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In DeKalb, dogs and owners benefit from obedience classes

Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 1:20 p.m. CDT
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(Monica Maschak -
Karen Hoffman praises her 2-year-old Doberman pinscher, Emma, after practicing a technique correctly during a basic obedience class for dogs May 1 at Haish Gym in DeKalb. The basic obedience classes are from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday at the gym.

When Marcia Poff first acquired Quincy, he was a terror.

The Doberman pinscher was wild and out of control. But with a little love and a lot of training from Poff, he has grown to be a well-behaved companion.

“I put the time into him and now he’s wonderful,” she said. “What a turnaround.”

As a dog trainer for more than 40 years, Poff teaches multiple obedience and training classes at the DeKalb Park District for dog owners and their four-legged friends. The class becomes more popular this time of year because more owners are able to work with their dogs outdoors.

Sycamore police Lt. Darrell Johnson said the warmer weather also brings more misbehavior from dogs and their owners, as the department usually receives an increase in dog complaints and violations at this time.

He said the most common incidents are excessive barking or whining complaints and leash law and excrement law violations, which both carry a $100 fine for the first offense and $200 for the second.

“Even if your dog is on a leash, it still has to be under your control,” Johnson said.

That’s an area where Poff can be of assistance.

She teaches various obedience techniques including how to get a dog to sit, stay and come, even when they’re distracted by others or in a large crowd.

Her program spans eight weeks, which Poff said is a sufficient amount of time to see a noticeable difference with the fully trained dog. But that’s contingent upon how often the owner works with them, she said.

Poff suggested working with the dog for 30 minutes six days a week in order for the training to stick.

“If they would put that time into it, at the end of the eight weeks, they’ll have a remarkable dog,” she said.

Johnson said owners generally are responsible for keeping their pets under control, whether it be through training or making sure they adhere to municipal codes.

“It’s all about being considerate of others and neighborhoods,” he said.

Reports of loose or stray dogs also are typical in the summer months, Johnson said.

Poff said even if a dog appears friendly, still approach it from the side and don’t look it in the eyes. But approaching a dog that appears to be scared or violent is sometimes best left up to trained officials.

No matter how troubled a dog may seem, Poff said it is never beyond help or training.

“There’s hope for all of them,” she said. “Some will be better than others. You can train them and make them a good 95 percent to 100 percent better. But it depends how much time you put into them.”

Tips for keeping dogs safe and well-behaved

• Dogs cannot be on leashes longer than 7 ft..

• Don't leave your dog in the car for long periods during summer months.

• Don't approach potentially dangerous dogs from front, always from the side.

• Don't stare a dangerous dog in the eyes.

• Keep dogs in a cool environment during the warmer months.

• Microchip your dog.

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