Dog Owner Coach

Dog Owner Coach

Posted by  //  August 21, 2012  //  Local Business

By George Hillenbrand

Most folks love their dogs. Folks cry when they return dogs that didn’t work out to shelters or rescues. Returning a dog feels rotten. You know you’re betraying them – they’re not garbage – it’s just too hard – it didn’t work. Someone is forced to be the grown-up and say “enough!” Everyone pleads “please find him a new home” but the silence and the eyes on the face of the shelter attendant make it clear that there are more dogs than owners.

I cried crocodile tears when I returned my dog, Caleb. He was strong-willed; when told to sit he’d squat, sort-of-sitting, keeping his bottom an inch off the floor. He’d watch the front door and make a dive for the crack. I finally had to be the bad-guy and return him when he got out and threatened some kids outside. It was scary. We never took him to classes. I didn’t realize we needed to learn how to teach him good manners. No one told me love isn’t enough – training isn’t optional.
We wised up when we tried again after the kids were grown and brought home a pair of little black Rottweiler-mix puppies. The word “Rottweiler” overcame my hesitance to pay for classes. My wife, Margie, loved the classes and loved the way our fast-growing pair responded to her.

Margie loved it so much that she became a volunteer assistant, then an apprentice trainer. Bob Minchella, head trainer, specialized in “difficult” dogs, the ones likely to end up back in shelters. He accepted dogs other trainers turned away. She apprenticed with him for five years, working with thousands of dogs, dogs of every size including breeds I’ve never even heard of. Her passion is keeping dogs out of shelters – especially family dogs.

A not-so-secret secret is that dog classes are really for owners, sort of like parenting classes. Dogs need lots of “yes” and an occasional gentle “no”, like the yes-or-no signals a momma dog gives her pups. Some trainers don’t allow “no” because “no” doesn’t work if the timing is off even a little; a few seconds makes all the difference. Even owners who have had dogs for decades can improve their timing. Every dog is different. What works for one dog might not work for another. That’s part of the reason two dog trainers in a room will have three opinions on the best way to train dogs.

We returned to Dryden a year ago after living in Rochester for 30 years. My wife’s passion to train dogs and keep them out of shelters came with us, so she has started offering classes as the “Dog Owner Coach”. She keeps her prices low to make classes affordable for families.
Enough from me… I’m not the expert, she is. Call her: Margie Hillenbrand,, 607-591-7806

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