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Dog trainer uses paddleboarding to help with obedience and relaxation

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Posted at 3:38 PM, Aug 06, 2021

HELENA — Bark 4 Joy, a dog training company in Helena, is encouraging pet owners to sit back and relax while teaching their dog obedience skills while on the water.

“A friend of mine from Texas is a trainer and she was actually one who created a paddleboard class and I thought it was the most incredible idea,” said Madie Sanford, owner of Bark 4 Joy.

Sanford decided to create her own class to encourage a healthy learning environment not just for her students but for her own dog.

“I love paddle-boarding with my dog. My second dog has never actually been swimming until we just got up here a couple months ago, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to teach and learn with my students because I think that creates a different atmosphere for them of not just like, look at my dog who can already do it, but let's learn together, let's go through that process together,” said Sanford.

Sanford uses positive reinforcement with treats for the dogs and says it will be helpful for the dogs to have basic commands down.

"It's definitely work in progress. What I do is just give them tons and tons of treats, basically, it's really helpful for them to have that basic obedience foundation at home,” said Sanford.

The class initially starts out on land, and then slowly moves into the water.

“I start with the paddleboard on land just teaching the dog to get up there and lay down I rock it back and forth so they kind of get used to that motion and then transferring that to the water.” said Sanford.

The peace that many feel while paddleboarding - Sanford says the dogs feel it, too.

“They definitely find it is peaceful as we do, so you'll a lot of dogs who end up paddleboarding, but they are calm just like we are, and it's beautiful and it's just very peaceful,” said Sanford.

Sanford says she hopes to fill up her last class before the season ends, with catering and even music at the end of August, or early September. Click here to visit the Bark 4 Joy website.