Tucked away in the back of a dog training studio in Syracuse is a room with a sign on the door. It reads "Welcome to Puppy School," and it marks the entrance to Emilia's classroom.
Emilia is 8 years old. She hasn't been in school since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With her time away from the classroom, she started teaching some untraditional students.
What You Need To Know
- Emilia is 8 years old
- She converted a storage room in her mom's dog training studio into a classroom for dogs
- Each pup she trains learns math, science, spelling and reading in a day at puppy school
"Kids or dogs or cats or anyone in the world can learn math," Emilia said.
Her mother is a dog trainer, but the idea is all Emilia's. It took a few months of asking every day, but she finally got her way, and the storage room was converted.
"This is all about this puppy school now. This is not a storage room," Emilia proclaims, looking around her space with pride. "This is where puppies learn math."
Like any good teacher, Emilia offers a diverse curriculum.
"We do math, science, spelling, and then we have recess, and after that, we read a book," she said.
The puppies won't solve a multiplication table or win a spelling bee, but the time they spend with Emilia does reinforce their training. It makes them calmer, more comfortable around children, and more receptive to important commands.
"She got up to give the dog a treat, and the dog just got excited, wagging the tail, stepped up and almost stepped off the bed," said Chivon, Emilia's mother. "She said 'nope' and the dog went right back on the bed. There is an element of [dog] training that we might not see at first glance."
And whether she knows it or not, Emilia is learning right alongside her canine students.
"It helps with her reading skills and her math skills." Chivon said. "During the quarantine when we were out of school, it was hard for us to get WiFi for her to do some of her online schooling, but when she was doing this she would write out math problems. And at one point, I remember she was like 'oh wait that's not right' and she would erase it and try again."
Along with classroom topics, Emilia is learning to manage a schedule, and since some of the customers leave her a small tip, she is learning to save money. Most kids would want to spend their money on toys or candy. Not Emilia.
"No. It's just puppy literacy. I was making money so I could have this bookshelf filled with books," she said.
Like many kids, Emilia has a few ideas for what she wants to be when she grows up. The top of that list? Training shepherds for a police canine unit.