Texas Strays with New York Problems

Strays found on the streets of Houston, Texas now enjoying New York City life after being failed by so-called “modern” dog training techniques!

I met Natasa when I was in New York City looking for a dog trainer for one of the businesses I work with, Gotham Dog Training.   I was interviewing both experienced dog trainers, and people who were interested in training to become a dog trainer and working in the Five Boroughs, and had just finished setting up a dog training business in Boston.

Natasa is a dog love, and an entrepreneur who had moved to New York City from  Houston, Texas.   She and her boyfriend live in Midtown Manhattan with their two dogs, Nano, a Newfoundland mix, and Kairo, a Shepherd mix.   They had found both dogs as strays on the streets of Houston, Texas, just before moving to New York.

It took a bit of time for the dogs to bond with them, but during their transition to New York, both dogs began to exhibit some serious behavior issues.   Kairo began developing increasingly intense dog reactivity and aggression, and Nano, in addition to becoming inappropriately interested in other dogs (in other words, he would pull Natasa, who would be trying to hold him, and an agitated Kairo back,  towards any dog he would see on the street) began to bark, lunge and actually bite (without clamping down) people on the street and in the elevator of their building.

Natasa found me by chance, as she was researching dog training techniques.   She became interested in the opportunity I was offering, and my company, because during her initial search for help for her dogs, she was amazed that in a city as large as New York she couldn’t find a trainer that she was comfortable with.   She eventually settled on one, more on that later, but her search opened her eyes on what a disjointed and contentious  profession dog training is.

I liked Natasa a lot, but it became pretty clear that working as a full-time dog trainer would conflict with her other business plans, but during our talk, we began to talk about her dog’s issues, and what she had been told to do by her current trainer.   The conversation eventually turned to one I have heard literally hundreds of times.  Her trainer suggested one management strategy after another, harnesses, “gentle” leaders, muzzles, avoidance strategies (even going so far as to have her take both dogs into the street (Remember this is Midtown Manhattan) when they see another dog coming!

I told Natasa that I would likely be able to help her make significant forward progress with Nano and Cairo if I were able to work with her, and after hearing that I would be working with a trainer from a dog trainer from Philadelphia in the coming weeks at my facility in Dover, Delaware, she asked if she could drive Nano and Kairo the three hours (each way) from New York to have us work with them.  I actually thought this would be a great training opportunity for my trainer and quickly agreed.

A few weeks later, Natasa arrived in Dover with her dogs.   We conducted a pretty lengthy interview with her to learn of her history with her dogs, what their lifestyle is like, what she has tried with her dogs, and what was, and was not, working.    (I actually videotaped this interview as part of our training process, and while I would never do this, it would be a great learning experience for Natasa’s former trainer to see an unfiltered review from a client of the effectiveness of her training)   During the interview, Nano lunged at me twice, even though I was just sitting in my chair, and put his full mouth on my arm once.   Amazing!   I also learned that Natasa lives just a few blocks from Central Park, but the dogs don’t get to enjoy this because of their behavior.

Following our talk, we took the dogs outside and began to work with them.   Applying appropriate, “balanced”, reward-based, training techniques, focusing primarily on positive reinforcement, the dogs made amazing progress.   Within 30 minutes, Nikki, the other trainer, was able to bring her male dog into the area with absolutely zero reaction from the other dogs.   While this was exactly what I told Natasa would happen, and the reason she agreed to a 6-hour round trip drive with her dogs, she was still absolutely amazed.

A few days later I received an update from Natasa.  “…today Nano walked like a dream!  He required almost no correction, and after a few dogs passed, he began ignoring dogs as well!…”      Sounds like good progress to me!   This is after a pretty lengthy discussion on scientific learning theory, and 45 minutes of practical application of those theories.  The key is that we PROPERLY applied ALL of the learning quadrants, and not just selected one.  (The owner of the link/example I just posted gives a perfect example of the mind-set that prompted Natasa’s 6 hour drive to Delaware, and why she was mired in a management protocol with her dogs)

Even if you have been told that your dog’s issues were beyond repair, and that, at best, you’d only be able to manage them, DON’T GIVE UP!  Contact me and I will be happy to tell you how to find a trainer that can help!

I’m looking forward to following up with Nano and Kario on my next trip to New York, and to hearing about their adventures in Central Park, which they are now able to enjoy!

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