Melissa Wilkinson poses outside of her new business, Dog Gone Good Dog Training, located at 195 Ashland St. in North Adams.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — There's a new place for dog training in the Berkshires.
Melissa Wilkinson, the animal control officer in North Adams, opened Dog Gone Good Dog Training at 195 Ashland St. last month, offering classes ranging from puppy kindergarten to advanced obedience training. The 29-year-old Williamstown native has had aspirations to run her own dog-training facility since she was a teenager, and she's finally doing it.
"The benefits you can get from a training class is the relationship you end up having with your dog," Wilkinson said on Monday. "They may not walk away being the smartest dog on the block, but what is the relationship you're going to end up having? What motivates them, excites them? What do they dislike doing? I try to help people figure that out, so they can have a good relationship with their dog."
Wilkinson said her training methods vary by each dog's age and obedience level. She has four different classes: puppy kindergarten, basic obedience, advanced obedience and socialization sessions. The puppy course focuses on things like crate training, potty training, nipping, and jumping. In the basic classes, Wilkinson will work on the dog's control, teaching commands such as 'sit' and 'stay.'
Advanced obedience will reaffirm the basic commands, but under heavier distractions and distance learning. The obedience training lasts six weeks and the cost is $85 per dog. Each class is limited to six dogs.
The socialization classes are tentatively scheduled for every other Saturday, and they consist of two hours of play time with other dogs. The limit is 10 dogs per class. Owners have the option of staying and participating in the session, or dropping their dogs off. The price is $10 per social class, but there are discounts for frequent visitors.
Wilkinson said social classes can be very beneficial to the dog and owner.
"I'll helps the [owners] understand what's play behavior and what's leaning toward aggression," she said. "It's healthy for people to know what's OK and what's not OK for dog play."
Wilkinson, who has experience as a veterinarian technician and who has taught puppy classes at Greylock Animal Hospital for the last six years, also offers private lessons and behavior consultations, which can be held either at the training center or at the dog owner's home.
She is planning on having seminars at the center, where outside training will provide strength and agility lessons.
"I read dogs really well, and I read people very well," she said. "I will go all the way from positive-reinforcement training, which is happy-go-lucky, 'cookie, cookie, cookie,' to rough-love training, which is nothing in life is free. Whatever the dog needs and whatever the person is willing to do, we'll find somewhere along the scale and make it work."
Since she held her first class on May 25, Wilkinson has had several clients from outside of North Adams, including Pittsfield, and Pownal and Stamford, Vt. She has a rotating schedule of classes that caters both to her availability and the availability of her clients. Wilkinson takes appointments by phone, and she posts schedule announcements on the Dog Gone Good Dog Training Facebook page.
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Wow- since when has it been a terrible thing to push yourself and pursue your passion. If more people were like Mel and worked as many jobs as needed to support themselves than just sitting around looking for someone else to support them this country would be a better place!
Way to go girl!