Marie-Josee Gatian is Cleveland's Ultimate Dog Trainer 

Where do dog owners of Cleveland turn when their troublesome pups won't listen? Who do they run to when their obstinate dogs refuse to sit or stay? To Marie-Josée Gatian, that's who. Cleveland's resident dog whisperer, Gatian has been training the dogs of Cleveland since 2004. She runs "The Dog Class," providing both group obedience classes as well as private training sessions; owners can bring their dog to her or she'll bring her training directly to your dog in the comfort of your own home.

Gatian describes her philosophy as training dogs "one human at a time," saying, "I'm not really a dog trainer, I'm a dog owner trainer." She explains that her work is extremely individualized to each dog's specific needs: She sizes up each and every situation with great attention to detail, both the ways in which a dog may act as well as how the dog's owner responds to those actions. From there, she strategizes her plan of attack, both with and for the owner.

It's clear that Gatian is extremely proud of her work, but never more so than with her own dogs: three healthy, well-behaved and exceptionally cute Labrador Retrievers, she brags, ages 5, 12 and 15. She attributes all of this to"good exercise, good leadership and good nutrition." As a dog owner and a dog lover, she knows from personal experience what does and does not work with dog training, day in and day out. It's a full-time commitment, she says.

Dog training is about so much more than teaching commands and tricks, according to the trainer. It's the task of reinforcing power roles within the relationship. The dog has to recognize, respect and defer to the leader of this domesticated "pack." If the dog owner hasn't been able to establish themselves as the leader in the eyes of their dog, the dog sees no reason to obey. This motivation to obey can have a drastic effect on everyday life, including the most minuscule details of begging for food to tugging the leash while on a walk or barking at the mailman.

Gatian detailed how she's handled all these scenarios before, and many more. Her most interesting case was a rescue dog from an Amish home that was terrified by the sounds of household appliances in his new environment. Every time the microwave would ring out or the toaster would pop, it would send the dog into a panic; he was a wreck. It may seem cruel to suggest that the best thing to do in this situation would be to resist coddling the small, scared pet, but Gatian suggested another option.

Instead of reinforcing the idea that the dog's fear was justified by comforting him endlessly, Gatian recommended a form of exposure therapy, allowing the dog to be exposed to the sounds without being able to avoid them in fear. Keeping the dog on a leash near the TV or radio eventually desensitized him to the noise. This allowed him to learn that there's nothing to be afraid of because these things weren't going to hurt him.

The Dog Class has group sessions available regularly in Rocky River and North Ridgeville, perfect for pups that need socialization with doggy pals as well as individual training. On top of that, Gatian offers personalized classes, one on one, at your home upon appointment. It's the best of both worlds!

You can reach Marie-Josée Gatian at TheDogClass@att.net and TheDogClass.com.


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