K9 University in Oklahoma City trains dogs using positive reinforcement

K9 University is looking for a new home for a beagle mix named Pete. Pete was trained by the Oklahoma City facility for about six weeks after he was abused by a previous owner.
BY CARMEN FORMAN cforman@opubco.com Published: July 22, 2012
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Pete used to have an affinity for biting men.

That was before the 6-year-old beagle mix came to K9 University. He was abused by a man and was traumatized to the point of fear-based aggression, said Angel Soriano, K9 University president.

After about six weeks of behavioral training, Pete doesn't fear or attack men anymore and is ready to be adopted.

“About a month ago, he was a beagle mix with demons. Now he's a beagle mix with angels,” Soriano said.

Two or three dogs come to the university in need of behavioral training each day, Soriano said.

Behavioral training is used to change a bad habit a dog taught itself.

“He taught himself to respond to males and attack them because males are bad figures,” Soriano said.

Positive reinforcement and rewards of love teach dogs to stop negative practices.

Each animal is bonded with a trainer or two, Soriano said.

“We identify one or two people here at the shop that will be his best buddy,” he said.

“They go home with them, they sleep with them, they do everything with them.”

At first, Pete was terrified if trainer James Stone came near him. After Stone worked closely with him for about two weeks, Pete began to warm to men and bond with the trainer.

Once a dog bonds with a trainer, the trainer works to interrupt the dog's bad habits.

“Behavioral training is about changing everything in a dog's life,” Soriano said. “You rock their world.”

Repetition is key

With seven trainers on staff, the dogs in training classes get constant attention, Soriano said.

Sometimes owners are assigned doggy homework so they can train their pets at home. If people are too busy to teach their dog even simple obedience training, the staff at the university will do it for them.

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Anyone interested in adopting Pete can call K9 University at 231-4335.

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