Rich and I were debating on which direction we wanted Dream Dogz to grow. It is easy to let things go with how they always have been. But we wanted to set goals and plan for our future, and the future of our business.
Should we purchase a commercial property and expand to include daycare and boarding? Should we purchase a place in the country and grow board & train? Should we purchase a city house and just do one dog at a time?
Our board & trains grew, and with our 4 personal dogs and our family (me, Rich, and Luc), we would have up to 5 board & train dogs sharing our townhouse with us. At a little over 1200 sq ft, and no fenced yard, it was snug, we were happy. But we knew we needed to expand.
We started looking at property, not knowing exactly what we wanted. At first, because we are self-employed and own our townhouse (but paying the bank for it), we would have to sell our townhouse before we could buy something else. But, with 4-9 dogs in the house, people would take one look and run. Maybe we should pay cash for a house? So we socked money away, but what we could afford needed a new house put on it. And where did we want to move? We knew we wanted outside of Alachua county due to taxes, restrictions, and electric rates. But some of the areas that we ventured to… yikes. As much as we love going to Disney World, we would love to be closer, but we still wanted to be close enough to Gainesville, not 2 hours away.
We finally found our dream property – after about 2 years of searching! Located in Sumterville, it is one exit south of the I-75/Turnpike split. 7 minutes from I-75, it is right on S US 301. Over 5 acres, fully fenced with chain link, and divided up into 9 separate paddocks. The house has about 1000 sq ft that we are using as our dog area – boarding, training, and client sessions – even an office! It has most everything we wanted. And is more than double the size of our townhouse.
We closed today. It took time and hard work. We kept our eyes on the prize and now we wonder what possibilities the future holds. We have movers coming in a few days, so we can begin this new stage in our lives. The dogs will be happier, they will get so much more off leash time, socialization, and play. They will be able to just lay outside sunbathing if they want to. We will get distractions for them (chickens and horses), new training for them (herding sheep and goats), and put in a pool for swimming. Dream Dogz Ranch will be the ultimate board & train paradise, with the dogs staying in our house, as part of our family during their time with us. We will even be able to board client dogs (I did mention we are close to I-75, if flying out of Orlando or Tampa).
Our next goal is to move, get settled, attend the IACP conference in September, along with Disneyland, Hollywood, and LA. Once we come back from there, the real magic happens. By making goals, working towards them, our dreams became reality!
I was just talking with a friend who overheard a couple people while shopping. Apparently, Dream Dogz was the topic of conversation. One person said how we were so reliant on the tools that we used, but they can see why since we deal with the behaviors that we deal with. My friend chuckled and passed the conversation on to me.
It’s not the tool that trains your dog. It is the training that trains your dog. The tool just makes it easier for your dog to understand and connect with you.
We commonly use prong collars, e-collars, slip leads, slip lead/head halter, essential oils, body language, spatial pressure, tug, pet convincer, sometimes food, and so much more.
We are inclusive trainers, always looking for effective tools to add to our trainer box. We try it out with our own dogs first, and depending on the results, with friends and students dogs. As we get the outstanding results we are known for, they become part of our regular stuff.
We use food and lure training with puppies, with service dog tasks, and tricks. But we don’t use food with every dog. We find it unnecessary and do not want to have to carry a pocket of food with us everywhere. Nor should you have to do that, or live your life with a dog who is out of control.
Honestly, I am glad there are a lot of other methods out there, and other trainers. Our style isn’t for everyone. It is for people who are serious about their dogs training, behavior, and state of mind. If they want to understand their dog more, form a deeper relationship, and stop unwanted behavior instead of excusing it, they come to us.
Check us out and watch some of the hundreds of videos showing the improvements of dogs that were not possible without our training and methods.
