year, since Theo was a puppy.
“We had Theo and we knew he was going to be a handful,” Blose said.
At first, Blose was hesitant to acquire a dog, as she had no training experience. Working with Pinnt has made all the difference for Blose, and she now has two dogs. In addition to Theo, she added a puppy to her family.
“I feel confident having dogs now because of my ability to train and work with them,” Blose said.
Blose said she can always text Pinnt and ask for help with a specific situation, and Pinnt has insight she never thought she would.
“Shelly has tips and tricks for everything,” Blose said. “For example, never use a dog’s name with a negative tone or they will stop responding to their name. Always use a positive tone when saying their name.
These positive interactions radiate through both circles of dogs and their owners during the Monday evening group. Much of Pinnt’s work involves building relationships on many levels, with his students, between dogs and owners, and within the dog ownership community.
“It’s nice that there’s a way for people to get socialization for all races, types, and temperaments,” Spiker said. “When you come more often, you get to know other people and their dogs.”