WESTHAMPTON – Beth Ostrowski-Parks has worked with man’s best friend for more than two decades and she has an understanding of the personalities and behavioral patterns of dogs that most people may not have. Her business, It’s PAWSible!, uses that knowledge and expertise to help dog owners train and socialize their canine pets.
It’s PAWSible! first opened its doors 24 years ago and has been at its current Westhampton location for the past 22 years. Her training classes are conducted in a 5,000 square foot indoor facility located on 24 acres of land. For many years, Ostrowski-Parks also operated a dog day camp there. “For 18 years, five days a week, I had the daily responsibility for the safety of all those well-loved dogs on my shoulders,” said Ostrowski-Parks. She has now decided to restructure her business to devote all her experience, time, and skill into the professional daytime training classes.
In addition to being a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Ostrowski-Parks is also a Certified Canine Behavioral Consultant. “I sit down with people who have dogs with serious behavior problems like aggression, separation anxiety, reactivity, and dog to dog aggression,” she said, “now I’ll be able to dedicate all my time to my ‘dog training-only’ career,” Ostrowski-Parks said.
The indoor facility was specifically designed and built for her business. It is climate controlled for year round use and comfort. The floor is made up of a grid of 100 lb. black mats with a layer of tamped gravel underneath that facilitates the process for the regimented maintenance and required cleaning of the building.
Also apparent inside the facility are the pieces of training equipment for a dog agility course. Tunnels, dogwalks, jumps and poles for dogs to run on and between that are used to train dogs for advanced agility competitions. In addition to training other dogs, Ostrowski-Parks has three of her own that she trains and enters into competitions. Her Doberman and two Australian Shepherds are all well trained in agility courses and her dogs have won many championships. “Agility is my hobby as well as being part of my business,” said Ostrowski-Parks.
Ostrowski had recently entered a dog show at the Big E on Thanksgiving weekend. One might think that there are only a handful of breeds that would be entered into an agility competition, but she said she saw every breed under the sun. “For the first time in 17 years I saw a huge Bloodhound doing agility,” said Ostrowski-Parks, “the owner told me that there are only two Bloodhounds in the country that do agility.”
The facility is also stocked with general canine fitness items. Dogs, much like humans, need to stay in shape to be happy and healthy. Objects that resemble yoga balls and balance pads are used to gain and maintain a dog’s strength.
Ostrowski-Parks’ class sizes range from full group classes to private one-on-one sessions with each dog. “The group classes are really important for most people. The dogs get to learn through distractions and classes are less expensive,” said Ostrowski-Parks, “but some dogs can’t be in a group if they are really aggressive or if they are anxious and vocalize a lot.”
There are also puppy-only classes called the ‘ultimate puppy class’ which lasts 6 weeks and has open enrollment, meaning one can begin whenever they want. Ostrowski-Parks said that puppies have a crucial window of socialization that ends when they are roughly 16 weeks old. Other classes at the facility have a start and end date.
There are plans on utilizing the space that was previously dedicated to the day care. Ostrowski-Parks intends to use the yard adjacent to the building as a space for canine good citizen classes when the weather permits in this coming year.
“I love to do a lot of different things with dogs because it keeps me learning as well,” said Ostrowski-Parks, “I love to learn more about dogs. I love the behavior aspects, it’s my favorite part of dog training.”
Ostrowski-Parks added that a great deal of dog training is just as much training of the owner as well. A person’s relationship with a dog can be a two way street and sometimes there are aspects of an owner’s personality that must change as well.
“If I can’t change the dog, I want to change the people and help them respect the dog for who the dog is,” said Ostrowski-Parks.
She had a small piece of advice for those who are raising a puppy for the first time. She shared that one should set goals for how they want the dog to behave in the future. It is much easier to have a plan and train the dog correctly the first time than it is to go back and try to correct existing behavior.