Why have a good puppy when you can have a “wonder puppy”? That’s Casey Newton’s question, and her customers have answered — honoring Wonder Puppy with three first-place wins.
While there are clearly many things people like about Wonder Puppy, Newton says a big one is class size. “We only have four to five students per group class,” she says, “which is very small, so they get a lot of personal attention. We know each and every one of our students.” Small classes means students get the individual attention they need, even when they’re at different skill levels. Another plus? “We like people as well as dogs!” says Newton laughing. “There are two learners in this situation — you have the person and you have the dog. You need to be able to teach people, because they’re the ones ultimately communicating with their dogs. So we’re people-teachers as well.”
Newton is a seasoned pro. In April, Wonder Puppy will celebrate five years, and for five years before that, she was owner and trainer at Portland Paws. With WP, she decided to specialize in puppies. Students progress through three levels: Good, Great and Wonder. “We do a really good job in what we offer because we specialize, so we’re able to do 100 percent foundational dog training,” says Newton. To earn a Canine Good Citizen certificate, a puppy must demonstrate 16 skills in an outdoor setting with no treats. “I created the curriculum to be the most positive and practical approach to training,” Newton says. “It’s balanced in terms of positive reinforcement and boundaries.”
Wonder Puppy offers about 38 classes each week, all focused on foundational training, with about 14 first-series classes offered days, evenings and weekends. “We’re a tight team,” says Newton. “We have public school, private school, and boarding school. If someone trains with us for a group class we also have support for them outside of class, and even if they have a different trainer we all use the same methods so it’s not confusing.”
Newton studied psychology at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, animal behavior at the University of Tennessee, and interned with well-known animal behaviorist Gordon M. Burghardt. Her psychology background is valuable in serving her human customers: WP offers tea, coffee and granola bars in case puppy parents come from work and are hungry. “We have a little bar where you can watch the classes,” she says. “We call it a sit-and-sip station; it’s a place to hang out.”
Newton is gaining recognition in the dog training world. She is the animal trainer for the popular television show “Portlandia,” and has done casting for the show. “So fun!” she says. Newton also offers webinars on puppy training and will travel to Chile in November to speak and present workshops at the Association of Professional Dog Trainers conference.
Now, she’s ready to spread her wings even more. Newton recently moved to Los Angeles part-time, and has plans to develop an iPhone app. She’s also developing videos to support puppy parents who want to learn the Wonder Puppy way wherever they live, and is considering franchising in coming years, opening in Southern California and possibly East Portland. “It’s really exciting,” she says.
1500 NW 18th Ave, Portland
503-697-PUPS (7877) * wonder-puppy.com