Dog trainer finds shelter at Accord pound

ACCORD – Nine years after training her own black Labrador, Remy, at Rondout Valley Animals for Adoption, Jennifer McGrane has returned to the shelter to run her business, Tail Spin Dog Training.

A recent event, it’s created a symbiotic relationship that has already paid off for her clients and some of the dogs waiting for homes at the shelter.

McGrane started Tail Spin in 1999 in Lake Katrine. There, in a roughly 2,400-square-foot indoor facility, she trained 80 canine students. At Rondout Valley, the indoor area is about the same size but ample outdoor space is also available.

“I try to stay outside as long as possible,” she said. “Dogs love it.”

“We work together in the shelter dog program,” she said. “It’s a joint effort to teach the dogs agility, maintain their socialization and involve people. My clients volunteer to bring a shelter dog to a class.”

Jane Kopelman, who manages the shelter, said every dog that’s been through agility training has been adopted. “One of the things we strive for in this shelter is … mental and physical quality of life,” she said.

“We are an open admission shelter. Any dog that needs to be surrendered, regardless of age, health or temperament, we will take the dog,” said Kopelman. Not every dog that comes through here is adoptable.”

“We make a dollar go a very long way,” she said. “We rely solely on donations and income from agility training. … Jennifer coming here was a godsend.”

For McGrane, who pays rent to run Tail Spin at Rondout Valley, the shelter is also a source of new students.

Six weeks of classes cost $80 if you bring your dog, and are free if you work with a shelter  dog. “All we ask is for them to bring some good-smelling treats,” she said. There are increasing levels of agility training classes for dog owners looking for more than the basics.

After six weeks of classes with a shelter dog, volunteers can bring their own dog or a shelter dog in for a private lesson with McGrane.

About half of her “students” are purebreds, and McGrane said she doesn’t think there’s a difference in trainability between those and mixed breeds. Roughly 20 percent are puppies, and most are between six months and two years old.

All About Dogs, run by a separate trainer, offers basic obedience and “Puppy K” classes at the shelter.

The trainers also participate in the shelter’s Training Wheels program, a mobile outreach effort that brings education, supplies, training, and help with spaying and neutering into the community.

Fundraisers, like agility matches, also contribute to keeping the not-for-profit shelter afloat.

Rondout Valley Animals for Adoption was founded by Sue Sternberg, who also founded the “Community Animal Shelter Association,” a separate not-for-profit organization dedicated, according to her web site, “to pet owner outreach, safe animal adoptions, and quality of life at animal shelters around the world.”

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