HAMILTON TOWNSHIP - Sneakers, towels, a cheese sandwich on the floor: If anything is begging for an unruly dog's attention, it is the room at the Wilford Dog Training Academy in Mays Landing.
There are also bones and rawhide and appropriate dog toys.
Owner Barbarann Bannon said the approach sets up a dog to fail - at least, initially.
"We try to make it as realistic to a home environment as we can," said Bannon, 41, of Mays Landing. "They get praised for picking up the right object and they get a no for picking up the wrong object."
Training dogs takes time and plenty of patience. The multiple-faceted business, which includes a two-week boarding and training program, is a 24-hour-a-day operation, she said.
"You truly have to love animals," she said. "And not just, 'I like dogs because they're fuzzy.' You really have to like dogs, because we get the ones that have failed out of PetSmart class, because they're not hearing you, they don't want to listen, they're not doing what you want them to do."
Bannon got involved with dog training in 1994. She started as a horse trainer, but changed her focus after getting injured from too many falls, she said.
She worked for other trainers before starting her business in 2005 from a desire to be her own boss.
The academy has a two-week intensive boarding and training course for $1,000. Dog daycare is $20 per day. Boarding is $30 a day. Private lessons are $40.
"We give them all the social skills they need to go and live in someone's house," she said.
Bannon said she first focused on private lessons but soon added other elements to make it a full-time business.
"Over the past two years, business has increased quite a bit and we also work closely with some of the rescue groups. If they get a dog in that's a problem and they know they won't be able to adopt out … we make them into a house pet, and we can place them in a home," she said.
Pets were a nearly $54 billion industry in 2013, according to the American Pet Products Association. Pet services, which include boarding and training, represented nearly $5 billion.
Research firm IBISWorld says the animal training industry is predominantly based on disposable income trends and pet ownership rates, with many successful companies bundling pet training with other services such as boarding.
In Mays Landing, the rural Wilford property off Mizpah Road includes an agility course for dogs to run through various obstacles.
Bannon said one of the perks of the job is seeing a dog's turnaround - to stop eating sneakers, to come when called, to not run out the front door whenever it's opened.
"I always like the surprise that owners have when a dog comes when you call him. … We just had a big old golden doodle, as sweet as could be, and he would literally look over his shoulder at his owner and keep on doing what he was doing," she said.
After training, the dog's owners came to pick him up and asked Bannon what would happen if they called his name.
"I said call him. They said his name, and he came flying over to them. And they couldn't believe it. That kind of thing is very nice," she said.
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