Golden Star Canine strengthens bonds with dogs
By ANTHONY FLORES
Entering Amanda Ott’s home for the first time, you might be greeted by Sully. Or Stella. Or Winston. Regardless of who greets you at the door, each of these four-legged friends is eager to make a new acquaintance.
Ott is the owner of Golden Star Canine, a force-free training facility and dock diving pool just a few minutes north of the US 183 and SH 29 intersection.
Golden Star Canine is the culmination of years of Ott’s experience working with dogs, both early in life competing in agility and obedience, and then professionally after graduating from Texas A&M University.
“I worked in vet clinics growing up since I was 16. I knew what I wanted to do. I worked with retired chimpanzees in Bastrop and learned the force-free training there. There’s a lot of science there, and I thought I could mix the science with behavior and training,” she said. “While working at boarding places, I found that there were dogs that didn’t do well in boarding. There are some dogs it’s great for. Some dogs are a little shy or even too excited. So, I asked myself what if I could set up to cater to those guys and make them feel more comfortable.”
Earning her Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) certification, Ott volunteers her time with Travis County Search and Rescue. The experienced trainer has trained multiple dogs for air scent, trailing, and human remains detection.
Her home is set up to house up to six dogs at a time, not including her own five. She has several rooms dedicated to housing a half dozen dogs. Integration for boarded dogs is key to comfort.
“We kind of do a pre-interview when someone comes to drop off their dog to see what their dog’s socialization experience is,” said Ott. “If they’re pretty dog social, then I let them explore the yard and let them relax all by themselves. They come inside and get to know everything. Then I’ll introduce them to a dog.”
Along with their own rooms to sleep in, dogs staying for Ott’s two-week training also have a spacious yard to run in and have access to a dog diving pool.
“My average is two weeks with a dog. If it’s something behavioral, I’ll recommend three,” she said. “The first week is them settling into the house and the routine. They learn the behaviors. The second week, we practice them at places and make it complex so they transition well. It’s hard for dogs to generalize. We’ll do outings and practice being around people. That way, when they go home, they know these things already.”
Motivation dictates any chance of success. Ott does all she can to increase those chances by exploring what motivates her four-legged students.
“Just try out different things. Try a food tasting and see if they have a preference for specific treats or whatever motivates them,” said Ott. “A lot of dogs are toy motivated or motivated by attention. You can try different toys or games to see if that motivates them. Sometimes toys can be more motivational than food. Understand that if you motivate them correctly, they’ll want to do what you want them to. They just need to understand what that is.”
Some dogs have natural instincts they can’t fight. One example is the 10-month-old Golden Retriever Winston. Winston has a strong urge to have something in his mouth and, at times, will bite down on other dogs to fulfill that urge. Instead of punishing dogs for their natural quirks, Ott finds better ways to help deal with them.
“I’m big on enrichment. So, giving dogs natural things to do that mimic what they need to do. A dog that wants to shred something, I’ll give it a toy that they can tear apart,” said Ott. “With Winston, we give him a toy that he can have in his mouth instead of trying to have the other dogs in his mouth.”
It didn’t take long for Ott’s business to get off the ground, although COVID did create a small hiccup.
“I bought this house specifically for this. It took off pretty fast because I had pretty good clientele from knowing people and word of mouth,” said Ott. “When COVID hit, we opened up the dog diving pool since it’s socially distanced, and you can rent the pool for an hour. People needed to do something with their dogs since everything was canceled. That helped us over the summer.”
With her business up and running, it’s critical for Ott to keep in mind what makes it all work so well – having fun.
“Doing this makes me feel good,” she said. “We need to figure out what motivates each dog and that we’re having fun at the same time. If we make it games, fun, and something cooperative, then the dog is going to learn much faster.”