March 11, 2014
‘Dog whisperer’ teaches pawsitive energy
Groton woman offers dog training based on methods of hit television show
GROTON — Despite his imposing size and appearance, a 130-pound bull mastiff named Sid constantly looks to his owner, dog trainer Leah Peer, for direction and walks obediently by her side at all times.
Peer walks next to or in front of 2-year-old Sid, but never lets him lead, and uses him as a teaching tool as she helps people correct any problem a dog owner might encounter.
Dog and human aggression, destructive behavior, leash pulling, not listening and over-excitement are all common and correctable problems, Peer said.
Peer is starting her Pawsitive Energy Canine Training classes March 22 at the Spotted Zoo Pet Hotel in Groton, which is owned by Charlie and Tammie Bernhardt. The establishment offers boarding services for dogs, cats and exotic pets.
The two businesses will work collaboratively, as dogs can be boarded at the “pet hotel” for more focused training required in cases of aggression. Peer also offers in-home training classes.
Peer recently completed a Lucas Agnew training workshop in Florida, a conference run by Cheri Lucas and Brian Agnew, trainers with the television personality Cesar Millan who is known as the Dog Whisperer.
Lucas Agnew offers “Training Cesar’s Way Workshops,” teaching dog owners to correct their pet’s problem behaviors.
Last week Peer walked Sid around the Spotted Zoo Pet Hotel lobby and explained how she so easily controls the enormous dog. Even at rest, Sid would look to Peer for direction and listen for the slightest hint that Peer wanted him to do something.
The training approach that Peer teaches focuses on controlling one’s energy in a way dogs respond to. When someone has excited, uncontrolled energy, Peer said, dogs interpret that as someone who is not in control and therefore not in charge.
Before Peer learned the technique she now teaches, she had a Great Dane that wrecked her house when she was away and acted out in ways she did not understand.
But then she learned more about what the dog needed, started giving the dog exercise and direction, and in two weeks the problems abated.
Dog owners should know what kind of breed fits their personality, said Peer, explaining she would never own an Australian Shepherd because her energy levels would not match the demands of that breed. But a Bull Mastiff is a good, calm breed for many people. And it is not the length of a walk that matters most, it is how the dog is walked, she said.
“Compared to a 5-mile walk with the dog in front, a dog beside or behind you for a quarter of a mile will be more tired because he will have focused on you and exercised his brain more than anything,” Peer said.
Most dog owners do things wrong right from the start, Peer said. When a family gets a puppy, instead of getting excited over the puppy, they should take it for a walk and then take it home, having every family member walk into the house before the dog. This teaches the dog clearly that they are not the leader of the pack and in that way an owner immediately establishes the proper bond, with the dog looking to them for direction.
“With a puppy, the first act is to establish who is boss, that they are not the leader, and that makes everything else fall into place,” Peer said.
Of course this behavior must be constantly reinforced and repeated. Peer never lets Sid walk through a doorway before her and she repeats exercises where she leaves the door open not allowing Sid to go outside without her command.
The most important thing for people to focus on is their own energy. Tight, tense energy translates down a leash like an electric shock to the dog, she said. Also people have to recognize the body language exhibited by a dog. A wagging tail does not necessarily mean anything, since the dog could be exhibiting either calm, aggressive or excited behavior. But tail position and head placement are crucial, she said.
Peer said there is no set time frame for correcting problematic behavior because it depends on how long it takes people to take to the new philosophy. Correcting the dog’s behavior is easy, once the human behavior has been corrected, she said.
To arrange a training session, call Peer at 607-423-2676.
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