Training canines
Laura Debassige turns dog training into a part-time business

Dawn Ostrem
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 11/00) - Training dogs has taught Laura Debassige just as much about human behaviour as she has about the pets she looks after.

The human resources officer at Stanton Regional Hospital started offering dog obedience classes about six years ago on her own, as a part-time job.

She says in many ways the way people treat their dogs is a good indicator of what kind of person they are.

Basically she has noticed over the years a vast spectrum of character types, both human and four-legged.

"One couple came to class and they had this relationship where they argued back and forth all the time," she explained at a park near her home, while her four dogs ran excitedly around the area.

"This verbal fight eventually broke out in one of the classes and of course I never had that happen before.

"I said, 'This is dog obedience class, if you require a marriage counsellor I'm sure I can find you one'."

But most people who attend the classes are co-operative, Debassige says, adding, some often return because of the social aspect of the gathering.

Even though she comes across some interesting dynamics between spouses, their children and their dogs, the canines haven't ceased to amaze her with how smart they are.

An example is one manipulative golden retriever that faked his way into three visits to the vet just to get out of obedience sessions.

"He came to class the first day and was walking around just wonderful," Debassige said. "The second class he had a limp so was taken to see the vet."

The vet wasn't able to find anything wrong with the theatrical dog and the next week he came to class and was fine while playing with the other dogs ... until obedience training, at which time the limp returned."

Off to the vet again, and when the vet couldn't find a thing wrong with the pet, it was back to class -- a little late and playtime was missed.

"The minute he walked in he was limping," Debassige explained. "At that point we realized that was one very smart puppy and we were very gullible."

Debassige puts on three to four dog obedience training sessions per year that last from six to seven weeks.

"There are two things I can't imagine not having in my life," she said. "That's my children and my dogs."