Dog aggression training set at area libraries

Published Jan 22, 2013 at 12:01 am (Updated Jan 18, 2013 at 1:25 pm)

Last year while Deb Chebatoris was walking her two schnauzers in their own neighborhood, they were suddenly and unexpectedly attacked by a larger, aggressive dog. Both dogs sustained injuries requiring treatment.

While Chebatoris was unhurt, she understood that this could have been a tragedy and decided to sponsor classes so that people would know what to do when approached or attacked by an aggressive dog.

“I was very ill-prepared for what happened,” she said. “And I don’t want to see a dog or cat or any pet come to me as the result of an aggressive dog.”

She contacted Penny Layne, a certified professional dog trainer and owner of Aunt Penny’s Pet Sitting, Dog Walking & Dog Training Services, to design informative introductory classes. The class will be offered at area libraries during the first quarter of 2013.

Layne’s approach to training dogs has as much – or more – to do with training humans. “It’s all about learning canine body language, or ‘learning to speak dog’ as I call it,” she said. “It’s ‘Human Education for Fur Parents,’ because you can’t influence a dog unless you know what the dog is thinking, just like with kids.”

Layne uses only positive and effective training methods to work with dogs, as well as people. She has a 20-year background through her work with service dogs, working in a vet hospital and owning a boarding, grooming, training and breeding kennel and then branching into Aunt Penny’s Pet Sitting and Dog Training. Penny is an Advanced Certified Pet Tech, a certified professional dog trainer, a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and member of International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals.

In a case like Chebatoris’s that seemed to “come out of the blue,” there would have been warning signals that, with a bit of training, either the aggressive dog’s owner or Chebatoris herself would have known to look for, and possibly known what to do to avoid actual physical contact, which is the goal of the introductory classes.

“For instance, with training, a person would notice a particular head turn, or rapid eye blinking in one or both of the dogs,” Layne explained. “If dogs growl, we tell them to stop and we’ve taken away their best and safest means of communication because the bite response is next.”

Unfortunately, physical and emotional injuries usually occur and too often dogs considered aggressive are euthanized. The goal is to avoid these types of euthanasias and receiving the victims of aggressive behavior by giving people tools to reduce or avoid aggression.

Chebatoris’s goal in providing training for people is concurrent with that of Layne’s: “To educate as many people as possible and save dogs’ lives.” To that end, Deb had organized Pet First Aid classes last year as a community service. The dog aggression classes are an extension of that educational effort.

Classes are two hours long and will cover types and signs of aggression, predicting aggression through body language, how to prepare for a walk and what to do if attacked.

Layne will also offer some suggestions on how to work with aggressive dogs, but most of the class will focus on dealing with example situations and how to respond.

Classes are scheduled for the following dates:

• Mt. Lebanon Public Library – 7-9 p.m. Jan. 29

• Monroeville Public Library – 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 12

• Bethel Park Public Library – 7 to 9 p.m. March 27

Instruction is underwritten by Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation, making classes free. Space is limited and pre-registration is necessary. To register, call Deb Chebatoris at 412-220-7800. For new classes and updates, visit To learn more about Penny Layne and her services, visit

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