In November, Julie Barber made a change after 15 years in the health care field. Inspired by her experience learning to train her own dog, Barber opened Julie’s K9 Academy, a dog training business. Barber talked with The News-Post recently about her experience.
How did you get started with canine training?
I adopted a dog from a rescue in 2015. He was previously returned twice from the Baltimore city animal shelter. He was brought in as a stray, adopted out twice and returned twice, for just really obnoxious, overexcited behavior. No one could calm him down. Couldn’t walk him on a leash, he jumped all over people — very friendly — [but his owners] just could not figure out how to calm him down. It overwhelmed people. We adopted him, and of course had the same problems as the last couple of people. But I was like, “I cannot return this dog again. He’s going to be put to sleep.” You can’t return a dog three times. We just couldn’t figure out how to calm him down. So I started doing research about dog training. And through trial and error, I found some methods that really work well. And I started training dogs of friends and family, and I really enjoyed it and had some success. So I decided to go for it and started my own business. My first board-and-train came to me in early November.
Board and train. So do
you keep dogs there?
I offer two services. One is a two-week board-and-train. It’s just basic obedience. They learn to follow five basic obedience commands: sit, down, place, heel, and recall on and off leash, as well as crate and general household manners. And then we proof them all out in the real world — the creek, downtown, Baker Park. We take them to Home Depot, where dogs are allowed. And then we give them back to their owner. We do a two-hour go-home session where the owner is taught how to control their dog. It’s been really successful. This is my 11th dog.
How many clients do
you have at a given time?
Right now, working full time, I’ve been taking two. But I’ll be upping that to three once I quit my job. Because you’re not working the dog 24-7. You’re actually doing four focused sessions a day, and the rest of the training is passive training, in which they’re just learning how to be calm and relaxed, or out in the play yard.
What are some tips for people
who are just trying to get their
dog to have basic obedience?
Most people just want their dogs to be a little bit calmer. And so they’re usually overwhelmed and don’t know how to start training. So they think, “I’m not going to start.” Really, just starting in any way you possibly can, teaching a dog how to sit, even if it’s for a treat, is something. Teaching your dog not to rush out of the doorway before you and bolt out the front door is something, and it’s something so easy to do, and it takes two seconds. People don’t realize that, how easy it is. So many people just let their dog rule their house, and they don’t think there’s another option out there. No dog has ever been returned to a shelter because they can’t sit; it’s because they can’t be controlled.
What are some of the
biggest problems you see
with the dogs that you get?
Jumping on people, pulling at the leash, and excessive barking. Those are the top three complaints that I get.
Are those most of the dogs that you see?
Most dogs that I see — I specialize in family dogs, so it’s just your typical overexcited dog that just needs to learn to chill out. A big part of what I teach is for a dog to learn how to relax and do nothing when they’re inside. And not always have to be frantically pacing around and following their owner around from room to room, barking out the window, and just learning to lie down and chill out when they’re not playing or on a walk. That’s all people want, really.
Is that mostly with puppies, or just if a dog has never learned it?
They’ve never been taught. I’ve had dogs of all ages, from 6 months to, I think my oldest so far has been 8 years old. And it’s never too late to train. As long as they’re breathing, they’re trainable. You may not be taking them on hour-long walks, but you can definitely still teach them.
How do you go about socializing
dogs, to people and to other dogs?
Socialization is a learned thing for a dog. I compare it to — I keep my social yard like a cocktail party and not a football game. I don’t want dogs clobbering each other for an hour straight. I want them sort of just calmly existing around each other. Play is good if it’s 50-50, if both dogs are equally playing. But if I see one dog just repeatedly clobbering the other and the other’s just looking for an out or to get away, I will put a stop to that and separate them. Because it’s not fair to the dog that doesn’t want to play, and a lot of times that’s how a dog fight will break out. A lot of dogs just don’t know how to be around another dog, in the same yard as another dog, and that’s a lot of the things I teach, is just existence.
Does it help with behavior to have another dog or multiple dogs?
Most of the dogs have been only dogs, but there have been a couple from dog owners who have another dog or another two dogs, and they’ve said, “Those dogs have never given us a problem, but this dog has.” So they need help.
How you deal with each
dog’s unique personality?
With each dog, you’ve just got to find what motivates them for training. It could be food, it could be praise, it could be a toy, it could be a tennis ball, it could be physical touch. And so each one is different. So as I get to know them, there has to be motivation to train. There has to be motivation to please me and to learn. Without that, it’s like, “Alright, I’ll do it, I’ll go through the motions, but I’m not happy about it.” And so in order to make it fun, I use all different kinds of things. I use food, everything I just listed. Toys, praise, touch, ball, as a reward for completing the obedience commands.