“I’ve always been an animal lover,” replies Jim when I ask how he got into dog training. But then he surprises me:  “To start as a profession was actually an accident.” Animal lovers tend to stick together, and one of Jim’s friends, a retired dog trainer, started sending referrals Jim’s way when his former students needed advice. Jim’s classes are more than just “sit,” “stay,” and “heel,” though. He’s taken dog training to a whole new level. Good-bye, tennis ball. Hello, canoe!

Jim calls his approach “real life training.” “My philosophy is the biggest reason we have issues with dogs is because they’re always stuck in a house, because people aren’t allowed to bring their dogs out,” says Jim. Sadly, this means there are a lot of lonely dogs and owners with cabin fever, itching to get out.

Jim lets them out. His classes are held anywhere pet friendly: parks, stores, mountain hikes, canoe trips, and ocean swims.  It’s not just the animals who benefit from Jim’s out-of-the-classroom methods. Jim explains that many people fear group classes because they’re “under the gun. It’s like they’re back in high school, plus they have a dog that they may be embarrassed about.” Being outside is not only closer to a real-life scenario than a classroom, it also helps alleviate the pressure that comes with that environment as well.

Outdoor classes simulate real experiences of being in public with a pet, and create a more fun and relaxed environment for both human and animal students. Moreover, it’s often comforting for owners to meet others who share similar experiences and emotions with their pets.

Ultimately, Jim believes that training a dog is truly about building a relationship between the human and his or her pet. His classes result in better behaved animals, but that’s not all they do. These adventures bring owner and dog closer together, and give them the skills they need to continue that connection once the class is over.

If you’re interested in seeing more of what Jim Helems’ Dog Pals has to offer, you can check out all of his events here: https://www.eventbrite.com/org/1391094975