Growing up, we adopted a beautiful Shiba Inu looking dog from the shelter and named her Codi. When we got her home, we found out that Codi was a cat chaser. This wasn’t good, since we had two indoor cats. However, our house had a basement, first floor, and second floor. So Codi would be on one level and the cats would be on another, and they would switch at night. This worked fine for a few months, until Codi got out of her level and started chasing one of the cats. My mom happened to be switching papers in a clipboard at that time and yelled “NO!” as the clipboard clacked shut. That was enough of a deterrent to stop Codi in her tracks. Hmmm…. For the next few days, we watched Codi and would clack the clipboard if she thought about going after the cats. To this day, when we get a cat aggressive dog in, my mom asks if we’ve “tried the clipboard.”
You see, everything has worked for at least one dog at one time. Ignoring it. Treating the opposite behavior. Asking the dog to sit. Everything has worked at least once. But that isn’t good enough for me. I want the methods and protocols that we use to work for multiple dogs in multiple situations. It isn’t good enough if it just worked one time. And this is where I have a problem with some of the dog training books I see out there, and some of the advice I hear. Just because it worked for ONE, doesn’t mean that it will work for YOUR dog. I could write a book on using a clipboard to solve cat aggression in dogs, because it worked for my dog, but it would not be helpful to the vast majority of owners. Instead, I take what Codi taught me, one good correction is better than management and nagging, and you can stop the thought of the inappropriate behavior before the dog acts on it, and apply that to the dogs I work with every day.
A guest blog from one of our trainers, Viviana Pena —
How often do we hear, “Well he’s a rescue, you know,” as an excuse for a dogs poor behavior?
“My dog is aggressive and lunges at anything that moves, but he’s a rescue!”
“My dog is so fearful, everything scares her, but she’s a rescue!”
“My dog is so friendly, he just pulls on the leash, and jumps, and barks, and has separation anxiety, but it’s okay because he’s a rescue!”
The term, “he’s a rescue” is thrown around at every dog, for every behavior, and it’s supposed to be understood that the dog cannot and will not change because they went through God knows what before they were placed with their new owners, so it’s okay, we all just have to deal with it.
Well, here’s my response to that: I don’t have to deal with it and neither should your dog. It is not fair for them to be in that constant state of stress, where they need to be sedated every time they step outside or are left alone. Where they can’t walk down the street without dragging their owners around and choking themselves out and being not only a nuisance, but potentially dangerous to others.
Riddick 2 months after his surgury
As someone who studies animal behavior, the nature vs. nurture concept is one that is always begging to be answered. My rescue lived his first two months with someone else, being abused and neglected. When he finally came to me, he was emaciated, flea and worm infested, and had a severely broken leg. It is very possible his behavior as he grew and experienced new things would be slightly influenced by what he went through. I cannot blame my dog for that. However, I was there to help him through it, and I would blame myself if I ever allowed him to give into to his stressors and react negatively to certain situations. Understanding what the dog went through and his triggers will allow you to provide a protocol and training regime that will offer the greatest success.
On my first day of obedience training with Riddick, I was told by Victoria that what had happened to him was horrible, but it was in the past, and now we will move forward. Riddick and I never looked back, and because of that, I firmly believe he was better and happier for it. Riddick grew up to save my life everyday. He is able to go out in public with me, tackling new situations and people with a wagging tail and a pep in his step. Not all service dogs are rescues, but all rescues can be happy, confident dogs. They just need you, their owners, to believe in them.
If you live in a hot or cold climate, you should teach your dog to wear dog booties/shoes so they don’t hurt their paw pads when outside. We build up Arrow’s pads, so short trips are not a problem, but the shoes are a necessity here in Florida.
Arrow wearing his Ruffwear boots
There are many different types and styles. We wanted professional quality dog shoes, so we ordered a set from Ruffwear & a set from Muttluks.
Ruffwear Grip Trex are my favorite. Since Arrow’s front feet are larger than his back feet, I ordered them from the online site and bought them individually. The sole is made of vibram, the same thing my five finger shoes use.
