“Kuma’s a handful,” Gulati said. “We started bringing her when she was just 6 months old. She has a ton of energy. Charlie’s been telling me how to build our relationship, how to get this energy out. She’s been so much better!”
On the day I visited, the park rang with shouts of “Sit!” “Stay!” “Relax!” “Goooooood boy!” DiBono, who’s plainly the alpha dog, was giving directives and offering tips to each canine pair, one by one. Communication and engagement were on all fours.
DiBono is proprietor of Body and Mind K9, a dog-behavior-training business that’s as much about training humans as dogs. Body and Mind was founded in mid-2022 and offers several levels and types of dog training. DiBono also has extensive experience in canine nutrition, which he shares with his clients.
The behavior classes differ from traditional obedience training in that they focus more on teaching humans and dogs how to perform basic life tasks rather than respond to specific commands. Every dog is different, and so is every human companion.
“It can be difficult owning a dog in the city, both for the owner and the dog,” DiBono said. “I want to show people how much fun training their dogs can be and how to incorporate it into their daily life.
The park classes are about owners starting to understand how to properly communicate and live with their dogs. The class is an ever-evolving curriculum—we discuss everything from essential obedience to general health, nutrition, and best practices. I tailor it to the dogs in class that day and the owners’ needs.
DiBono has worked with dogs for over 10 years and has been professionally training them for three years. His mother owned a dog grooming business in Northern California, where he spent most of his childhood.
“I have grown up with dogs and in the pet industry my entire life,” he said.
Community-revitalization organization Studio One Eleven hired DiBono a few months ago on a temporary basis to provide local residents free classes for training their dogs. The program is supported by the Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine. The classes are part of a project to support individual practitioners who could bring unique offerings to the park, said Sinead Finnerty-Pyne, Studio One’s marketing and special projects director. The lessons proved so popular that the organization is continuing the classes indefinitely.
“The stars aligned when we met Charle,” Finnerty-Pyne said. “He offers a well-rounded, holistic approach, so we knew he would be a great fit.”
Sessions run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Lincoln Park from noon to around 1 p.m.—class is cancelled if it rains. Dogs in attendance must be on sturdy leashes, and humans must provide plenty of treats and water. Aggressive and severely reactive dogs shouldn’t participate, although DiBono encourages their humans to reach out to him for tips and resources.
Participation is limited to eight dogs per session, but 10 of them were hanging out when I came in.
“We try to say eight to kind of keep it on the lower end, but I don’t turn people away,” DiBono said.
DiBono also counsels humans about nutrition for their dogs. Sophia Delvalle’s sweet Boston bull terrier, Hamlet, has tummy troubles and needs to adjust to his diet.
“I’ve actually had some emergencies that Charlie’s been helping me with,” Delvalle said. “It’s been a journey, and he’s helped me every step of the way.”
Most of the participants come to every class. Describing a typical lesson is beside the point because there’s no such thing. Lessons are individually taught according to the needs and level of behavior of each human pair. They can include leash training, controlling overly active dogs, and dealing with reactiveness to people and other dogs. How DiBono keeps everyone’s needs straight is anyone’s guess, but he said the dogs are his buddies and he knows them the way you’d know a human friend and their issues. He’s completely in charge, but his manner is easygoing and carries over to the humans.
“I like it to be one person and one dog so they won’t be pressured,” DiBono said. “We don’t want pressure—we have zero expectation, because that’s what gets a human and a dog learn and to thrive faster.”
DiBono said that he’s impressed by the subcommunity growing around the dogs. Playdates among participants are common, and not just for the dogs. Humans have planned Super Bowl parties and happy hours and leave the “kids” at home. Best, every participant I met said that because of the lessons, their dogs’ behavior continuously improves.
“Oh my God, yes, it does!” Gulati said. “It helped Kuma be a little more calm, it helped our relationship, and it helped me train her better. That’s the biggest thing.”
The free behavior classes are held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at noon to around 1 p.m. at Lincoln Dog Park, 101 Pacific Ave., Long Beach. No appointment necessary—just pad on in!
For the first time in several years, healthy dogs at Long Beach Animal Care Services will likely be euthanized for space, as described in a recent Long Beach Post article. This is heartbreaking for shelter staff and volunteers who know that the animals didn’t deserve to be abandoned there in the first place, for whatever reason. As one volunteer said, for every one that leaves, two more come in.
LBACS isn’t the only shelter in crisis, and stemming situations like this requires more than adoption and fostering. But right now, they’ll sure help and free up space. Most importantly, it’ll provide these dogs with what they deserved in the first place and that wasn’t given to them: a loving home to stay in for the rest of their natural lives. Email [email protected] to adopt, or access this link to find out how to foster.
Not that we want to bribe you, but the Los Angeles Angels are offering four tickets to their games on March 19 for each big dog adopted!
If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!
These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list. Keep in mind that the rescues are self-supporting and need donations and volunteer help. Most of them cannot accept found or unwanted pets. Contact Long Beach Animal Care Services for options.