Pack Walks for pups! K9 specialist offers free walks to help dogs, their owners thrive in public spaces

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ORANGE VILLAGE, Ohio -- Chris Ramsay, a K9 specialist and owner of Shaker Hound Academy, can be found most Saturdays and every other Tuesday helping dogs and their owners on his own time.

Ramsay runs pack walks in both Shaker Heights and at Pinecrest. The walks are free to dogs and their owners, and the goal is to help pups be polite and deal with people, dogs and noises in public spaces.

"It's a public service," he said Tuesday, before an event at Pinecrest. "I think people the more they own a dog, great, they can have them in the house, that's fine. But what do we do in the neighborhood. What do we do in a public space. That's what this is for."

Ramsay started Shaker Hound Academy about 13 years ago after adopting a dog. He said he bought books and DVDs and figured out how he wanted to train it. Neighbors noticed how well-behaved his dog was and asked for help with their own pets. Word quickly spread.

"After a year or two I just got so busy I quit my job and focused on dog training," he said.

He's conducted the pack walks in Shaker Heights the past three years and  just started a pack walk at Pinecrest this summer that was so popular, it's been extended through September.

The walks are non-contact socialization events, he said. For example, at Pinecrest, the dogs may walk together sometimes side by side, single file or figure 8 during the walks. In certain spots, the group will stop to relax and settle down.

"It's them learning to focus on their handler and to not interact with people unless they're told to," he said. "This is a big thing for public space work. Just to keep them polite. It's nice and intimate, a dozen or two dogs before the place opens."

The Shaker Heights walks at Horseshoe Lake are a lot larger with between 60 and 90 dogs each session with many more distractions with people and animals.

He emphasized that if dogs have behavioral or social issues, that doesn't mean they can't participate.

"This is not going to be two dozen perfectly behaved dogs," he said. "These are going to be dogs that have issues -- that bark, that pull, what have you. This is what this is meant for; a practice not as a showing off as a parade of dogs."

One of the dogs that attended Tuesday's pack walk at Pinecrest is named Buddy. He was found zipped in a duffel bag in a dumpster in West Virginia. His owner, Judi Fishman, said he had a lot of issues from the trauma, including being afraid of loud noises like a dumpster being emptied.

She hired Chris to help her, and attends most of the pack walks with Buddy.

"He had a hard time meeting other dogs," she said. "This past winter, he met all the other dogs without being Mr. Grumpy pants. He really helped me learn how to train the dog so he feels more comfortable."

The schedule for the walks is as follows:

Shaker Heights:
- Every Saturday at Horseshoe Lake, beginning at 9 a.m. at the historical marker on South Park Boulevard.

- Sept. 10 and Sept. 24 starting at 9 a.m. at Central Park in Pinecrest.

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