I also ordered Bark’n Boot Liners, which I did not care for, they were too tight. Instead, we bought some toddler crew socks from Walmart, which fit Arrow and worked very well. We wanted the socks to protect his front dew claws because of where the shoe hit.
We ordered the Muttluks Hott Doggers. These have a soft bottom and the top is made of fleece. With the temperature in Florida being what it is, I feel that the Ruffwear is a better choice, but I will give the Muttluks a fair chance (just not at Disney).
When Aedan came to Disney with us a couple weeks ago, his owner packed booties she bought at one of the local pet stores. These always came off, and we had people running up to us with one of his booties all the time.
With Bounty, who was with us at Disney this past week, we used baby socks and vet wrap to keep them up. The vet wrap did not last long, and we had to keep going back for his socks. No one brought them to us.
We have Musher’s Secret, a wax that you apply to the pads of your dogs feet. This forms a barrier of protection. We used this with Bounty, Aedan, and Arrow at Disney in the past few weeks, and we will use it with the board & trains and with our personal dogs this summer.
My recommendation is to measure each of your dogs feet and order from Ruffwear or Muttluks. Remember to take into account shipping time, or order with Amazon Prime. A good set of shoes, or a few sets of them, will help your service dog and your pet dog deal with the hot pavement in summer, or the cold in winter. They will also protect your dog if you go hiking in the woods, playing on the beach, or on trails.
Here is a video for when you first put the boots on your dog. Remember, do not laugh at your dog, but tell your dog how fantastic they look. Arrow is very proud of his boots.
Of course, they walk funny their first minute or two in the boots!
Bonus – if your dog is your service dog, you can register at Ruffwear or Muttluks website as a service dog owner. This enables you to receive a nice discount on products you purchase for your service dog.
Summer is fast approaching, and the temperatures are on the rise. Living in Florida, we have to watch the heat year round. Here are six tips on keeping your dog cool and safe:
Morning walks. We walk and work the dogs at 7 am during the summer. The temperature is cooler and the roads and sidewalks are not hot yet. Be sure to stick to shaded areas when doing activities outside.
Protect paws. We build up Arrow’s paw pads by having him walk on pavement and sidewalks year round. If he just got house and yard time, his paws would be soft and he couldn’t last as long on pavement. You can order dog booties, be sure to get your dog accustomed to wearing them before you need them. You can also use Musher’s Secret, a balm you apply to the pads and between the pads before you go out.
Plenty of water. Hydrate your dog and make sure your dog has access to water whenever outside. If your dog does not want to drink, try dropping some meat in the water bowl to encourage your dog to drink their fill. Remember to use room temperature water, not cold water.
Wet down. Wet down the groin area, underbelly, chest, then the rest of your dog. There are cooling vests and bandanas available as well, or you can get a doggie pool for your dog to chill in. Remember to use room temperate water, not cold water.
Don’t shave. We do shave Zoe down, as she has skin issues and if we don’t, the skin issues develop. However, do not shave down your double coated breed (siberian husky, german shepherd). Their coat acts like insulation and protects their skin from the sun. Plus. they won’t like summer anyway.
Aurelius is a 2 yr old black German Shepherd who was majorly aggressive, needing behavior modification, leash training and socialization. His owner drove him from Houston, Texas, to Gainesville, Florida, for us to rehabilitate his dog.
We took lots of video over the weeks we spent with him to share with his owner and provide hope to all the other owners whose dogs have similar issues.
Here is video from Aurelius getting dropped off, it is our first time meeting him…
And working him in the training center…
SAFETY protocol – Do you like your face? When collaring up a dog, make sure your face is above their crate. That way, if they do lunge at you, they get the crate and not your face.
SAFETY protocol – We asked his owner to muzzle train Aurelius before he came to us. While Aurelius didn’t love his muzzle, he knew what to do. This allowed us to safely work him. For some dogs, kissing is a contact sport that they like to win.
