Where your dog will love to learn!
It can be a daunting and confusing task to find the right trainer. Everyone at the dog park gives you their opinion, even when you don't ask for it. Some say that positive reinforcement training is good enough for puppies and so-called "soft dogs", but isn't for the "tough" breeds---and guess what, they are wrong! Reward based training, with the right boundaries in place, is never permissive and definitely isn't bribery. A well designed program will teach your dog what TO do, instead of what NOT to do. It's more efficient and encourages a cooperative attitude in your dog, as well as building a lifelong bond. Still not sure? Read this from a satisfied client......
So, when he passed away in 2010 after fourteen years of faithful service and insanity, and I was ready to adopt a new dog, I decided to do things differently this time around. Although the tough-owner approach had managed to keep my first dog managed, I’m not sure that either of us had much fun just being a woman and her dog. So when I brought Gaius—an underweight (only 55 pounds), four-year-old American pitbull that had been found wandering the streets—home from the West LA Shelter, I decided to get a trainer, which brought me to Betsy Calkins. Unfortunately, Gaius became extremely ill a day after I brought him home, so I had to wait three weeks to meet with Betsy the first time. But by then I’d already figured out a few of Gaius’s issues. On leash, he’s a serious puller. Even sick, he could drag a Buick. And although he was never aggressive or vicious, he was determined. He would just keep coming, slow and methodical, until he got where he wanted to go. But he was also extremely affectionate and loving, and nearly everyone I introduced him to adored him on sight. And I knew it would be very easy to let his affectionate nature turn me into a completely ineffective handler.
Thankfully, once Gaius was all better, I didn’t delay meeting with Betsy. Right from the beginning, she had his number. She also had mine. She knew I was still thinking about my old dog and how for me it was all about keeping him from going after every dog, cat, or squirrel in a hundred mile radius. Betsy taught me a new way to handle my dog, which also gave me a lot more patience and confidence. This was especially important when, after several sessions, Betsy came to the realization that Gaius was not a four-year-old adult dog with a set pattern of (possibly) intractable traits and issues. But was, more likely, a not even 2-year-old goofy puppy-adolescent with many puppy traits that needed a different approach. And now that Gaius was in a safe place, he really let his puppy side out for the universe to see, and with him finally up to his perfect weight of about 74 pounds that’s a lot of puppy to manage.
Gorgeous Gaius: Mr. Popularity!
Yet by then I was not worried because Betsy not only taught me how to train Gaius on the basics, she also taught me how to read his body language, explained certain traits that are specific to his breed, and showed me that positive reinforcement training is much more effective than what I’d been taught to do before.I also really appreciated that when I did find something new or quirky about Gaius’s behavior that I’d never seen before and had no idea how to deal with, Betsy was always willing to discuss it with me and give me suggestions/tips on how to manage or eliminate the problem behavior. She’s direct, honest, funny and, most important, realistic. She explained Gaius’s potential limits from the beginning so that I had a better grasp of what to expect. Yet when Gaius managed to go even farther than any of us thought he would, it brought nothing but joy for all of us.
I realized immediately that getting Betsy right from the beginning of this process was absolutely the best decision I’d made when I got Gaius. I now know what it’s like to have fun with my dog rather than spending all my time strategizing how to keep him out of trouble. I can take Gaius anywhere I want, my vet and his staff absolutely adore him, and taking him to the local pet stores is just an opportunity for him to get lots of treats and affection from complete strangers. Everyone loves Gaius.
So I guess my only real regret is that I didn’t get in touch with Betsy when I had my first dog. We both could have used her help. But, you know, if I could do it all over again…
--Glynis A. and Gaius, El Segundo