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An Introduction to TAILS Academy

It’s not just keeping the dog company while you’re away. It certainly isn’t just playtime. It is also, and, more importantly, a wide variety of interactive learning opportunities, socialization, exercise, sports, and enrichment activities. In other words, it isn’t just doggy day care. It’s the day training program—TAILS Academy—at Think Pawsitive, LLC, in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Even better, dogs love it! There are some that whine and wag their tails when pulling into the facility’s parking lot. They know what’s ahead of them, a line-up that might go something like this…

Check-in and then a leash learning session, which, if the dog is a good leash walker, could include a mile-long walk with the instructor. Mental stimulation is a given and environmental distractions that arise are viewed as training moments. 

The water treadmill or a swim session could be next, if that’s what the owner has opted for. Otherwise, it would be a land treadmill or fetch and retrieve session. Any of these options provide the dog its cardio workout for the day.

Next could be free play with another dog or off-leash walking on the indoor track. Then there’s a learning session that’s tailored to general manners. It could be basic sit downs or meet and greets with people. It could also be learning or developing a canine sport.

All of these activities are packed into a half-day at TAILS Academy. If dogs are enrolled in a full day, it’s double the fun. Built into that fun, says Think Pawsitive Owner Katie Oilschlager, is “Training. It’s all training.”

Each session is timed anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes with a crate rest in between each of them. Of course, there are also ample potty breaks.

Some sessions are classified as “enrichment.” Katie says these sessions, “Enrich the dog with an activity that provides either mental or physical stimulation. We’re building confidence.” She explains that the dog might go on different fitness equipment to help develop balance and coordination or build on sights and sounds with various treat puzzles. Enrichment sessions, “Help generalize the dog to environmental sights, sounds, and smells,” added Katie.

In total, Think Pawsitive employs 20 people; four of those are instructors. (With it being a busy program, Katie is looking to add two more instructors to the TAILS Academy.) “The ratio of dogs to staff is 1:1. Sometimes on a leash walk, it might be 2:1, but that’s the max,” says Katie. In essence, every dog is with one person in each session—that means undivided care and attention.

The staff at Think Pawsitive receives lots of hands-on training and online education and they use both operant and classical conditioning. Operant behavior is shaped and reinforced through consequences that follow actions. The dog learns to change its environment by its behavior. Classical (or associative learning) conditions dogs to unconsciously react a certain way—they learn to associate a neutral stimulus with a meaningful stimulus, such as giving a dog a treat after it comes when called.

Weekly staff meetings are held and senior instructors ensure that the necessary knowledge is transferred down to the assistants. The instructors are CPR and First Aid certified.

Katie summarizes the TAILS Academy this way:

“It’s owners who really want to educate and enrich their dogs’ lives. Each day at the academy is structured to not only reinforce good manners, but also to include a balance of fun activities with or without dog friends.

Once the dogs have been through our program for awhile and have that great education, we have added on a new service—taking dogs out into the community. For those dogs that have met those great behaviors and good leash walking, we’re making store and restaurant
visits. We’re reinforcing the dogs’ education during the day so their owners can take them out into the community. People will say to the owners, “Wow! What a well-behaved dog you have.” That’s because we’re doing the work with the dogs while their owners are at work. We keep the dogs educated and exercised.”

At the end of every day at TAILS, dogs get report cards that show what they worked on (and how much fun they had) with the instructors. By the way, TAILS is an acronym for “Tailored  Adventures, Interactive Learning, and Sports.”

For more information, visit our TAILS Academy page. You’ll see what our package and pricing deals are.

We’d love to keep your dog active and happy while you’re at work. Contact us today.