'Pit School' aims to end stereotypes of the breed

Skye Kinkade
Pit bull mix Melody soaks up the sun with Deb Franzini, behavior department assistant at the Siskiyou Humane Society. Melody, who’s been at the shelter for about four months, is demonstrating the good behavior that others of her breed will learn at “Pit School,” a free series of obedience classes that are being offered by the Siskiyou Humane Society beginning in May.

Though some consider them to be an undesirable breed, Siskiyou Humane Society’s behavior program specialist Emily Gaydos said pit bulls have a bad rap.

“Like any dog, when trained properly, pit bulls are very cool dogs,” said Gaydos. “It’s a matter of how an animal is treated, not their genetics.”

To educate local pet owners and to encourage proper training for young pit bulls, the Siskiyou Humane Society in Mount Shasta is offering free obedience classes for pit bulls and pit bull mixes under one year of age.

“Pit School” was made possible by a $5,000 grant from the Patricia L. Kimball and David T. Kimball Fund, Gaydos explained. The first session, which already has five dogs enrolled, will begin on May 20.

“Pit bulls have bad reputations,” Gaydos said. “There are irresponsible pet owners out there, and they hurt all of us. Out of control dogs don’t look cool or tough... and when one of those dogs gets loose and bites someone or hurts someone else’s pets, who gets the blame? Not the irresponsible owners, but the entire pit bull breed.”

By teaching young pit bulls how to behave nicely in the home and in public, Gaydos hopes owners can have great dogs and help end harmful stereotypes about the breed.

Gaydos said she’ll be concentrating on three important skills and behaviors which will be helpful in real life, including learning to not jump up on people, walking politely on a leash and listening to instructions even around distractions and other dogs.

She’ll also work on puppy fundamentals such as house-training and appropriate chewing habits, controlling impulses and leaving things alone when asked, and “getting calm, settling down, and chilling out.”

“We’ll also focus on learning how to read dog body language, how to know when dogs are playing nicely and when it’s getting out of hand, and how to keep dogs safe around each other,” Gaydos said.

Gaydos hopes that Pit School will enable those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford obedience classes the chance to attend.

“We’re very excited to offer this program to the community,” said shelter manager Kim Latos. She expressed her gratitude to the Kimball Fund for making the classes possible.

Classes will be held once a month for six weeks. The introductory class will be 90 minutes long and is for people only (dogs must stay at home.) All other classes will be one hour long.

To qualify for Pit School, pet owners must be Siskiyou County residents over 18 years of age. Younger pit bull owners and family members are welcome in class, but must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, Gaydos said.

Dogs must be a pit bull or pit bull mix, be under one year of age, and have proof of two rounds of DHLPP?vaccinations prior to the start of the class. Dogs four months and older must also have proof of rabies shots. (If you aren’t sure what vaccinations your dog needs or what to use as proof, call or email prior to registering for classes.)

Though only 10 dogs will be accepted into the first round of classes, anyone is welcome to attend and to observe, said Gaydos.

“They might not qualify because their dog isn’t a pit, or their pit is too old. But they can still observe and learn from the class, we just ask they call ahead and let us know,” Gaydos said.

To learn more about Pit School or to see if your dog qualifies, call the Siskiyou Humane Society at 926-4052. You can also learn more by visiting the Siskiyou Humane Society’s website at siskiyouhumane.org