St. John Valley

Dog training classes teach new tricks for unfamiliar pups

MADAWASKA, Maine — Valley musher Amy Dionne recently held classes for pups and their owners to learn some basic commands and get the dogs accustomed to socializing with each other at the Four Seasons Lodge. 

Bodhi, a 4-month-old Golden Retriever, gets a treat from owner Jill Ecker after successful progress on commands during Amy Dionne’s dog training classes in Madawaska. (Morgan Mitchell)

Each class began with a warmup the owners and dogs could do together. After the first class where Dionne taught the owners how to help their companion walk easier on a leash, a quick little walk on the leash made for the perfect warmup before moving into the day’s lesson.

“The first class is usually chaotic because most of the dogs don’t know how to walk nicely on a leash,” Dionne said. “So the first class I teach leash walking skills. Within 10 minutes everyone is usually more calm and walking nicely on the leash.” 

Dionne added that this is a good warmup for the dogs because it refocuses them and “gets them in a calm state of mind” prior to training. 

“I also teach the owners to be present, calm, focused and leaders,” Dionne said. “Everyone wants to follow someone who can lead.”

Jill Ecker works with 4-month-old Bodhi on the commands “down” and “stay” at the Four Seasons Lodge as part of Amy Dionne’s dog training classes. (Morgan Mitchell)

Dionne said that training your dog is as beneficial for you as it is for the dog and that she tells a lot of owners that they need to work on themselves first to be a good leader. She recommends reading self-help books and listening to inspiring podcasts. 

“Yes, you can’t lead if you don’t have your own life squared away,” Dionne said. “Leadership creates trust.”

Jill Boucher Ecker, who attends the six-week classes with her 4-month-old golden retriever Bodhi, said she didn’t know how strong-willed Bodhi is until the first day of class. 

“With the pandemic, we haven’t been able to socialize him, so he’s learning how to behave around other dogs,” Ecker said. “Amy is knowledgeable and committed to helping us succeed. I am so grateful for her.”

Ecker added that knowing Dionne did home visits gave her peace of mind to know she can always call on her. 


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