Monday, December 5, 2022

The Furry Friends Feature: Meet Greater Williamsburg’s Dog Whisperer

It turns out, the best way for dogs to learn is also the most effective way for humans to learn – through having fun and even making a game of it. Adam Claar is the Dog Training Class Instructor for the Heritage Humane Society. While many may only think of the animal shelter as a place for adopting cats, dogs and more, the vital community resource goes far beyond, such as offering a full course selection of dog training and workshops.

With almost 1,500 shelter pets and 1,200 community pets served at the Heritage Humane Society every year, ensuring each dog is successfully matched with the right human companion also entails helping the two learn to effectively communicate with one another. That’s where Claar comes in.

Meet Adam Claar, Dog Trainer Extraordinaire

From puppy wiggles and reigning in behavior to doing tricks and therapy training therapy, Claar helps dog and their human companions form a tighter bond.

Claar joined the Heritage Humane Society as the Dog Training Class Instructor in 2019. He is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge and Skills Assessed, and a Canine Good Citizen, STAR puppy, and Trick Dog evaluator for the American Kennel Club.

Through classes and workshops with Claar, participants do learn traditional skills such as sit and stay, however, the core mission of the Heritage Humane Society dog training to help humans better understand and communicate with their dogs. The top obedience cue is to come when called. Claar focuses on building reliability in this behavior at every level of training.

“Puppy and dog training classes at the Heritage Humane Society are just as much for humans and they are for dogs,” shares Adam Claar, Dog Training Class Instructor at the Heritage Humane Society. “I am teaching you how to teach your dog.”

Beyond “sit” and “shake”

While sit and shake are certainly a part of the training puppies and dogs receive in Claar’s progressive classes, the Dog Training Class Instructor begins each new course asking people, “what brought you here?” Enrollees’ answers may span from wondering if their dog is barking excessively and why they are barking, how to get their canine to come when called, or how to teach their furry companion basic manners. Claar then tailors each course depending on those answers.

Instead of using the popular clicking method to communicate, which is a type of training using a hand clicker to gain the pup’s attention, Claar takes the affirmative approach using the word, “yes.” For example, with a puppy or dog just learning leash training, they learn how to walk, stop when told, and only when they make eye contact with their human companion will they then be told “yes” and receive a treat. They learn household etiquette and are even taught how to desensitize their feet and ears by acclimating to touch for when they go to the groomers.

The Heritage Humane Society’s own Director of Finance and Administration Christian Reeves recently adopted her puppy JoJo from the shelter. Seeing the positive results of the dog training classes, she and JoJo are currently attendees. Reeves shares how she “likes that through Adam Claar’s approach, it is easier to teach puppies what you want them to do rather than teaching them what you don’t want them to do.”

“Thanks to Adam Claar’s dog training classes at the Heritage Humane Society, we have found that there is a higher pet retention rate meaning less dogs are surrendered, which can most often be avoided if training and therefore good communication are in place between the dog and their human family,” says Kimberly Laska, Executive Director of the Heritage Humane Society.

Getting started

The Heritage Humane Society offers a full selection of dog training classes:

  • • Puppy Level 1 and Level 2 Classes
  • Adult Level 1 and Level 2 Classes
  • Trick Training Classes
  • Therapy Dog Training Classes

Puppy Level 1 Class emphasizes proper socialization. Socialization means more than just making new friends. It encompasses how a dog views the world. How they handle new experiences and situations. It helps them grow into their most confident, well-adjusted self.

The off-leash playtime portion of each Puppy Level 1 Class is a great learning opportunity for the dogs and for their humans. It is a weekly crash course in understanding our puppy’s body language and what acceptable play looks like.

Puppies can level up and then eventually consider adult-level classes. Adult dogs can begin with the Adult Level 1 Class. Adult dogs with basic training are invited turn up the fun factor with Trick Training Class. Additionally, those who are trained and have calm, compassionate, patient demeanors may find a calling as a therapy dog and there are classes for that, as well.

Classes meet once a week for six weeks and provide many opportunities to learn, have fun, and, of course, better connect humans with their best four-legged friend. Throughout each course, Claar focuses on harnessing positive reinforcement and reward-based training techniques while teaching real-life skills that benefit both you and your canine pal.

Classes are held at the Heritage Humane Society. The shelter’s recently completed expansion provides a new indoor classroom and additional outdoor options.

For ideal learning and engagement, group class enrollment is limited. Small classes allow for more one-on-one time between the enrollee and Claar. All dogs and all ages are welcome. Adopters from the Heritage Humane Society receive a $40 off voucher that can be used for a single class or bundled purchase. All proceeds from dog training classes benefit the homeless pets at the Heritage Humane Society.

“Working with Adam at the Heritage Humane Society dog training classes is a positive experience for humans and dogs. His approach to teaching dogs is to better understand them and bring out their best while teaching the humans at the same time,”says Kym Smith. “It was a great experience for us all and we miss going to classes.”

New workshops

New for 2022, Claar is offering free dog training workshops. Each workshop last 30 minutes. Topics vary from potty training, jumping up, puppy biting and leash manners. Claar goes over behavioral basics and training tips for dogs — and for humans.

To inquire or to register, contact the Heritage Humane Society by calling (757) 221-0150 ext. 0, email info@heritagehumane.org or register online here. Heritage Humane Society is located at 430 Waller Mill Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185.


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