I feel that I’m pretty good at training my dogs. It came natural to me. At the same, there are dogs that are easier to train, and others that are more difficult. Sometimes a dog is mostly fine, but has a couple of quirks.
That’s the situation that I have found myself in as of late. My female dog Matouk had a bad experience at the dog park, with some aggressive dogs that wouldn’t let her pass through the sally port, upon attempting to enter the park. We finally gave up and walked away, but the experience was somewhat traumatic for her, and she started getting snippy with other dogs, unfortunately.
After attempting the curb her new behavior problem myself, to no avail, I finally turned to Kimberly Ocasio at Kim’s K9 Buffalo (dog training and advocacy).
Before we even began a training session, Kim came to my house for a free consultation, which I thought was great. She wanted to meet both of my dogs, to see how they were behaving at home, and to get to know Matouk’s personality. Within half an hour, I had a clicker in one hand, as I was learning how to diffuse MAtouk’s anxiety on walks.
I found it curious when Kim told me that Matouk’s issue was more about excitability than aggression. She suggested that we have a different type of relationship when we head out on a walk, and that I had to become more of a “believable leader.”
During our walks, Matouk was merely working, by signaling that there was danger, and then protecting her pack. By working with a different lead, and being more of a leader, I would signal to her that that’s my job, not hers. After testing the theory out, while out on a walk with Kim, I immediately understood that I was being too lax with her. I was giving her full control, because that’s what makes her happy… or so I thought. Before long, we were breezing right past “danger,” and our walk became less stressful for both of us.
That was the first step. Our next step was joining the free weekly socialization class and pack walk, which is held on Bidwell Parkway. I was a little nervous about getting Matouk interacting with numerous dogs, but my nervousness soon became a sense of calm, as I immediately saw that each dog and owner(s) was assigned to a respective traffic cone. No danger here.
During the socialization class, Kim would ask each of the owners to accomplish a task with his or her respective dog. With clicker (and treats) in hand, Matouk and I made our rounds around the ring, testing our comfortability with the other dogs, many of which had little quirks of their own – aggressive tendencies or overly-submissive tendencies, or even a dog didn’t ‘t do well around kids. Matouk passed with flying colors.
It was at that point that I realized that she only needed a little guidance, as did I. It’s no fun having a dog that can’t play nice with other dogs. It’s a very limiting existence.
From there, we all went on a pack walk, which was also beneficial. It was so nice walking with a bunch of other dogs, for the first time in a long time. Eventually, Matouk understood that this was natural. I felt more comfortable on the walk, and so did she.
Kim started the pack walks because not everyone can afford training. Someone might get a rescue dog, and learn pretty quickly that they’ve got a problem on their hands. One of Kim’s goals is to keep the dogs out of the shelters. It all starts with a phone conversation, which is when she can determine the next course of action for the dog. For some dogs, it’s an introduction to the pack walk. Or an at-home consultation. Either way, it’s an enlightening experience. It was for me, and for Matouk.
“Matouk can read your energy more than you know,” said Kim. “If you’re nervous because she’s already excited before she even walks out the door, then you’re not off to a good start. If a dog is charging the door to get out, or into the car, then you’ve got to diffuse that. It’s going to translate to the walk, or to the car ride. People love getting their dogs excited for the walks. They get them all jazzed up, and then their state of mind is all revved up. At that point, they’re already overly-excited and you’ve lost them. It’s all the little things that we don’t tend to think about. You have to tighten up her boundaries. You have got to become the believable leader, by advocating for her. Excitement and anxiety is linear – it can be hard to tell the difference.”
Guilty as charged. I’ve always gotten my dogs excited for their walks. For Matouk, that wasn’t the best idea. Now, we chill out before a walk. It’s part of learning threshold manners. It makes a big difference.
Kim first got into all of this training when she found herself with a very difficult dog of her own. After taking the dog to a trainer that came highly recommended, she was not impressed with the type of training. That was when she began to study dog behavior, psychology, training, and correction, with stress on the dog and the human. She began to work with local rescues, worked with trainers, and found mentors online, who stepped up and answered all of her questions. Eventually, word got out, and more and more people began asking Kim to help them with their dogs. That’s when she decided to start Kim’s K9 Buffalo.
“I decided that I could really help dogs,” said Kim. “Every dog is different. Nothing is cookie cutter. People tend to humanize the dogs. It’s never the dogs [laughing]. So many of the dogs have the run of the house. In their natural state, they have to earn their food and attention. There is a balanced place for them in the home. Dogs want to be told what to do. We need to honor the dogs instead of treating them like humans. Once this happens, people notice a shift in the household. It can be life changing for the dog, and for the human.”
Kim told me that she lives for dog psychology. Whether she’s working with a dog that hates skateboards, or the garbage truck, there are ways to curb their “reactiveness.”
“All dogs are amazing,” said Kim. “I invite people out to my free pack walks, or for a free consultation. I do this because I believe in the dogs. I am a dog owner, and a dog lover. I want to see people have better relationships with their dogs. It’s a funny business model… my goal is to have people not need me anymore. But they are always invited on the pack walks, no matter whether a dog (current or former client) needs it or not.”
In my opinion, most dogs should participate in the occasional pack walk, especially if/when the owner realizes that the dog park might not be the best place for them. The pack walks are a way for the dog to be socialized, without all of the doggone excitement.
Kim’s K9 Buffalo
Balanced dog training and coaching
•Community Pack Walks (see schedule on Instagram, and on Facebook)
•Group socialization classes