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Bowland modifying owners,' canines' behavior

Chris Pueringer said she'd been taking her dogs to "discipline" classes, until she learned of Susan Bowland's training, signing up with Lucy, a white German Shepherd. "She sets us up to succeed. It's easier on me and easier on her." (Jean Ruzicka/Enterprise)

Susan Bowland has two sets of students in her classroom - dogs and owners.

Bowland's canine students are introduced to basic obedience, socialization and behavior modification at the classes meeting Saturday mornings at Kathy Monico's Northwoods Arabians site on Albert Avenue.

And canine owners gain education and socialization. "We modify dogs' and owners' behaviors - and have a really good time.

"It works for spouses, kids, dogs and horses," Bowland jokes of her methodology.

Most dog courses have a goal to teach dogs rigid behaviors seen in dog shows, Bowland said. "But most of us will never, ever (formally) show a dog."

Dogs arriving for her tutelage learn "obedience training," dogs gaining an understanding of boundaries. "Dogs need to know their parameters, the routine. You set expectations or you have a wild dog," she advises.

She sites feeding as an example. "Ask the dog to sit and wait until you say 'okay,' without protest from the dog. Food aggression should not be allowed."

Big assertive breeds must be taught from the get-go, she said. But little dogs also need training during "puppyhood."

Bowland brings more than three decades of experience to her role.

Just out of college in 1976, the horse trainer went to work at a ranch where the owners showed champion Siberian huskies.

"I made a deal with the kennel manager," she recalled. "I'll give you riding lessons if you'll teach me dog handling."

There is no cookie cutter approach to dog training, she admits. A single technique does not work for all dogs.

"There is no miracle cure for a high energy dog, but setting parameters works. It's like a light bulb."

She works with the owner on an individual basis, discussing the dog's lifestyle and what the owner is capable of doing.

"Most dogs need a half-hour of exercise a day," she advises. Sometimes dogs and owners are not a good match.

"One of the worst things an owner can do is nag," she said of repeated "sit, sit, sit" situations. "Set expectations." And she advocates humane corrections. "Make the wrong thing difficult, the right easy.

"It seems intuitive, but it's not. That's why there are dog trainers."

Her hour-long classes last for six weeks, with a new class to begin Saturday. Dogs and owners often return to continue training or "brush up" on lessons learned.

Later in the spring, she intends to offer canine good citizen certification training, teaching dogs to become "a good member of society."

Bowland also hopes to form a Northwoods Dog Lovers Club for people and dogs to get together and "hang out," noting the area is without a dog park.

For more information on the classes or to register, contact her at