Welcome to at-home games-based training!
Hello, Hello! From me and Oberon! We're happy to have you visiting our page and would love to tell you a little big about ourselves.
My name is Kirsten and I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. I have one dog named Oberon, who was adopted from the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Mass. while I was living in New Hampshire with my heart-dog Pepper, who passed away in August 2021 from cancer.
Pepper was a beautiful coconut retriever (no, that's not a real breed, it's what you call island dogs of unknown origin). I had her since she showed up on my doorstep as a pup in late 2006. Two years ago, I knew it was getting time to prepare to say good bye to Pepper, so I went to the shelter to see who they had. I found Oberon (who was named Luca by the rescue), he was sucking on his blanket in his kennel and I knew he would be a sweet calm boy. Joke was on me - he has tons of energy!
I brought him home and immediately he tried to take over the house. Pepper wasn't having it though and he learned to respect her quickly, which was great because at 12 years old she didn't need a puppy jumping all over her. Oberon had a great playmate in my roommates' 6 year old border collie cross and our neighbor's dogs.
Oberon was my inspiration to become a professional dog trainer.
I don't remember doing much when I was training Pepper. I lived on an island the first six months I had her and she went everywhere with me (even to work where she got to hang out and get free prime rib). She was a pretty good girl and flew with me 4 times before we moved back stateside and then into an apartment in Florida. She even went cross country with me in my RV!
Oberon, on the other hand, was a fearful pup (there are still a few things that really worry him but we're working on it.) He was afraid of his own reflection in the window when it got dark, wasn't a fan of the car, was afraid of men and little people (children), and even the ceiling fan. We started puppy classes at PetSmart but unfortunately they got cancelled because of covid. What was I going to do? Well...
We found the Sexier Than a Squirrel program and it changed our lives!
Sexier Than a Squirrel (STAS) is a 25 day online program by Absolute Dogs, meant to be an at home training course designed during lockdown. At first I was like this is a little crazy. I mean, looking at the dogs on the demo videos who jumped off their beds and happily worked through their games seemed impossible with my guys. Day 1 is ditching the bowl. At this point I had 3 dog in the house and I wasn't ditching anything. Day 2 was orientation game and I started to see why you would ditch the bowl, because after all, that's a lot of cookies to be tossing around. Not going to lie, I switched Obi from regular puppy food to large breed puppy food so I didn't have so many little pieces of kibble after I really got into things. What shocked me the most is all three dogs (Pepper, Oberon and Piper - my roommate's dog) got into it. The more we played the games the more engaged they were. I rarely use a bowl any more - just when I'm really rushed, or I forgot to make kongs for their supplements, I'll give some kibble in a bowl just so I have something to sprinkle supplements on.
I was hooked too! When STAS was over I needed more - more games to play and how in the world did Tom and Lauren get their dogs to wait patiently on their beds? - so I joined the Absolute Dogs Training Academy - a monthly subscription service that included a private facebook group with live teaching and tons of games to learn and play. We started with Boundaries and Calmness because after a long day at work, I was not ready to go running around chasing Obi, who liked to steal socks, pens, pieces of paper that just happened to fall on the floor after he nudged them off the coffee table with his chin.
From there I got sucked into their Pro Dog Trainer (PDT) program, which I was only doing for my dogs. Nope, I totally took that course and ran with it. I completed the core PDT course and Geek (which has a behavior/science emphasis) and said, "Nuts to my ten hour work days! I'm getting a job with dogs!"
Since then I quit my job as a Wine Manager at a chain wine and spirits shop and got brief stint as a daycare attendant and trainer at a doggie daycare. From then I got a heads up about Last Chance Ranch looking for a Canine Behavior Manager and that is where I am today.
Since I joined Last Chance Ranch, I get to work with dogs all day (well in addition to running the Dog Volunteer Program and doing adoption appointments). I've been able to use the skills I learned becoming a PDT to help enrich the lives of the dogs in the shelter. I've also fostered several dogs, all of whom get to play games while they're with me. First was Ivory, who got injured and needed a quiet spot out of the kennel to heal. She was adopted fairly quickly by a lovely older lady.
Next was PJ, who was so incredibly shy that when I did her behavior eval at the Ranch, I couldn't get a read on her because she just shut down and wouldn't approach me. Turns out she just needed an Oberon to show her what life was like. The first few days she was home, I couldn't get close to her but she would follow Obi around like a little shadow. It made taking her outside for potty breaks much easier. We played a few confidence games and let her learn without pressure and she made great progress. PJ spent about a month with me before going to a lovely family with two other dogs.
Boss was third. He's a spunky Lab mix who has way too much energy to be cooped up in the kennel all day. I brought him home because he was giving all the volunteers a run for their money. He likes to carry things around and when he is really excited that might mean your hands or fuzzy boots, even if your foot is still in it! At home he was still a little mouthy but no where near as crazy as he was at the Ranch. He got along well with Oberon and my grandparents' dog. He reminds me a lot of when Oberon was a puppy and needed a lot of supervision. He is still at the Ranch and available for adoption. Unfortunately there was another guy who needed my help so Boss had to go back to make room for my fourth foster.
Vader is my latest foster and he is a special needs dog. He has a neurological issue that causes him to spin to the left almost constantly when he's moving. The kennel environment was making this abnormal repetitive behavior (ARB) worse and there was a question of whether or not he was incontinent and suffering. I did not think he was. I saw a happy little guy who didn't ever pee on his bed in the kennel so I volunteered to give him a home trial knowing that if I was wrong, I'd have to deal with belly bands and a lot of clean up. Fortunately for my floors, I was right. Incontinence was not an issue. Spinning, however, is but we've been using games to practice moving in the other direction or in a straight line and every day he moves with less spinning. To get real answers about why he spins he would need more tests done that neither myself or the rescue can afford, so we'll just work with what we've got for now. Oberon and Lucy, my grandparents' dog, have been helping because Vader loves to run around the yard and chase them. He almost always goes straight when he has someone to run after. I know he'll never be 100% but he has a home with me until an adopter comes along who can handle his special needs.
Thank you for visiting with us!
If you're interested in learning more about the Sexier Than a Squirrel Challenge or would like more information about the Absolute Dogs Training Academy or to set up your own private training, message me here: