Sandra VanDeKinder knows more about dogs than you can shake a stick at.
For the last 13 years, the South Surrey resident has been teaching dog-obedience classes for the City of Surrey, and in her spare time can often be found with her miniature pinscher, Buckshot, and her Doberman, Tess, both 12.
And with an increasing dog population on the Peninsula, VanDeKinder hopes to share her expertise to ensure owners get the most out of their relationship with their four-legged family member.
“Owning a dog should be a joy and a comfort. It should be a pleasure in your life,” she said. “For the most part, if you don’t train the dog and show them the rules and where the boundaries are, they’re going to take free reign and it’s going to be miserable owning a dog. And I don’t think that’s why people get a dog.”
Operating out of Sunnyside Community Hall, VanDeKinder will host four seven-week sessions for the City of Surrey with Margaret Warren, who has more than 35 years experience working with dogs.
The duo will hold two sessions in the fall, one class in the winter and one for the spring.
VanDeKinder began working with dogs through her late husband Merlin VanDeKinder, a former RCMP officer and obedience and confirmation judge who travelled the world to dozens of dog shows. In his free time, Merlin also taught the classes at Sunnyside Hall.
“Then he started to teach me. He just passed away 2½ years ago, but he taught me for about 16 years, and I started helping him with the classes. So between my husband and me, we’ve been teaching here for over 25 years,” she said.
Throughout her years of experience, VanDeKinder noted that many of the issues she has seen stem from common mistakes. Basic training, such as teaching a dog to come to you, if done improperly can result in incorrect behaviour, she said.
“Many owners let their dogs off the leash too soon, before they know the command, and then the owner is spending half an hour chasing the dog all over the place,” she said. “Then the dog finally comes to them, and the owner gives it hell or they hit it.
“Well, the problem is, the last thing the dog did was come to you, which is why they think it’s getting hell.
“When people think that a dog thinks like them and treats them like a human, that doesn’t work.”
Through the seven-week courses, VanDeKinder and Warren will provide training with the basics through food, toys, play, correction and distraction. For those who require more attention, Warren will be able to provide one-on-one help.
“My husband taught me – and it’s true – a dog is 95 per cent a product of its environment,” she said. “So, you need to train the dog properly and expose it at an early age to different things.
“A trained dog is a happy, stimulated dog.”
For more information or to register, call Surrey Parks and Recreation at 604-592-6970 or Sandy at 604-996-1615.