When you hire a trainer it can be kind of a daunting thing. Who do you pick? How do you know if a trainer is the right fit for you? How do you know who has the right information? How can you be sure you will be comfortable with this person entering your home? The last question is especially true if you are planning to set up services like Day Training, Dog Walking, or Pet Sitting where you may not be home. We thought, given all of these big questions, it would be a good idea to spend some time introducing ourselves in a bit more depth than we have done before. We want to give you a glimpse into our journeys and why we decided to become trainers, and help you get to know us a little bit better.
Since this was my idea, I’m going first! The very first thing I remember wanting to be when I “grew up” was a Veterinarian. I wanted to be one for most of my childhood. For a little while it changed to Olympic Equestrian, but quickly went back to Veterinarian when my lack of physical prowess became apparent. As I grew up, things shifted a bit and I stopped wanting to be a Veterinarian when I realized what was really entailed in that job, and that it wasn’t just about cuddling cute animals all day. It didn't diminish my love for animals though. I spent most of my childhood talking people into letting me walk their dogs and pet sit for them just to spend time with dogs.
You see, I had the absolute misfortune of being born into a household that wasn’t super dog friendly. My mom is very allergic to most things with fur, my sister was afraid of dogs for most of our childhood, and my dad was not their biggest fan. All of which meant I didn’t get to have my own dog. Not until my eighteenth birthday. On my eighteenth birthday I got to go to the shelter and pick out my very first dog; Tyler. I had a full plan going in of what type of dog to look for, and ended up leaving with the exact opposite. I very quickly found myself overwhelmed with what to do with this Australian Cattle Dog puppy.
As soon as I could, I got us signed up for a puppy class. The first class was horribly embarrassing. The class assistant had to take Tyler out of the room four or five times because she was just barking every time the trainer tried to speak. She blew through the provided Kong in no time flat, and then immediately went back to barking. It was awful! I left that first class thinking that we would never be successful. But as we went through the class I really started to fall in love with training with my dog, and learning everything I could about it. As soon as puppy class ended we jumped right into an obedience class, and then into Agility from there.
As I fell more and more in love with the process of training with Tyler, I started reading every book I could get my hands on. I also started relentlessly begging the trainers at the facility I was going to, to give me a job. I’m pretty sure they got super tired of me asking all the time if they were hiring. Eventually, after about six months of non-stop asking, I got a job in their kennel. It was the hardest, and most amazing job of my life. I started out splitting my time between working at a Veterinary Clinic and at the boarding kennel, but as soon as I could I shifted to full time at the kennel.
Once I was full time at the kennel I started to take every single class I could with Tyler, and began to observe and shadow the trainers. This was my deep dive into the world of dog training. For three years I ate, drank, and dreamed dog training. After three years at that kennel, it was time to make a move. I had moved to San Marcos and the commute to Pflugerville was becoming pretty awful. So I got a new job working at a shelter and humane society in Kyle. This meant that my education towards becoming a trainer went a little bit on hold.
About a year before moving jobs we had added a second dog to our home, Oliver. He was an entirely new challenge when it came to training. He was wonderful and easy for his first few months with us, but as he got comfortable he started presenting us with a brand new challenge: leash reactivity. He was my first exposure to reactivity of any kind, and it was one hell of a wake-up call for my handling skills. We ended up taking private lessons with him with a wonderful South Austin trainer, and learned so much.
As I moved into working at the shelter I was exposed to a lot more of the behavior side of life with dogs, versus just teaching skills. It was an amazing learning experience and just a wonderful place to work. While working there I ended up bringing our third pup home as well. Allie was a transfer from another shelter who was completely shut down in our kennel. She wouldn’t eat or move, and basically spent two weeks just glued to the back of her kennel out of fear. So I brought her home as a foster. It took her about six months of being in our home to be able to approach us and take food from us. After nine months with us, she had finally started to seek attention and really interact with us, and we decided that she was here to stay.
After a year of working in Kyle, life brought us back to Austin and I got the opportunity to come back to training professionally. During my time at the shelter I had kept reading and taking webinars and other learning opportunities, but I was so thrilled to get back to a setting where I could discuss training constantly with people who knew more than me. I came into working at a training and daycare facility in South Austin and got my first real exposure to working with dogs in a really urban environment. We were right in the South Austin area and did a lot of working with dogs on South Congress, Auditorium Shores, Zilker, and other similar spots. I started doing training in groups for the first time ever, and got so much practice working with dogs on patios and out and about in public. Classes were always in public and my very first Basic Obedience class shifted locations constantly. This was a huge learning curve for me that was going on at the same time as my time in the Karen Pryor Academy. It was a few years of really intense learning.
It was during my time there that I really found how much I enjoyed working with dogs out and about in public. How enjoyable it is to hang out at a restaurant with your dog settled at your feet on a patio, how fun it is to wander around a store with your dog, and how much fun it is to enjoy off leash spaces with well trained dogs. While at this job I learned so much about working with multiple dogs at the same time as well. This is the place where I really found my passions in dog training and the things that really brought me joy to teach.
After a few years in South Austin, I was invited back to the very first kennel I had worked at to work as a trainer this time. I was very excited to go back and join the new training team that they were building, and get to work with some old friends again. It was this time around that Lydia and I ended up working very closely together. After a little while it was just the two of us and we built some great programs together and really enjoyed working together. Through this time working together we were inspired to step out on our own, and Enlightened Hounds was born!
My journey to training has been unexpected and fairly convoluted, and largely driven by the dogs I share my life with. The recent departure of Tyler from our home has started to shift our focuses at home in yet another direction, and although it’s sad I’m excited to keep learning and keep growing.