People often asked me how I got started in my dog training career. “I was in the right place at the right time,” I would reply. Now some 30+ years later, and some 30+ bites later, I often wonder if that wasn’t the wrong place at the wrong time.
Actually, I was working at K-9 Command Dogs, the original “Don’t Live in Fear!” dog training school as a kennel aide.
- Born: Brooklyn, NY
- Upgraded to Queens at age 12
- Never expected to be a professional Dog Trainer
- Intrigued by a friend’s attack Doberman
- Worked at Jack Healy’s Command Dogs in Statford, CT
- Independent trainer and owner of Mutt Masters in Colorado Springs, CO
A Letter from Us to You: Since 1975, our desire has been to establish a quality dog school and breeding facility. With the opening of Canine Academy in 1978 (formally K-9 Academy, School for Dogs), we began to achieve that goal.
As we grew and continued to learn from our experiences and studies, we eventually became the leading dog training center in New England. Having trained and worked with thousands of dogs during our careers, we incorporate practical experience as well as the latest scientific developments into our training.
In one year alone, we participated in a training workshop in St. Louis, MO, led by Tom Rose, an expert trainer in Schutzhund, a sport involving a dog doing tracking, obedience, and protection exercises; another by Herr Bernhart Mannel, A leading trainer from Germany, Held in Bowling Green KY; and one in Galesburg, IL, with Bob Self, editor of the the AKC obedience publication, Front & Finish. Other seminars included a police training workshop in Newton, KS, hosted by Tom Brenneman, Armin Zirim of West Germany, and Daniel Gutter – one of France’s top-rated trainers in the French Ring Sport. In addition, we attended several talks led by veterinarians, animal behaviorist, and university professors. All these have helped us to build on and improve our teaching skills.
Doggie Short Stories to Train a Dog By!
By Bob “MuttMaster” Warren
The Big Dog Dog Story:
I’ve been asked many times how I started my dog training career. Often I would reply, “I was in the right place at the right time,” and go on to talking about something else. Occasionally, I would tell them the truth. Flying into LaGuardia from El Paso Texas at the tender age of 23, I was meet by my friend John, and his newly acquired Attack-on-Command dog. I still remember that dog. He was this large Blazing Red, overly muscular, Doberman Pinscher that just sat there with his head slowly moving in a smooth scan of his environment. It was like watching a movie, a somewhat scary one. But it wasn’t until we went to leave the crowded concourse, and the crowds parted, (like Moses parting the Red Sea), that I realized the true value of this dog. And I knew instantly that I wanted a Command Dog too!
Since I couldn’t afford to purchase outright the Ferrari Style Doggie, I went to work for the facility that sold my friend his dog after negotiating a deal. I was to be the kennel aide for his newly opened franchise of Jack Healy’s K-9 Command Dogs, the original “DON’T LIVE IN FEAR!” dog training school. While working there, my bosses and so-called “Master Trainers”, soon became remarkably scarce after these Police Detectives started showing up at the school with questions. It seemed my bosses may have been one of the last people, if not the last people, to see a certain gentleman, and his large cake box filled with cash, before he became a missing person person statistic. As you can imagine, this created a massive void in the workings at the training school and kennels, although the resident canines, (they sold trained dogs), did not “fly the coop” with them. There was only David, a fifteen year old with a vision taking a professional dog trainers’ course, and myself, left to care for the dogs. We were the dogs’ caretakers, and even though there was no one to pay us, we came diligently to the kennels for them. Even the “Con Edison” man felt sorry for us. He came to collect the past due balance, or shut off the electricity for nonpayment. I told him if he shut down our electric service, we would have to take care of the dogs in the dark. As far as getting any money from, “The Company”, I told him “Good Luck, I hadn’t seen a paycheck in months!” He left the service on, and wrote “No Access” on his worksheet. Who said the electric company doesn’t have a heart?
So, as I was volunteering with my young friend David cleaning the outdoor kennels of you-know-what, an elderly gentleman was shouting something we couldn’t hear from the front of our long driveway. Realizing that we were unable to hear him, and that we had no intention of going to him to see what he wanted, he proceeded up the driveway to where David and I were working. The old guy traveled at a pace a tortoise would have had no problem keeping up with. Eventually, we were face-to-face. He asked us again, “Do you train dogs?” I responded typically, without thinking, and said “Sure!” I turned to David, “Don’t we?
Our minds frantically raced for the next thing to say, but luckily the man continued to describe his tale of woe and we were spared the embarrassment. Our client-to-be was a seventyish year-old-man, about five feet something short, and weighing in at a staggering hundred pounds, maybe. His Malamute, he explained, was a really wonderful dog, both friendly and calm, except when he became excited on his walks, in which case he pulled on the leash. It was because of this pulling problem that he felt he needed help. As he continued, the gentleman proceeded to role up his sleeves and exposed two arms that were so black-and-blue that I cannot remember seeing any white spots. His bruises ran from just above the wrists into who knows where on his body. NO EXAGGERATION! David and I were speechless. We just looked at his arms, looked at each other, and looked at his arms again. I have seen healthier survivors of violent crimes than this man’s physical condition resulting from taking his dog on his daily exercise walk. I had to agree with this battered old man, he really did need help but my thoughts were with the mental health department! What was he thinking as his dog bludgeoned him?
Anyway, after some dialog, the gentleman hired us to help him with the training of his dog. It was to be our first dog training case—and we were psyched! Then reality slapped us. He returned with his dog. Although I cannot remember his name, or even the name of his dog, I will never forget them. My first professional dog training experience was an authentic classic. How cool is that?
For the sake of the story I’ll call the old man “Slammed”, as in “Slammed against the wall”, and I’ll call the dog “Elvis”, as in “the King”, since he reeked of it. And I’ll call the story “The Case of the Accidental Assault & Battery”. Although Slammed had a house with a fenced-in yard, a really nice large fenced in yard, he felt Elvis needed to be walked. So religiously, they took their daily strolls, and when Elvis wanted to investigate something, which was always, Slammed went too. Into the bushes, into the trees, into poles and parking meters. “Ouch!” was our professional diagnosis.
I have since come to learn that most people have no accurate idea about their dogs. Yes, everybody says they know their dog, but very few do. This gentleman knew his dog. He was friendly, calm, and large. Very Large! His breeder must have weaned him with steroids. He was almost a hundred-fifty pounds. And he was a “Teddy Bear”. I look back now and appreciate the lack of assertiveness of our laid back friendly giant. He was just too big and strong for that man’s own good.
David and I were successful in teaching Elvis not to pull on a walk, even when the King was excited. We explained that dogs pull on a walk when excited because we, their fellow mammals, tied them to us with a line and then walk less fast. It is not about them wanting to show they are in charge, or them being dominant, it’s just physics, the faster body will always pull the slower body when attached. If you like to see things through the Dog’s Eyes, then he has to be wondering when you are going to learn how to walk faster!
Bottom line, it felt good to be successful for that old man who really needed help. But, it felt even better when he paid us! That, by the way, is what makes you a “PRO”, not that you are an expert, it’s just the fact that someone pays you.