A Title Does Not Equate to Quality

When I first started The Problem Pooch in 2006 I believed that I needed someone else to validate my self-worth as a trainer.

I maintained my membership in the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA), I joined and became a certified member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), I subscribed to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and there may be some others that I am forgetting.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the people (and dogs) I was helping didn’t care about any of those organizations. I chose instead to abide by my own code of conduct, by-laws, and adhered to my own mission statement.

I exercised my value system of integrity, compassion, and patience; a value system that was taught to me by the most important governing body: my parents.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That was, and still is, my modus operandi.

Word-of-mouth is my work credentialing badge. A satisfied client refers me to someone else who could use my help. I have a great deal of pride in my work of Teaching People & Helping Dogs. I balance it with a lot of humility when a family invites me into their home.

For every single appointment I have, being a decent human being is more significant than my experience in understanding and modifying a dog’s behavior. For example, I am not a dog trainer when I allow a toddler to crawl on me and hug me because she misses the affection of her father, who has been out to sea for 5 months. I am not a dog trainer when I help a grandson overcome a long-standing fear of dogs, thereby producing tears of joy in his grandmother.

I didn’t learn those skills by attending a canine school, or by reading an article in a quarterly magazine of the APDT, or attending a two-day seminar.

I don’t teach group classes. I don’t teach agility or fly-ball or tricks and games. I don’t hold the title of Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. I am not “certified” (by the way, there are no federal or state regulations that require licensure.) I don’t train dogs how to be a good: bird-hunter, seeing-eye dog, bomb-sniffer, sheep-herder, etc. Those are not my specialties.

There are dog training options available that operate with a different business model and are less expensive than my fee. However, I believe I provide more-than-fair value for my service as a dog trainer and a giver of peace-of-mind. Earning a family’s trust is more important to me than the bottom line on an income statement.

I may not be the best option for someone who is seeking a dog trainer. And I’m okay with that. I understand the “different strokes for different folks” mentality. For those who have placed their trust in me, I am honored that you chose to work with me. For those who have referred me to others, I am grateful. For those who thought about or are thinking of working with me, thank you for your consideration.

Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant.




The ORIGINAL Problem Pooch


I heard a familiar sound coming from the kitchen. “Someone” was rustling through the garbage can again.

I knew it wasn’t Steele because he was resting on his favorite spot, the living room sofa. So, it had to be Albert.

I entered the kitchen and my newly-rescued Samoyed, Albert, was gnawing on a pork chop bone. I grabbed the end of the bone. “Albert. Dro…Ow! Drop it! Ow. Dammit! Ow.”

Albert wasn’t letting go. And with each re-grip, his teeth punctured my hands with brute force and left me bloody and bruised. Again.

He walked away and peacefully finished enjoying his possession. Again. You see, It was the second time in less than a week that Albert got the best of me.

Albert was a street thug. His ears were deformed from untreated ear infections. He could barely hear. He had cataracts that clouded his vision. He walked uncomfortably as a result of an improperly healed broken front leg. He was a mess of a dog, to say the least. And Steele, our young and energetic Samoyed, was not fond of the 12-year old (although the rescue group said he was 5-years old) bully either.

After tending to my wounds and talking with my wife, Cathy, I returned to the crime scene with a phone in my hand. I had a difficult call to make: we were going to return Albert.

I dialed the number to the rescue group. It rang and rang. I waited, what seemed like forever, for someone to answer.alb-jan-2-2003a

Albert limped into the kitchen with his ears down and looked me directly in
the eyes. He softly vocalized in his familiar pattern, “Ruff-Ruff… Ruff-Ruff.”

I didn’t hear a bark. I heard, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

I hung up the phone, fell to my knees, and started to cry. Albert calmly nuzzled his head underneath my aching hands. “Ruff-Ruff.”

“I hear you old boy. I know you didn’t mean it. It’s all you know, huh? You won’t be on the streets anymore. I promise.”

Cathy came into the kitchen. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“I can’t do it. I can’t give up on him. He needs us.”

“Oh, thank God! I don’t want to get rid of him either. He’s had a hard enough life. We can’t send him back.” Cathy started crying too and our tears fell into Albert’s fur, but he didn’t mind.

He was home.We gave him a second chance to smile.

Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant.