Training to find a loving home


Staff writer

Six-month-old Timmy came to the Kitsap Humane Society as a stray. The pitbull loved to jump up on the animal shelter staff members and volunteers.

But when Dianne Canafax was done with him Thursday night, Timmy no longer jumped and could even sit on cue.

The Kitsap Humane Society hosted a free basic canine behavior and training seminar Thursday night at the animal shelter. The program is now mandatory for humane society volunteers and is open to all dog owners hoping to better understand and train their pets.

“The general public can come to this seminar and learn a wealth of information,” Canafax said. “These are ways to build a strong foundation.”

Canafax is a certified pet dog trainer who has worked with the animals for about 20 years. She also is the president of Kitsap Animal Rescue & Education.

The two-hour seminar covers everything from basic canine communication to signs of stress in dogs. Canafax also teaches people training strategies and tips for dogs of all ages.

“She’s strictly positive reinforcement,” said Kate Justice, Kitsap Humane Society volunteer/humane education coordinator.

The first half of the seminar is lecture complete with a PowerPoint presentation and handouts. Canafax discusses dogs’ basic behaviors and instincts such as stalking prey or running with a pack.

“Thousands and thousands of years is not going to change what dogs are thinking up here,” Canafax said, referring to dogs’ brains.

Canafax also told Thursday’s small crowd of seminar attendees that dogs are not cuddly creatures. As much as human beings like to cuddle with their pets, dogs do not enjoy the same closeness, according to Canafax.

“Just like people, dogs have a need for personal space,” she said. “We do all the inappropriate things and yet we don’t get bit. It’s amazing how tolerant dogs really are of us.”

The second half of the seminar consists of dog training tips and strategies. Canafax teaches people how to train dogs using positive reinforcement rather than negative or compulsory reinforcement.

“Think about why is this dog not cooperating with me and how can I solve it,” Canafax told the crowd. “I make the dog think through what is it he wants from me.”

After discussing the basics of training, Canafax will work with two dogs from the Kitsap Humane Society kennels to demonstrate the training techniques.

“They’ll pick the most out-of-control dog in the kennel,” Justice said. “She typically works with two dogs a night.”

Canafax said the No. 1 dog behavior people want corrected is when their pets jump up on other people. The experienced dog trainer said training an animal takes “The Three D’s: Duration, distance and distraction.” Training may be frustrating for the animal as well as the owner at times, according to Canafax.

“Asking a dog and telling a dog, he’ll know the difference,” she said. “If I continue to say ‘sit, sit, sit, sit, sit,’ it is not going to get him to sit. It’ll only get me frustrated.”

Canafax said the training seminar is now mandatory for all humane society staff members and volunteers because the animal shelter will then be able to properly train each dog so that he or she may find a loving home and not be returned to the shelter because of poor behavior.

“We want to get these dogs adopted,” Canafax said. “They just need to be given a chance. When you (animal shelter) run out of space these dogs may run out of time.”

For more information about the basic canine behavior and training seminar contact Justice at (360) 692-6977 ext. 119 or e-mail

Kitsap Humane Society basic canine behavior and training seminars

Thursday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 26 at 9 a.m.

To reserve a spot in the class, call (360) 692-6977 ext. 119 or e-mail

If you need advice on how to correct a pet behavior, call the Kitsap Humane Society Pet Behavior Helpline at (360) 692-6977 ext. 112. Leave a message and an experienced pet trainer or handler will return your call as soon as possible.

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