The dog that changed my life forever.
I've been a dog trainer in Pensacola for close to 8 years now and have owned Happy Hound since 2013. I started my dog-education as a child, working in my Aunt's canine rescue shelter from childhood to high school. I always knew I wanted to work with animals but never considered dog training as a profession until I reached adulthood and owned one dog that changed my life forever. I started Happy Hound because I understand exactly what it's like to be a struggling dog owner.
When I was 21, I was recently married, had moved away from home, had long forgotten the days at the animal shelter and was working as a restaurant manager. I adopted a Bloodhound at a local shelter, the first dog I had owned as an adult. His name was Brutus, and boy did he live up to that name. He was a Brute. Brutus was the most ill-behaved and aggressive dog I had ever seen. Brutus didn't listen to my commands, pulled on the leash, guarded bones and food aggressively, ate off the counters, fought with other dogs, and even bit my husband and me on several occasions. One of these aggressive episodes was so bad it almost prevented my husband from deploying to Afghanistan that year. I worked diligently with Brutus alone and also sought out help from several dog trainers in Pensacola, Milton, and Navarre- but got nowhere. After 3 trainers and 3 bites to my husband, the last being very severe, I made the heartbreaking decision to put him down.
After Brutus' death not only was I sad, I was angry. Why? Because for years I had sought help from other dog trainers whom all told me that giving my dog consequences for his bad behavior, would only make him more aggressive.
But before our last incident, I had started trying dog training style with Brutus called "balanced dog training". It stands on the idea that training for dogs should be balanced between positive rewards for good behavior and negative consequences for bad behavior (instead of ignoring bad behavior or avoiding situations where my dog would be aggressive which is what the other trainers told me to do).
I ordered a DVD set from a famous online dog training website that showed me how to get my dog walking nicely on the leash. The things I learned from those DVD's where so much different than the advice of other dog trainers, and made so much sense! It was like a breath of fresh air. And imagine that, it was working!
For the first time in 2 years, I took a peaceful walk around my apartment complex with my dog, after years of trying other tools and techniques.
I had hope for my dog for the first time since I had adopted him. I felt invigorated. But, I didn't get the chance to buy the aggression DVD and practice these techniques in my home with my husband before Brutus made his last attack. That night, as we settled down for some TV time and I was ready to tell my husband all about my amazing walk with Brutus earlier in the day, my husband got bit... bad. Right in our little dining room. Brian, my husband, was rushed to the ER for stitches and we had to call his supervisor to clear him for his flight. He was leaving for Afghanistan the next day. After that, I had an honest discussion with myself. I didn't know if my husband could ever trust this dog again and as much as I didn't want to admit it, Brutus wasn't a safe dog. And even if I was making progress, I felt the reward of possibly being able to train him was not worth the potenial risks. I would have to live alone for 6 months with a 110lb dog who had just injured a grown man. As much as it pained me, I chose my own safety over my dog. A few days later, I took Brutus to the vet, alone, and sat in the exam room with him and cried into his fur and goofy Bloodhound wrinkles, as my dog drifted into unconsciousness. My vet put his hand on my shoulder as I cried and we said goodbye.
I was angry. I caught a moment of hope for my dog and in an instant, it vanished. I wasn't mad at my trainers for not knowing what they didn't know. I was angry with them for vilifying training methods that I soon learned, they knew very little about. They had told me not to use these techniques because they assumed they were harmful, not because they knew. I don't say any of this today to bash those trainers, but that's the truth of how I was feeling at the time. After that, I was on a mission.
I attended balanced dog training seminars from New York to San Diego, paid thousands of dollars to learn and gained some great mentors while searching for answers. I learned how to train dogs of all different behavior issues effectively. After much trial and error, I finally found what worked. I also learned a LOT about what didn't work. (And it figures, everything that didn't work is what I was doing with Brutus)
I am a problem-solver by nature (not to mention an avid animal lover), so for the longest time, I did all this research just because I wanted some closure, and to do better with my dogs in the future. Yet eventually, after a lot of thinking, I decided that I was going to take a leap of faith and trade my life as a restaurant manager, for a life helping dogs and people and doing what I love to do. I chose this path not only so I could have a career I enjoyed, but so other people wouldn't have to struggle and suffer the same way I did with Brutus.
Unfortunately, Brutus being a Happy Hound was just a dream for me, but helping others is my way of seeing that dream realized in other people and their beloved pets!
I am currently a professional member of the IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals), student of Leerburg Online University, and have attended several seminars, schools and workshops across the states including some of America and Canada's most highly esteemed dog behavior specialists.
Since 2013 I have helped nearly 2,000 dogs and owners on the Emerald Coast and beyond, to live a life with their dog they never thought possible. And it's all thanks to a "bad dog" and a woman with a passion that won't quit (that's me. ;) )