Why I started training
It was 1989 when the nice neighbors across the street moved and their house and became a rental property occupied by a succession drug dealers, wife abusers, thieves, and leather clad motorcyclists. My sister and I felt the need to have some sort of protection at the house, and having a dislike of guns, decided to get our German Shepherd, Madchen, professionally trained.
This was when Rick Trezona introduced us to Schutzhund. Twice a week we’d pack up the dogs and drive from Port St. Lucie to Fort Lauderdale to train. Rick became my mentor. He taught me how dogs think and how they behave.
Rick taught me that while canine behavior is a product of the culture of the dog and it’s genetics, training and the dog’s environment can actually “change” the genetic mandate. In other words, a friendly dog can be turned into a dangerous dog thru harsh treatment and bad training, while great training and kind treatment can give confidence and calmness to nervous, fearful dogs. Mostly he taught me how their behaviors are influenced not only by the genetics of whatever breed the dog is, but how the dog “is”, friendly or mean, nervous or calm, happy or anxious, is a result of how the dog is treated. How he’s kept, whether it’s as a house dog or in solitary confinement as a yard dog; if he’s crated too much or given too much freedom; if his owner plays with him or ignores him, if his owner trains him or harshly punishes him. Rick taught me that we can’t judge dogs for being the way they are because chances are their “pet parents” made them that way. I think that’s true about people, too.
That’s why I like instructing, I like the challenge of figuring out each dog’s individual needs and by changing the dog’s circumstances, owners are happier and dogs become more responsive, relaxed, and confident family dogs. That’s not to say that every dog will be “lassie”, but with good training they certainly will be better than they would be otherwise. There’s a certain satisfaction in helping dogs and their owners live amiably together.
I’m still training & competing
The rental house is long gone, but I’m still traveling and still learning, hands on from some of the best trainers in America, Europe, and South Africa: Phil Hoelcher, Noel Coward, Fran Slaman, Chris Schleifer, Ivan Balabnov, Helmut Raiser, Simon Davis, Lt. Bob Anderson, and many others.
I’ve trained numerous therapy dogs, service dogs, titled dogs in AKC obedience and dabbled in herding. My Labrador Alex passed the narcotics detection certification. But my passion is IPO, or what was formerly known as Schutzhund, which translates from German as “protection dog”.
Dogs that title or certify in Schutzhund must pass a tracking test, an obedience test, and a protection or bite work test–all three in the same event, usually the same day. Sort of a triathlon for dogs. Many Schutzhund dogs go on to become police dogs, search & rescue dogs, scent detection dogs, and other types of working activities.
So what does Schutzhund have to do with training a family pet? First off, my dogs are family pets. They stay in the house and sleep on the bed just like your dog probably does. They are the darlings of the veterinary staff that treats them. The way my dogs are different is because of their training they live very large, expansive lives. They travel and go lots of places: Niagra Falls, Gatlinburg, GrandFather Mountain, the Fountain of Youth, hiking, swimming in mountain streams and beaches, into hotels and shops and cafes…
So even though I compete, I still understand that families want a dog that doesn’t bite, one that comes when called, walks calmly on leash, doesn’t jump up on guests, bark too much or eliminate in the house. And my Schutzhund experience is a huge advantage over other trainers:
I am a motivational trainer and specialize in off leash obedience and problem solving. I use food, toys, praise, play, affection, body language and psychology to motivate and engage your pet, but I will also tell your dog “no,” insist on good behavior and correct when necessary. I follow the “LIMA” principle, that is, “Least Invasive, Minimally Adversive.” In other words, it’s not about dominance, and it’s not about an adversarial relationship with the dog, but eliciting his willing cooperation.
I have found there is a huge need for this kind of training on the Treasure Coast. Many clients have dogs that are graduates of other programs, yet bring their dogs to me for additional training, because Pet Etiquette doesn’t just teach commands, we teach obedience.
I am certified through the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, a Doggone Safe Presenter, and AKC Canine Good Citizen and Puppy S.T.A.R. Evaluator, and a member of DVG America.
When not helping my clients enjoy easier lives with their canine companions, I enjoy the company of my German Shepherd, Nauti, Labrador, Alex, and American Bulldog, Peanut. Click to meet my dogs. You may get to meet them in person, as they often help train other pets.
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