For the first 10 days, Aurelius was muzzled before we got him out of his crate, and the muzzle was taken off after he returned to his crate. As his trust in us grew, we muzzled him less and less. Unless we put him in a new situation, then we muzzled him for the safety of everyone – and every dog – involved.
SAFETY protocol – Make sure all other dogs are put away. Only get one dog out at a time. Our personal pack dogs were locked in another room when we first started working with Aurelius.
SAFETY protocol – Have a plan! We had a plan in place for taking Aurelius out of the car that very first time. Richard and I (Victoria) were there and each had an important job to do. Even everyday things like taking him for a walk involved a quick plan. Who would take him? What equipment would they use? Who would he walk near? When we challenged him – with socials, vet visits, acupuncture, greeting dogs – we spent more time assigning roles and neutralizing distractions. While we did not have a firm plan for weeks in advance, we knew what we wanted to do with him, where we wanted to get him, and were able to do it when he was ready for it.
Accept it, things will go wrong. You may take two steps forward and one step back. We were not shy about sharing some of the things that pushed Aurelius too far. Try to reduce this happening as much as possible.
He is a dog who craves that dopamine hit, and would look for something to set him off. Like a leaf. Yes. He would see a leaf and go crazy because there was nothing else around to give him his fix. So we taught him tug. Wait we taught an aggressive dog to tug? Yes we did! Won’t that make him more aggressive? Nope! Done our way, this is an excellent way to build pack drive, teach him what he can and cannot put his mouth on, and give him a legal way to get that dopamine kick that he craves.
We taught Aurelius Conditioned Relaxation / Perception Modification, to empower him to manage his emotions and cope with stressors. While this was not the keystone for his rehabilitation, it did play a part.
He socialized with other dogs during the week he spent boarding with one of our trainers while we were at Disney World (a pre-planned vacation that his owner knew about prior to scheduling with us). This was a game changer for him. When I picked him up afterwards, he came running to greet me, so happy to see me again. This was the first time he was actually EXCITED to see one of us. A week of socialization, dirt and grass and sand under his feet, the fresh country air, structure and training were exactly what he needed. We started him with our pack ahead of time so he had friends when he went to boarding.
We taught Aurelius to walk on a treadmill. This works better for him because he can concentrate on the walk and is automatically corrected if he doesn’t pay attention (by the treadmill itself).
Aurelius, Scarlett, Arrow, and Brandi walk together with Victoria
Aurelius during his last week of training. What a relaxed boy! We did that for him… he was stressed, nervous, fearful, aggressive, before working with us. His owner brought him to us because he knew the difference it would make in his life. Way to go!
Is he done yet? Nope. A dog like Aurelius will require a lifetime of training and structure. He will be happiest when he has a daily routine consisting of treadmill time, place time, and tug time. Do this in the morning and evening. Find a knowledgeable trainer who offers large field socialization, which we found for his return home. And possibly an IPO group for bite work.
I met Rich when I was 19, and we married 2 years later. I used the money I earned from teaching sign language for emergency personnel as a state certified trainer to pay for my wedding dress.
You see, I was always a bit of an entrepreneur. I decorated cakes when we lived in Kentucky and Maryland. And I started training dogs in Maryland, and have continued the 10+ years we’ve lived in Florida. During that time, I have helped people build their businesses, designed and built websites, and designed their business cards. Rich tells me he can’t see me working for someone else, and – even though I have done it in the past – I agree with him.
However, if I’d have taken the “safe” route, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We wouldn’t vacation in Disney World, plan trips across the country to learn more about dog training, or spend every day together with dogs. We wouldn’t transform dogs and change lives for our students, daily. As we grow older, and we look at the choices we made, every choice led us to where we are today. Even the “mistakes” had a part to play. What is holding you back from where you could be? What choices are you making today that will affect your life tomorrow? Are you doing what you LOVE, or what you have always done? Life is short, find a way to do what you love!