FRESNO, CA - At Dr. James Thornton Dog Park at Valley Animal Center was filled with canine specialists, tiny paws and their human companions.
Founder/CEO/Canine Specialist Cinnamon Grooms and Co-Founder/CFO/Canine Specialist Deuna Cartier, has provided small dog socialization training for canines for over eight years.
It all began with one brave canine named Titan who when she brought home the first night from a local rescue shelter, had rushed him a few hours later to the emergency vet to discover he was battling a 50/50 chance of survival when diagnosed with severe pneumonia. With the option of euthanizing, Cinnamon was not going to give up on him. Titan was taken home with medications with the hope that he would live through the night. “I looked at Titan and told him that if he lived, I would get him as lots of friends. Just stay with me,” said Cinnamon.
After 4 months Titan recovered and Cinnamon fulfilled her promise. Tiny Paws started as a playgroup that formed into “Tiny Paws Fresno,” a non-profit organization started after just 500 members.
Tiny Paws is not a typical playgroup. In fact, there are Canine Specialists that go way beyond by reading the dog’s body language, understanding their conversations, detect and correct any negative behavior.
“Dogs are misunderstood, especially when they’re in a nervous state,” said Cinnamon.
Normal conversations for dogs involve snapping due to the boundaries that are being set; the main focus is on a proper first impression of each canine since it’s most significant.
“It’s similar to when a stranger approaches you, you don’t know who they are and what to expect, which makes your natural defense mechanism go up.” said Cinnamon. A proper introduction will go well because the body language was relaxed, intention was positive, and the person was not rude to you. If the introduction was not proper and it didn’t go well because their body language was tense, the intention was negative, and therefore, the reaction would be to defend yourself and set your boundaries either by telling them to leave or escalating into a fight.
In a canine communication, a proper introduction is that canines need to approach each other in a relaxed, non-threatening way. They gather information about each other by sniffing and looking away. An incorrect introduction is when a canine approaches other dogs with a dominant altitude, does not make eye contact, or will not stand still to allow others to sniff; these actions will escalate into a fight.
“You have to remember that they’re dogs. You have to remember that they’re just like humans,” said Co-Founder/CFO/Canine Specialist, Deuna Cartier.
Titan, who is now 11 years old, has been socializing since he was four. His teammate Diamond, who is 9 years old, has been socializing since she was three. These two specialize in temperament and canine interaction.
Working with shy and slower-paced canines, Titan helps by breaking them out of their shell. Diamond, a stricter canine, aids in testing the dog’s introduction etiquette, socialization skills and boundaries. In all, these two dogs are very important when helping define what type of canine is in front of the specialists.
While observing the canines, their human companions, and specialists; there was plenty of interaction ranging amongst one another. Some canines showed their shy side to newcomers, but, were all friendly.
Showing great socialization and training skills, canines spoke back to their human companions, sat, shook paws, and ran through tunnels. From water bowls and chew toys, to rubber balls and bones; these furry friends were in for a Saturday fun treat!
“Most of our members have been with us for years,” said Cinnamon. Accepting pets under 25lbs, these canine specialists work every Saturday with dogs to help improve their muscle and social interaction skills. They also give helpful tips to their human companions about any negative canine behaviors that need correcting.
“Our goal is to offer a safe environment for canines to come together and learn social skills,” said Animal Care Manager of the Valley Animal Center, Camala Siebeneicher.
Showing positive interactions with their human companions and canine specialist, each canine was very social and playful with one another. This is why Cinnamon and Deuna Cartier present Tiny Paws in the way that canines are able to be themselves and interact with others.
With hope in the future, Cinnamon and Deuna plan to build “Tidy’s Playhouse,” an indoor and outdoor play land with trained Canine Specialists, educational resource department, and an extended café.
“We give back now, but we want to expand on a larger scale,” said Cartier.
By Anesha McAlister
Saturday February 27 , 2021