Toys & Training

Good Canines, Made Nice: Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program trains pups and oldsters learn how to have an important relationship

Natahnee Miller & Bruce

It began with a growl.

Norman was only a pet when he started displaying indicators of “useful resource guarding”—the phrase that canine habits consultants use to explain canine being possessive—and typically aggressive—over their meals or toys.

“We couldn’t stroll close to his meals bowl,” mentioned Jessica Inexperienced of Millersburg. “The primary time or two, I believed, ‘Oh, he’s simply being a pet.’ However then you can inform by the look in his eye, he was not taking part in.”

And Norman was rising by the minute. A Mastiff combine, he already weighed between 30 and 40 kilos at 10 weeks previous.

“Our concern was—he was going to get so much bigger,” mentioned Inexperienced, though admittedly, she has “a gentle spot for giant breeds.”

She went on-line to seek for accredited canine trainers within the Harrisburg space, specializing in these affiliated with the Worldwide Affiliation of Animal Habits Consultants (IAABC). Her search turned up two choices—solely one in every of which provided the individualized coaching Norman wanted.

“My solely hope was Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program, and by chance they’d area for me,” Inexperienced mentioned.

For a number of months, Norman and his pet dad and mom—Inexperienced and her fiancé—labored with coach Natahnee Miller, president of Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program.

One of many first issues Miller targeted on wasn’t essentially Norman’s habits—however his dad and mom’. Norman, like many pups, was adopted in 2020 amid pandemic shutdowns and work-from-home life.

“On the time, we weren’t probably the most structured individuals on this planet. However Natahnee gave us concepts as to learn how to combine construction into our lives as a result of Norman wanted that as a pet,” Inexperienced mentioned. “Now, we purposefully stroll him within the morning and at lunchtime daily.”

Miller additionally taught them learn how to learn Norman’s physique language and habits. And you can say that Norman has let his guard down. Now a giant boy of 105 kilos, 2-year-old Norman now not growls to guard his meals, though he’s nonetheless engaged on a number of different quirks.

“He’s not good, however he’s a lot better,” mentioned Inexperienced. “The coaching made residing with our canine that rather more pleasing. We are going to ceaselessly be grateful to Natahnee and Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program.”

The expertise was life-changing in some ways. Inexperienced turned so fascinated with canine habits coaching that she now volunteers at an space shelter—the Perry County Animal Rescue—as soon as every week.

One other manner Inexperienced confirmed her appreciation was by way of donations to Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program. As a nonprofit, the all-volunteer group is devoted to offering high-quality coaching with no expectations of cost. Donations fund the group’s comparatively small funds of $5,000 yearly, which covers all the pieces from insurance coverage to canine treats.


Very Rewarding

Based by Andrew Hyle in 2012, Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program first provided free canine coaching on the Allison Hill Group Middle.

When Miller got here on board in 2016, she introduced a wealth of data from her expertise as a former state canine warden and the previous director of behavioral care on the Harrisburg Humane Society.

“Working on the shelter, and as a canine warden, you see lots of people having a number of communication points with their canine—issues which are fixable,” Miller mentioned. And she or he needed to assist.

The most typical points?

“What canine house owners sometimes label as ‘aggression’—issues like barking at different canine or individuals, vehicles and bikes,” mentioned Miller. “Separation anxiousness can be up there, a number of behavioral points.”

Miller realized that Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program might fill a number of voids in the neighborhood. Only a few space trainers had been utilizing the fashionable, relationship-based coaching strategies she believed in. Canine habits, she mentioned, normally boils down to 2 issues—context and communication.

“They both haven’t realized a habits, or they don’t know what you’re asking,” mentioned Miller, whose day job is with the state’s Division of Environmental Safety.

In the present day, 10 years after its founding, Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program has helped tons of of pet house owners and their pooches, principally within the Harrisburg space. However the circle widened through the pandemic. Many pet house owners throughout the nation—fighting pandemic puppies and struggling financially—found and contacted Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program. The magic of Zoom allowed Miller’s free coaching to go nationwide.

“Natahnee’s mission at Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program makes certain price isn’t a barrier to nice canine coaching, and it retains canine in houses and out of shelters,” mentioned Rhonda Renwick of Harrisburg. “It type of hit my coronary heart—I like the mission behind this system.”

An IAABC-accredited canine coach, Renwick juggles volunteer time—at space canine shelters and Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program—along with her profession in electrical engineering.

“It’s very rewarding to see a canine reside a contented life and break among the obstacles they’d in a shelter and permit a canine to only be a canine,” Renwick mentioned. “To interrupt down concern, obstacles with different canine, with individuals, so you’ll be able to have a contented wiggly canine, is so price it.”

For extra data, go to And tune into the July episode of TheBurg Podcast the place Natahnee Miller offers free recommendation on the highest 5 canine habits points.


Search for the Indicators

It’s a typical state of affairs: You’re at an space park, when a canine—off-leash—runs as much as you. “It’s OK—he’s pleasant,” shouts the proprietor, normally from a distance. However does that pet mum or dad actually have their canine below cheap management? What in case you’re afraid of canine? Do you’ve kids or a canine with you? How is your canine going to react?

For all these causes and extra, two space nonprofits—Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program and Cumberland County’s Animal Help Program—are teaming as much as place instructional indicators in space parks. To date, 10 parks in East Pennsboro Township are putting in the indicators, which clarify why it’s finest to ask permission earlier than letting your canine strategy others. A QR code hyperlinks to free canine coaching and sociability supplies on Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program’s web site. Extra parks and rec contacts are being sought.

“Consent—similar to with individuals—is the important thing,” mentioned Natahnee Miller, president of Harrisburg’s Nice Canine Program. “I don’t need somebody I don’t know operating as much as me and giving me a hug—and most canine don’t both.”

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