Dog Days: Building confidence in dogs and their owners at Holbrook-Palmer Park training classes

by Chrisie Wendin on September 15, 2010

On Monday evenings, starting next week, Holbrook-Palmer Park will become a hub of activity for local dogs and their owners. September 20th begins the fall session of training classes conducted by Dog Days, which owner and instructor Bari Halperin has been operating at the park for more than 15 years. It seems like everyone you talk to in Menlo and Atherton knows Bari — and her championship Newfoundlands —  and recommends her training classes, making her something of a local institution. Says Bari, “People here really care about their dogs.”

Dog Days has something for everyone — obedience basics for young puppies and older dogs, as well as more advanced classes for those interested in building their skills or even competing in obedience. There are also more specialized offerings, including agility (one of a growing number of dog sports) and conformation (dog-show handling).

Bari and her trainers (left), each of whom has more than 20 years experience, follow a natural-based training philosophy modeled on how dogs interact with one another. Explains Bari: “There’s been an upsurge in ‘positive-only’ training, but that’s not what exists in nature. A mother dog, or the high-ranking dog in the pack, will and does discipline the puppies or lower-ranking dogs. Our way of training is about setting them up as much as possible to do the right thing, using praise and food, but we also use discipline when needed.” (Instructor Cathy Mason takes this approach when teaching the Beginners obedience class, as shown in top photo.)

Dog Days’ AKC STAR (Socialization, Training, Activity, and Responsibility) Puppy class is a newer program, open to both purebred and mixed breeds under six months of age. The class, designed to build a puppy’s confidence and teach good manners, concludes with an optional evaluation and AKC certification for the dog. But for many students, the big draw is the supervised puppy play time that takes place before and after formal instruction. “It’s so very important for puppies to learn how to socialize with other dogs at a young age,” explains Bari.

Don’t think your new dog needs training? Even the best behaved dog at home can get in to trouble in new situations. “Dogs don’t generalize well, so that’s why we need to take them to all kinds of new settings and situations and work with them, preferably from a young age. It’s a desensitization process,” says Bari.

Private lessons and dog outings too

If group classes don’t work for your family’s schedule or your dog’s temperament, Dog Days also conducts private in-home training. People often choose to do private lessons with very young puppies that don’t yet have all their shots yet and can’t attend group classes.

Beyond training, Dog Days is well known for its small group dog outings that provide exercise, socialization, and training for dogs whose owners aren’t always able to provide what’s needed. In fact, Dog Days was the first in the Bay Area to offer these type of services when Bari (shown at back right in group photo) began her business in Woodside in 1995. Dog Days grew out of Bari’s rescue work with the Newfoundland Club of Northern California when she realized that many of the dogs could have stayed in their homes if these basic needs were met. “So many of the problems that people have with their dogs are due to lack of adequate exercise, training, or socialization,” she explains.

The Dog Days staff picks up dogs (limited to two to four per activity), takes them on walks, hikes, or other outings, then returns them back home or to an owner’s workplace.

Dog Days also teaches Saturday classes at Woodland School in Ladera, where classes have already begun for fall. For more information on dog outings or to register for fall classes at Holbrook-Palmer or upcoming classes at Ladera, call 851-5500, mailbox 4. Bari will discuss the best placement for your dog and send the appropriate registration forms.

Dog Days staff photo by Dave Porter. Used with permission of  Dog Days.

One Comment

Sherri Coats March 10, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Hello Bari, I hope all is well! My two black labs, Merlin, 13 and Strider, 12, trained with you long ago and have been dear and constant companions, thank you. They are older, grey, a bit creaky but still with us. Our friends had to let go of their 11 month old brown lab due to sudden misfortune so we have added him to our household. He is sweet and perks up the gents but is untrained. We had him fixed and got his shots up to date and are ready to begin training. He seems keen and eager to please. He is beta when encountering other dogs ( and some cats) so that is easier. Where do we fit? What do you suggest? He doesn’t particularly recall but he did learn sit and drop it, which he hears often. He does seem unfailingly good-natured so we are hoping he can be a full member of our family like the older boys. Let us know–Thank you, Sherri Coats and Sirius

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