Obedience Club of Chattanooga improves dog-owner relationships

Obedience Club of Chattanooga improves dog-owner relationships

June 20th, 2012 by Emily Crisman in Local Regional News

Signal Mountain resident Carol Wetzel doesn't command payment for her training of local canines to follow commands.

The six-year training director for the Obedience Club of Chattanooga, along with the other instructors for the club, provides her services strictly on a volunteer basis. This has allowed the cost of classes to remain the same for at least a decade. OCC charges $75 for obedience classes and $85 for agility classes, which covers the utilities and rent for the facility.

Signal Mountain resident and Obedience Club of Chattanooga training director Carol Wetzel commands her dog Molly to climb over a table on the club's agility course.

Photo by Emily Crisman

The price is about the only thing that's stayed the same since the nonprofit was founded in 1955. The organization's classes are now held in an air-conditioned facility in Flintstone, Ga., instead of at Warner Park or the National Guard Armory where they were previously held. And the list of available courses offered continues to grow, as does the clientele.

Wetzel said her main goal through the training program is to improve dog owners' relationships with their pets.

"A well-trained dog who's socialized with people and other dogs is going to remain in that forever home," she said. "My goal is that these folks become responsible dog owners and the dog doesn't end up at the pound."

She became interested in training when learning to control her own dogs and has been an instructor for nine years. She said the most important rule a pet owner can teach a dog is a tossup between the commands "stay" and "come."

"If your dog knows these two, you have pretty good control," said Wetzel, adding that reliable obedience to the "come" command is probably the hardest thing to teach a dog, especially when distractions are present.

She currently owns an 11-year-old rescue dog named Molly, but has in the past had several Dobermans, her preferred breed.

"I wanted my dogs to be obedient, to fit into the household and have rules to follow," she said of her entry into training.

OCC welcomes pure-bred and mixed-breed dogs of all ages and is the only facility in the area approved by the American Kennel Club.

Wetzel said the club usually offers 13 different classes per six-week session, seven of which are offered annually. Each of the hour-long classes meets one night per week for six weeks.

Registration for the next session will be held Sunday, July 22 from 1-3 p.m.

Wetzel recommends puppy owners start with the Better Beginning Basics class for designed for puppies ages 8 weeks to 4 months once they've had their second set of puppy shots.

She said the club's most popular class is Beginner Obedience for dogs more than 1 year old, as well as the AKC S.T.A.R. (Socializing, Training, Activity, Responsible) Puppy class for dogs ages 5 months to 1 year.

Also a hit are the relatively new Rally Obedience classes, which involve visiting various stations on a course with signs stating a command for the dog to follow.

OCC also offers agility classes on its covered agility course with obstacles such as tunnels and hoops for dog and handler to navigate together.

The club holds two competitions a year open to registered pets, and also offers $5 practice competitions for anyone in the community who wants to experience what happens during a real dog show. Called an OC/RC Match, the next practice event will be held Saturday, June 24 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.