September 12, 2018

Gold Dust Animal Care owner Mari Magursky praises Maverick, her first agility award-winning golden retriever.

Contributed Gold Dust Animal Care owner Mari Magursky praises Maverick, her first agility award-winning golden retriever.

KEY LARGO — Some dogs pull when leashed or jump up on people. Just about every dog begs for food, while some may even lift a snack, given an opportunity. These are likely scenarios for any dog owner, but not when the dog is trained by professional dog-whisperer Mari Magursky.

Magursky has owned and operated Gold Dust Animal Care, solving dogs’ problems and providing in-home pet sitting, for more than 20 years.

The best way to solve a dog’s problems is to address them before they start. Teaching your puppy basic commands may thwart future mishaps, according to Magurski.

“Coming when they’re called, sitting, staying, heel,” she said. These are the basic obedience commands she teaches.

“Day 1 with your dog is when you should start training,” she said, and that training puppies should be an everyday routine, with consistency.

“Start in the morning and go for 10 minutes, then repeat it and increase the time the more focus your dog has,” she said. “And play with their feet, brush their teeth, so they’re used being groomed.

“Praise should be enough,” she said of her preferred reward, and that a dog will work for it rather than a treat as her 5-year-old golden retriever Renegade does. He’s also an agility and rally master.

“In my basic obedience classes, we go through grooming, nutrition, sit, stay, come, heel — it’s a little more than obedience,” she said.

These are basic etiquette tools to teach a dog, so that you don’t have to yell at your pup when you bring him to a friend’s house or to the park, according to Margurski.

Ideally, command and agility training should begin around 3 months old, but dogs are never too old to learn, she said.

In some of her cases, older dogs, and their owners, fall out of practice with training and may need a refresher.

For puppies, housetraining should take about a week, she said.

“Run them outside as fast as you can and give them praise. Don’t say ‘bad dog,’ because going to the bathroom isn’t bad — it’s going to the bathroom in the wrong spot that is,” she said.

The most common dog offense Magurski sees is pulling.

“I see dogs that pull their owner straight down,” she said.

As a small-framed woman, she warned against the hazards of letting your pooch get away with pulling. She cited bone fractures, being hit by a car, a potential dog fight and more.

The second most common offense, she said, is ignoring a command to come to the owner.

“This makes it tough to take them to the park or anywhere really. They don’t come back,” she said.

Dogs that show aggression toward other dogs usually require private lessons, which Magurski offers. Dogs that show aggression toward humans is a whole different beast. She said she offers what she knows but finds those cases particularly challenging. For such cases, she may refer them to a professional colleague who works with aggression problems.

Magurski’s success is mirrored in Renegade’s competitive success.

Under Magurski’s training, Renegade earned the Golden Retriever Club of America’s Master Agility Champion title last month. This past spring, he earned two championship titles in rally, Master’s Excellence and Master’s Advance, and was entered into the Agility Dog Hall of Fame last year.

Rally is a type of obedience, and agility is an obstacle course.

“There are about 322 signs in rally that a dog has to follow. There’s right-left finishes, circles to the right, left, cones to weave. The handler can walk through first, and some of them are really fun,” Magurski said.

As for Renegade’s agility abilities, Magurski said, “For being such a big, poofy dog, he’s a fast boy. It’s his claim to fame in agility.”

When asked if Renegade planned to slow down, she said, “This dog loves to do it and he adds me along. I do this for him. Other dogs that I’ve had, they did it for me. I have everything I’ve ever wanted in a dog. It’s Renegade.”

The Gold Dust Animal Care basic obedience begins Sept. 11 as a nine-week course. Beginner agility classes begin Sept. 19, and intermediate agility will start in October. Gold Dust offers private, in-home lessons as well. Early registration is recommended.

Gold Dust Animal Care classes are held at mile marker 96.2, oceanside, at 114 Tweedy-Pie Terrace in Key Largo. For more information, call Magurski at 305-852-8797 or 305-393-2802 or visit­