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My love for dogs began when I was a little girl. Oftentimes we hear stories of dogs who help children to grow and develop a love for animals. For me, Snoopy was that dog. He was a Fiest mix (Terrier) that spent his days running through the fields of Kentucky and I was usually right along with him. I was also the one sent out after him when he didn’t come home. In typical Terrier fashion, he was often found on a neighboring farmer’s land or harassing their farm animals.
What a different world and time it was then. Our dogs primarily lived in large outdoor kennels and never came into the house. We had various breeds from Newfoundlands, Malamutes, many Beagles and a few mixes. As a child I noticed a “high turnover rate” that we seemed to have on the farm. I’m sure good ol’ Kentucky farm life might be the same today, but it’s not that way for me now.
As an adult, I relocated to California and a few years later decided it was finally a good time for me to acquire my first dog. Through a local trainer, I was introduced to a litter of Belgian Malinois puppies. I can honestly say, in hindsight, there should have been a much stricter criteria involved in purchasing this dog. Little did I know what I was getting myself into, but boy would I learn. At 12 weeks old this puppy was growling, biting, challenging me for everything I was worth and it quickly became clear I needed help. In my search for a trainer I learned, just as with everything else in life, everyone has their own opinions on things and their own techniques. It was like raising a child, which I was also doing at the time. All the debates of discipline or don’t, positive training or balanced… My learning curve ended up being her learning curve as well. This bundle of fire, who loved me but disliked other humans, went through many trainers. Good ol’ hindsight wishes that wasn’t so. I will say each trainer did add tools to my tool belt along the way and had a large influence on who I am today.
By the time I started training with Susan from Animal Minds, I thought I had a pretty decent grasp on dog training. I had knowledge of basic obedience, protection training and detection training – but the things many of these trainers had missed were the “How’s and the Why’s”. No one had taken the time to explain dog behavior to me. We had tried so many exercises and games to work on Heidi’s anxiety and fearfulness… but why? How were these things helping her? How was I supposed to see the progress if I didn’t understand why my dog was doing what she was doing? I had always learned how to respond to what was being seen, not the cause. Susan helped me learn and understand who Heidi is. I started learning to watch her body language, how to know when things got to be too much for her and how to handle that. I learned about things like recovery time, boundaries, timing, how to control environments, what to do when that’s not possible, finding good reinforcers and what -just by being present sometimes- is a negative reinforcer. Heidi improved far beyond what I ever expected. I have a wonderful ending to my story but not all first-time dog owners will. I pretty much had to turn my love for my dog into a full time career to get to this point.
Along this path, I also acquired a young Dutch Shepherd named Charlie. He fell into my lap when his owner could no longer keep him. Charlie meant well but he was young, rambunctious, leash reactive and had never learned what to do with all his energy. He was VERY reactive towards other dogs and wasn’t sure what to do with strangers just yet. After implementing all I had learned from my experience with Heidi, he now loves meeting stranger’s and has come leaps and bounds with other dogs. You’ll often see him out working as the “neutral” dog for some of our clients’ dogs who now need that solid dog to learn from.
I spent the last 12+ years being a co-owner with Susan at Animal Minds Behavior & Training. (I wasn’t kidding when I said that Malinois made me a trainer!) Actually, all my experiences have led me here to Wholistic Canine, sole owner, Canine Relationship Coach that helps dogs with anxiety and other mental health concerns that require a deeper communication level.
- Training Between The Ears Affiliate
- Michael Ellis Dog Training School
- Mark McCabe TBTE Courses
- Tyler Muto Advance Training Courses
- Puppy Culture Courses
- IACP Dog Trainer Foundation Certification
- Pet Food Nutrition Certification with Dogs Naturally University
- Certified Trick Trainer with Do More With Your Dog
- Fenzi Dog Sports Pet Professional’s Program Graduate
- AKC CGC CGCA CGCU Evaluator
- SpotOn Certified Trainer
- Mentored under Susan Newell of Animal Minds Behavior & Training