“Sometimes you don’t know how very much you DON’T know about a subject until you begin to explore it. Only then do you realize it’s far more complicated than it looks. So it has been for me with training my dog. I have never owned a dog, so as we left the adoption location my mind was a complete blank; there was ZERO information to tap into! How do we get it into the car? Will it pee in there? What does it eat? Where will it sleep? And so on…there were questions, but no answers! Fortunately for me, a neighbor recommended Kathy Santo’s Dog Training, and she has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Somehow we muddled through the first few weeks of dog ownership but, in hindsight, we should have been at Kathy’s training facility the next morning. When we finally arrived in the beginner class and she answered questions, taught a lesson– humorously–and generally reassured us, it was as if a lifeline had been tossed and we finally had a treasure trove of information available just for the asking.
Overall, I think what makes the Kathy Santo method so special is that Kathy teaches the whole dog AND the owner. Her goal is not just to have an obedient dog, but to have a human/dog team that interacts happily. She has shown us how to enjoy having a dog and, believe me, when we first went to her we were not having fun yet. That dog had chewed through 1 cell phone, many socks, 2 pairs of shoes, 1 universal remote control, a set of retainers, and blankets galore. (We rescued the house phone and my glasses before they were irreversibly damaged.). I now understand that this was to be expected but, at the time, it was a mystery as to why he was bent on total destruction. As Kathy explained the behavior, and shared tips and techniques for managing it, a whole new world unfolded for us.
We cheerfully worked on learning a few basic commands until we arrived for one lesson, utterly traumatized, with a new appreciation for the absolute necessity of what Kathy was teaching us. The dog had accompanied us out in the car and had inadvertently escaped, gleefully cavorting through Main Street traffic with my hysterical son sobbing and chasing after. It was the kindness of nearby residents, dog owners, that finally caught him. Screeching tires and a few near misses brought home the lesson, “this correction hurts less than the impact of a car”. With that one incident we were re-dedicated and completely focused, because we finally realized that safety was at stake–not just the dog’s, but ours, as well.
As we trained, and tried to duplicate the lessons at home, Kathy’s philosophy made more sense. Perfection in the classroom does NOT mean you will get the same performance when there are distractions. We took our training to the park, around town and even into the car dealership while I was waiting for my car to be serviced. It was truly encouraging when I was approached with, “Wow, are you a dog trainer?” I was compelled to answer honestly, “No, but I’m learning from the best, so maybe someday…”
Quite unexpectedly, there came a day when I experienced total doggie love. We found ourselves out in a field on a glorious autumn day with another dog owner who asked, “Does your dog go off leash?” Trying not to panic I replied, “Well, that IS the goal, but we’ve never actually done it.” As they let their two dogs off leash they said, “Oh, they’ll be fine.” But they weren’t fine…they were FABULOUS! For over an hour our three dogs raced, roughhoused, tumbled and tore up that field. Only twice did I flinch, and called Ca$h, “here!” With no exaggeration, he nearly flew to me and skidded to a perfect sit directly in front of my feet. I actually heard someone say, ‘Hey, cool, THAT dog actually comes!’ I felt victorious! We were a team! I couldn’t wait to tell Kathy of our success and hear what she had planned for our next lesson.
There have been more successes, for sure, but none as sweet as that first time off leash. NOW I know why people actually enjoy spending time with their dogs…and why Kathy’s motto is ‘For a dog everyone will love to have around.’ I GET IT!”
Cindy and Ca$h
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