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Pa. trainers say 'mutts' are top dogs

November 27, 1998

Dog trainersBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - German shepherds, golden retrievers and all-American mutts are the easiest dogs to train and make the best family dogs, said Pat Sutton, an expert who has trained thousands of dogs in the last 18 years.

Hounds - beagles, bassets, bloodhounds and the like - are the hardest to train, Sutton said. "It's not that they're not nice dogs, it just takes longer and more finesse to train them," she said. "They're more in tune with their noses, which are always to the ground. They have a shorter attention span, and it's selective," she said.

Her favorite breeds are terriers. "They're not the easiest to train, but they're a lot of fun. They don't take things very seriously and they are precise," she said.

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She put Ashley, her 4-year-old schnauzer, through her paces to demonstrate.

"Mutts are great. They take the best from whatever breed they are," said Sutton's husband and business partner, Randy, 49.

He and his wife started Blue Ridge K-9 Training on Pa. 16 east of Blue Ridge Summit 18 years ago.

The Suttons own six dogs, all of whom live with them in their house just over the Frederick County, Md., line. They have four German shepherds, including Kelly, who helps with the training, and two schnauzers. "We don't have children, just dogs and cats," Pat Sutton said.

The couple also has a pair of longhorn cattle, "which we will never eat," she said, and three horses on their Frederick County farm. At one time pat Sutton raised and trained horses.

Each week at the Sutton's training center eight classes of owners and their dogs - from eight-week-old puppies to adult dogs - take Sutton's courses. Classes run from basic obedience, which is supposed to socialize puppies, to specialized obedience training, said Pat Sutton, a certified trainer.

The top level of training is the agility or gymnastics class. Dogs are trained to jump hurdles and run through hoops and tunnels.

Puppy classes run for four weeks and cost $40. Adult dog classes run eight weeks and cost $75.

Sutton wants to start an outdoor tracking class to teach dogs search-and-rescue techniques in the woods behind the center.

The Suttons taught classes outdoors until 1989 when they built a 42-by-120-foot training building. It has two rooms so they can hold classes on different skill levels.

The Suttons opened a pet store next to the training center that caters to dog and cat owners with feeds and supplies to supplement their income. Randy Sutton's Mother, Jane Sutton, watches the store when the couple is busy with training duties.

Jane Sutton moved in a couple of showcases of cosmetics that she sells to her regular customers.

Randy Sutton also runs the Wooden Horse Antique Shop in Blue Ridge Summit. He sells high-level Victorian antiques, accessories, pottery and procelain to wholesale customers. "I've been dealing in antiques for 26 years," he said.

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