Amy Gutmann: top dog administrator


A look into the life of the president of Canine University


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The top Google hits for “Amy Gutmann” may return the familiar face of Penn’s president, but further down is another President Amy Gutmann — owner and manager of the Canine University of Ohio.

Like most universities, the school consists of students, professors and administrators. However, the students at the Canine University of Ohio are dogs, the professors are trainers and the administrators — well, they’re administrators.

Gutmann said people often mix her up with the president of Penn and chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

“I have sorority sisters and high-school classmates contact me and congratulate me on my title, and I really thought they were talking about Canine University,” she said

Besides the fact that both are busy running universities, Gutmann has a lot in common with Penn’s president. For instance, they were both students of social science. Penn’s Gutmann received her undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College and her Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University.

Canine University’s Gutmann received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University, where she specialized in child development and behavior modification. She said her psychology background has gone hand in hand with dog training.

“It’s really all the same principles of human psychology applied to dogs,” she said, noting that animals are often used as test subjects in college psychology labs.

After college, Gutmann worked as a paralegal for 12 years, but she said it was her passion for animals that led her to become a dog trainer. She grew up training dogs and horses and said animals have always been a part of her life.

Gutmann started a private in-home training business in 1992, and high demand for her services prompted her to create the Canine University of Ohio in 1999, where she currently works as a private training professor. She is also an evaluator for Therapy Dog International.

Her business is still booming. From 1992 until 2010, she has had 6,000 in-home training clients. She said there are about 50 veterinarians in the Cleveland area that refer their clients to her, so she does not have a need to market her business.

At the university, approximately 27 classes are offered a week, each consisting of an average of eight dogs, for a total of about 200 furry clients a week. While most clients begin with a couple of private lessons, they usually move on to group classes, which Gutmann believes are very helpful.

According to Gutmann, the top three complaints people have about their dogs are leash pulling, not coming when called and lacking social manners — jumping on people and on other dogs. The latter is why group training is so beneficial to the training process. “The group class sets the scenario of a social environment like going to a park,” she said.

The structure of the Canine University resembles that of a school like Penn.

Gutmann’s top criteria for hiring trainers are that they really understand dog psychology and animal behavior and have great teacher skills. Just like having a professor who struggles to teach students, Gutmann said it is useless to have a book-smart trainer who can’t actually train. Like at Penn, professors come from different backgrounds and specialize in different areas.

Jokingly, Gutmann said she works way too much. “I probably put in 60 hours a week.” With that said, she does not see herself retiring anytime soon.

She added she has long known there exists another Amy Gutmann and said she would love to meet her Penn counterpart.

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