Wendell dog trainer brings personal experience to group classes

  • Barnum, a 61/2 year old Bouvier des Flandres, retrieves an item for her owner Sharon Wachsler, owner of At Your Service dog training at her home in Wendell, Tuesday, August 30. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Sharon Wachsler, owner of At Your Service dog training, holds out her hand for her 61/2 year old Bouvier des Flandres to rest her chin on at Wachsler's home in Wendell Tuesday, August 30. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Sharon Wachsler, owner of At Your Service dog training at her home in Wendell with her 6 1/2 year old Bouvier des Flandres Tuesday, August 30. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 9/11/2016 11:10:08 PM

WENDELL — Dogs are quite sensitive to their environment.

You may be able to train your canine to sit when you’re in your living room. But how about when you’re at a dog park, surrounded by overzealous Jack Russell terriers and annoying Chihuahuas? Dogs’ two biggest distractions are people and other dogs.

That’s why Sharon Wachsler, owner of At Your Service Dog Training, is offering six-week group pet and service dog training classes that start in September. Wachsler said group classes, which her company implemented this summer, make sessions more affordable and enable several people to learn at once. She said group classes also condition dogs to obey commands around people and other dogs.

This, she said, makes group classes useful to dog owners training their animals on their own or having them trained privately. “My methods are not just ‘dog-friendly’ but also ‘people-friendly,’” she said in a press release. “Anyone can train this way — from 8 to 80.”

Training dogs for a living was something Wachsler could not have imagined as recently as five years ago. She was bedbound for 18 years due to chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, and multiple chemical sensitivity. She cut her teeth in canine training by buying a Bouvier de Flandres (named Jersey) in 1998, after learning most training programs require travel. Wachsler eventually tried clicker training, which involves a clicking device to mark desired behavior, and Jersey was soon assisting her on monthly shopping trips.

Jersey, who won an award from Delta Society (now Pet Partners), which promotes animal-assisted therapy, died in 2006. Wachsler said she made an unexpected recovery from her illnesses following four years of intravenous antibiotics and she opened At Your Service Dog Training in 2014.

In 2001, Wachsler got a rescue Bouvier de Flandres named Gadget. Wachsler lived in Ashfield at the time and was a quarter-mile from her landlord, who was her closest neighbor. Wachsler trained Gadget to, when necessary, run to the landlord’s house carrying a backpack with an important note or the rent check. Gadget also learned to open the refrigerator door, locate Wachsler’s water bottle, bring it to Wachsler, and return to close the door.

“He was a fantastic service dog,” Wachsler said. “He was brilliant. I trained him to do a lot of amazing things.”

Gagdet died in November 2009.

Barnum, Wachsler’s third Bouvier de Flandres, is now a “demo dog” Wachsler uses in her training classes.

Upcoming classes at the Orange Innovation Center at 131 West Main St. are “Family Dog Manners & Obedience” and “Service Dog Foundations.” The first begins Sept. 17 and will train grown dogs and puppies in basic commands. The latter, which requires a prerequisite, begins Sept. 24 and teaches more advanced skills for dogs being trained to assist their disabled handlers. Registration is $128 per class.

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