I was thirteen and we had a ten year old German Shepherd that was getting old fast. A friend had found a nine month old German Shepherd puppy, but could not keep a dog where she lived so she asked us if we would like the puppy. My dad said we could only have the dog if I took her to obedience class. That was all it took. I was hooked. I could not wait until I was home from school so I would do my home work as fast as I could, then I was off to train my dog.
From that point on there were only two things that I wanted to do with my life: become an Optician, or a dog trainer, better yet, train Seeing Eye dogs. Well, the optician won for awhile, but I never stopped. Training dogs is my passion. My first trainer was a gentleman named Larry Heist. He was the owner and trainer of one of the dogs featured in the Walt Disney movie “Big Red”. The dog was an Irish setter. Larry taught me a lot about training for movies verses household obedience, food or corrective discipline, Which is better and why?
Larry was a great teacher. He understood dogs inside and out. He would explain why the dog was doing what it was doing and how to fix it; if that is what it needed or to encourage it if you wanted that behavior. In his class, I was the only person under twenty five and felt like there was no way for me to compete with all of the adults. I tried as hard as I could to teach my dog everything Larry showed us.
Then, graduation day came and my Dad said, “Are you ready to go?” I said, “No, I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of all the adults,” so we didn’t go. Two weeks later I saw one of the ladies from the class in a store and she asked me, “How come you didn’t come to graduation?” I told her the truth, “I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of all the adults.” I told her that my dog was not as good as the rest of the dogs. After all, I was only thirteen you are all adults how could I compete with grown-ups? When she told me Larry was very upset that I did not come to graduation, I asked why and she said that Larry said my dog was the only one that would have graduated.
As the years went by, I kept on training. Any and everything I could think to teach my dog, I did. From shaking the correct hand to paw every time, to rolling over which ever direction I pointed as many times as I pointed in that direction, to spitting her food out so I could always check what she was eating.
One day my dad was leaving for work and he said to me, “Victor that dog will do anything for you, why don’t you teach her how to crawl?” By the time my dad came home from work my dog would crawl all the way across the living room on command.
In my early twenties, I started working with 4 PAWS K-9 academy. 4 PAWS main training was more for personal protection than obedience, but most important was a calm, friendly, loving family pet. I learned a lot about instincts and body language, fear and aggression, what to do and what not to do. Every year we would do demonstrations at the L.A. county fair to show how a loving family pet can be so obedient and also protect you. I was with 4 PAWS for almost five years.
After that, I started training with Addlerhurst dog training; they train almost all of the police dogs in southern California. I learned every aspect of police dog training: from tracking, to searching buildings, to holding the suspect at bay. I could go on and on but we don’t have time for that right now.
In 1993 I moved to Auburn. I’ve have helped a lot of friends with their dogs, and after hearing them tell me over and over again, I realized it was time to start helping all dog owners. So I started K9-101 so I can teach everybody how to have a well trained companion.