New class helps bond puppies with their owners - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Communitylife

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New class helps bond puppies with their owners

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Posted: Saturday, April 3, 2010 11:00 pm

Help is available for local dog owners looking to educate, train and nurture their puppies.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Stefanie Strackbein has dedicated 15 years to working for several animal welfare organizations. In 2008 she co-founded The Canine Connection, hoping to address the problem of pet over-population. The group aims to be an advocate for dogs in shelters.

“We wanted to start doing something to keep dogs from going to shelters in the first place,” she said. “If they do have to be re-homed due to unfortunate circumstances, it’s much easier for those dogs to find new homes and adapt easier.”

Strackbein said that encouraging people to adopt from shelters and offering adoption evaluations will reduce over-crowding and encourage adoption.

Many new pet owners don’t initially realize how time-consuming it is to train and raise a dog, she said.

“Dogs that grow up with these experiences will bond closer to their families and be happier, healthier dogs in general,” Strackbein said.

Puppy owners can also benefit from an increased bond with their pet.

“People who try to do right by their dog by providing enrichment opportunities and understanding their needs also develop strong human-canine bonds,” Strackbein said. “Dogs who stay with their families don’t take up already limited space in shelters, and the more social dog is far less likely to develop or display aggressive behaviors when stressed out.”

The organization offers Puppy Wellness classes, which are small-group sessions between 4- to 7-month-old puppies and canine behaviorists. In each class, puppies play and learn in sessions at Strackbein’s home and take field trips that combine to teach handling, socialization and skills, while encouraging play time as well.

Each three-hour puppy class costs $25. Dog play dates are available for $32 per session. Discounts and package pricing is also available. Prices include transportation within a 10-mile radius, and a puppy snack. For more information, visit

The small group size ensures a lot of attention, and prevents puppies from getting too distracted or tired, Strackbein said.

“There are many puppy play groups out there, but we offer a full package,” she explained. “Our main focus is socialization and everything associated with that. We do play time, but incorporate training, handling skills and impulse control into the fun.”

A program being finalized will allow The Canine Connection to bring the puppies into local classrooms and allow socialization on both ends of the leash.

“Incidentally, this benefits the kids, too, since they learn how to act safely and responsibly around dogs,” Strackbein said, adding that the dogs benefit from meeting a variety of people, sights, sounds and smells.

“The businesses love it, too – who doesn’t love seeing puppies, right?”


Kathleen Gormley is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.

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