THUNDER BAY -- Who wouldn’t want to hang out with puppies for work? Tammy Williams has made that dream a reality. She had always been training her own dogs (“my dogs are always in classes and I’m always teaching them things,” she says) and is also known to many Thunder Bay dog owners as a trainer at the Dog Classroom, a dog training business founded by Anne-Marie Mayes.
She recently decided to branch out on her own, starting Pawsitively Social Canine Adventures in January 2019. Her business focuses on puppies in particular, socializing them properly and setting them up for success in life.
“Because I volunteer so much at Animal Services, I saw a lot of dogs that came in that had behavioural issues and it was mainly because they didn’t really know how to act in the human world. It was important to me to make sure that puppies had a great start to life,” she explains.
The socialization window (the period during which puppies create associations between stimuli - for instance, learning what’s scary and what’s not) for puppies is from seven to 14 or 16 weeks of age, Williams explains. It’s also the age at which most people want to keep their pets safe at home, and therein lies the danger of creating a dog that is skittish, fearful or reactive (aggressive.)
“It’s actually the wrong thing to do, because you want them to learn about the human world during that window,” she says.
For puppies of that age, she provides a service called Puppy Perks - twice a week for three hours, puppies are dropped off at her home for some training and desensitization such as handling and grooming (which is very important in the future, when dogs need medical care or to have their nails trimmed) and socialization with other dogs/puppies and a variety of people, from toddlers to the elderly.
“We go to retail stores, seniors’ homes, noisy places, busy streets, all different places,” says Williams. “A lot of puppies are scared of busy traffic, so I’ll walk on streets that are less busy and gradually work up to busier streets.”
She also does walking and training sessions with dogs of all ages, focusing on loose-leash walking and anti-jumping. With reactive dogs, she will work in tandem with Mayes at the Dog Classroom.
Williams has seen a big swing in favour of positive reinforcement training amongst Thunder Bay dog owners in the past decade. “I’m so happy about that; I always say, when a puppy comes out of a situation, they should feel like that was the best thing that ever happened to them, so they’re not scared. And as they learn more and more new experiences, they become resilient,” she says.
A year after starting her business, Williams has no regrets: “I’m happy that I’m able to do something that I love so much, and actually be able to make a living from it.”
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