Dog Training Razzle Dazzle

I like to get new training clients in my corner in the first minute. A nearly instant response to a brand-new concept makes the dog look like a genius and earns me astonished looks from the proud owner. During a recent first meeting with two perfectly matched, three month old Goldendoodle brothers, my boat-sized shoes were scaled and my pant leg gnawed. Soft, playful growling sounds came from the copper-colored fur on my feet. “Watch!” I said and pointed to my nose, and made a unique squeak noise with my lips. The puppies ceased their attack on my lower extremities and two furry faces tilted upward, captivated by this new approach to their goofy greeting. Simple, but effective.

Professional dog training started for me in 1990 in Chicago. One of my early influences was Jim Morgan, a charismatic Vietnam veteran who donned full cammo and boots each day and knew how to wow his audience. I had just opened a training school in a funky neighborhood next to a Salvation Army rehab center for non-violent offenders. Jim would pull up in the parking lot and let loose one of his slavishly devoted German shepherds. Slouching men smoking cigarettes tried to look cool as the dog flew through some flashy moves. Then Jim would roll out the show-stopper; tossing a crumpled one hundred dollar bill at the feet of the now fully attentive men. He sang out, “Bring!” The dog raced toward the money, plucked the bill into his formidable jaws, pranced to Jim’s side and carefully nosed it into his pants pocket. The men erupted, back-slapping and high-fiving as cigarettes fell forgotten from their mouths. From that day forward, my sidewalk was always shoveled and cigarette butts were swept clean.

Part of the fun of dog training is delighting the dog and the owner together. This is a people business, and without the owner’s trust and cooperation, there is no second lesson. I recently celebrated my twentieth anniversary as a professional trainer. I learn something new almost daily, and I look forward to sharing the very best bits here with you.