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SCHOOL’S FOR THE HOUND, BUT ITS OWNERS LEARN, TOO

SHARE SCHOOL’S FOR THE HOUND, BUT ITS OWNERS LEARN, TOO

Learning something new has become a family affair for Scott and Susan Baus - and their "baby," Otis.

Otis is an 8-month-old golden retriever/dachshund mix, an adventurous, somewhat hyperactive dog on whom the young couple dote. But they wanted freedom to love and enjoy him without the irritation of constantly correcting misbehavior. So the trio headed for school - obedience school.Not only has Otis learned to behave himself and obey orders, but Scott and Susan found that they've learned just as much.

"Training takes place in a big, fenced-in place," Susan Baus said, "with lots of distractions, which is what (trainer) Joe Hobbs wants. Otis has to learn to concentrate and be really focused. Well, we have to pay really close attention because we also want to be able to train Otto, our terrier-cocker mix. So while Otis learns to pay attention, we are learning it, too. My concentration's really improved."

They've also learned a lot about "catching flies with honey," a principle not limited to dog training.

"The training is never cruel; it's all done with praise," she said. "Sometimes Otis gets really scared and Joe just praises him and pets him and is so upbeat. I think it teaches the dog to be confident and secure."

It also makes Scott, a retail store manager, and Susan, a day-care provider, more confident and secure - a bonus they never expected.

"You could probably use the same principles with any training," said Scott. "And it's nice because it's something we try to do together."

Training at the Pet Cottage consists of six hour-long private lessons where dog and master learn things like how to sit perfectly still and remain focused and alert, even though someone's bouncing a ball in the background to try and distract you.