Canine training business A Pleasant Dog has found a new home. In an effort to expand its services, A Pleasant Dog relocated from Wealthy Street to 1430 Knapp Street NE.
After discovering that her son, Milo, was diagnosed with autism in January 2014, Jenn Gavin, owner and head trainer of A Pleasant Dog, quit her day job as a paralegal to find a career that would allow for more flexibility.
Because Gavin had already been training dogs as a second job at that time, it seemed like a perfect transition. As she started taking on more clients, Gavin realized there was a specialized demand for urban dog training in Grand Rapids. Since these dogs were living in loud, congested environments and were unable to receive proper mental and physical stimulation, Gavin saw an opportunity to help care for dogs around the city.
“I knew there was a need in the downtown area for a dog trainer as none existed at the time so I hoped I might be able to see five clients a week. I hit that goal in the first two weeks. The city dog population was so underserved from a training perspective that I had to triple my staffing in the first year,” Gavin said.
As the number of clients escalated, Gavin soon realized, if A Pleasant Dog was going to continue to serve the needs of Grand Rapids, it had to expand. With 4,700 square feet and almost two fenced-in acres, the Knapp Street location offers ample space for A Pleasant Dog’s training services.
Comparing it to a school for dogs, Gavin says this new facility will include “a gym, a classroom, a home economics room for our service dog program, offices for private consultations, a locker room with showers, a teacher’s lounge, and of course, an outdoor play space.”
In addition to increasing its sporting dog classes, this space will enable A Pleasant Dog to train a greater number of service dogs. After completing the training, these service dogs will be able to assist people with disabilities, including those with autism, epilepsy, hearing loss, PTSD, and balance and mobility issues.
Through focusing on positive training methods, A Pleasant Dog aims to educate owners on using effective communication and building mutual trust and respect between themselves and their canines.
However, Gavin states that while positive reinforcement training is the most successful and humane way to train dogs, it is not always utilized.
“The dog training industry is not currently regulated, and there has been a shift in our industry over the last 20 years back to old dominance-based learning theory that relies heavily on force and punishment. While these methods can work to suppress behavior in the moment, they almost invariably increase anxiety and fear over time, which makes the problem worse,” Gavin said.
Because of this, Gavin urges the community to use encouraging and gentle training methods instead of force or domination. Not only will it be more effective according to Gavin, but it will also allow for a pleasant city life between owners and their dogs.
A Pleasant Dog is located at 1430 Knapp Street NE. For more information, visit A Pleasant Dog’s website.
*Photos by Amy Carroll Photo