Dog obedience instructor Glorene “Gee” Cunningham lives her passion daily.
She has cared for and trained dogs all her life, and that’s why she knows love is not enough when it comes to good dog behavior.
“Dogs won’t respect the person who walks it, feeds it or plays with it,” Cunningham says. “A dog respects the person who trains it.”
A Local Treasure
Soon after meeting Gee, one can sense her calm, intuitive and nurturing manner. When asked about the sudden surge in dog products, dog television programs, and quite simply, all things dog, she said she believes our world is so technology oriented we are crying for social contact again.
“Parents aren’t even relating to kids as intimately due to the technology we have available,” she states. When a family gets a dog, Gee feels the whole family has something intimate in common.
“Dogs are as far from technology as you can get. Humans need to nurture, to love and give love and dogs provide that link.”
But in addition to love and nurturing, obedience is essential.
Gee had trained dogs all along the North Shore of Chicago from Wilmette to Lake Bluff for more than 30 years. Two sites she currently teaches at are the Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest, and the Glencoe Park District.
The Owner’s Job
Cunningham says these are the top three things every dog owner must do:
- Provide food, shelter and medical care. Assume responsibility for the health and well being of your dog.
- Exercise your dog. An un-exercised dog becomes neurotic, acts out, gets over-excited and will not listen.
- Provide obedience training. Cunningham maintains an untrained dog ends up in a shelter.
Puppy Training Commands
Cunningham states plainly that of the 6 commands taught in her 8-week puppy kindergarten class, the “watch” command is the most important one your dog will learn. For example, when your dog is distracted by a neighborhood squirrel, if he knows “watch me,” the squirrel disappears from his consciousness when you say the command. The other commands taught are come, sit, wait, down and heel.
The best time to begin obedience training is when your dog is 8 weeks old as it’s easier to teach good habits than break bad ones. However, there are untrained, older puppies in her classes that may be a challenge.
A Few Secrets
“Quiet hands, quiet voice,” Cunningham says. “These are some secrets that can help all dog owners.”
She maintains if your hands are always busy around your dog, you encourage your dog to bite. If your voice is high pitched and quick, you can easily over stimulate your dog.
“When you raise your voice to a dog, you lose control,” she says.
Not only does Gee train dogs to be their best in your home, but she also trains them to give back to the world. Many of Gee’s dogs go on to train as therapy dogs visiting nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals and children with special needs. Different school and library reading programs also use therapy dogs to assist children with learning disabilities to read.
“Training dogs to work in society is wonderful,” she says. “I am living my passion every day.”
She says she has loved all her “students,” even the challenging ones.
And, she tells her classes: “Everyone gets the dog they deserve. The work you put in now in teaching your dog obedience will determine the kind of dog you have.”
For more information about Gee Cunningham’s classes, check out Gorton Community Center and the Glencoe Park District.