Puppy dog eyes, head tilts, big ears, and unconditional love, who can resist? That is why I'm here. A few years ago I went through a point in my life that I decided I wanted to change careers. I wanted something that I was passionate about, something I loved. Some people call it "halftime" or a "mid-life crisis", but I call it just what the doctor ordered! I soul searched, read personal development books, and prayed about what my next move was. Everything kept leading me back to dogs!
Mel's Mutts Dog Training, Walking and Agility was founded in 2019. I wanted more exposure to a variety of dog breeds, ages, personalities, and behaviors, so I decided to start walking dogs after my part-time job. I began volunteering for a local non-profit, Semper K9 Assistance Dogs, and that was the confirmation I needed to show me where my next career was meant to be. I attended training classes (and still do!) to learn how to train a service dog, and our first service dog in training, Tink, officially graduated as a team with his permanent handler in Feb. 2020. While training Tink, we were exposed to agility training, which he loved. The more we were in an agility environment, the more I realized how agility work is the equivalent of a playground for kids. The dogs love it! It is a fun challenge, builds their confidence, and it's an amazing activity that humans and dogs can do together that strengthens their bond. It's difficult to find a place to learn and practice agility without traveling a decent distance, so I decided to provide agility training as part of Mel's Mutts!
So who am I as a person? I've lived in the Northern Virginia area since I was a teenager. I didn't grow up with dogs, but after I got married and our work schedules changed drastically, leaving either my husband or me home at opposite times, we decided to get a dog. We got a 12 week old German Shepherd, Niko. We were inexperienced dog owners of a large breed and strong personality dog, and although we didn't know much, we knew he couldn't rule the house. We went through puppy obedience training with him, which he aced. The next training class we took him to we were kicked out of (or politely asked to not come back). The trainer asked me if I wanted a project, or if I wanted a pet. It infuriated me, and was the sort of thing where I was determined that I'd prove her wrong. I did just that, and we enjoyed Niko as our loving furball for 9 years before cancer sent him over the rainbow bridge. 2 years later we adopted a 1-year old German Shepherd, Maggie, who is the original dog of Mel's Mutts. Maggie came from Virginia German Shepherd Rescue, and we found a diamond in the "ruff" with her! The day we met Maggie she came to us as a timid, unsure dog with her tail between her legs, literally. Our 4-year old daughter (at the time) tossed a stick and Maggie retrieved it and brought it back to her. The man who had been fostering Maggie told us he's never seen her do anything like that and was amazed at how she immediately warmed up to our daughter. We knew we needed a dog that was good with kids, and we took Maggie home with us. She's now a confident 7-year old furry part of our family!
I have always believed that the owners need to be in charge and in control of their dogs. I believe that having a clear set of boundaries is not just necessary, but it's what the dog wants, too. The best way we can love our dogs is by being a good leader and teaching them what they need to be a great part of the family. It makes everyone happier! I believe in positive reinforcement, I believe in treats for training and encouraging good behavior. I believe that being firm is different than being fierce, and that you can be firm and loving at the same time! It also gets you much further with a dog than being a softy! Dogs, like humans, are social animals, who enjoy love and family life. Let’s get them out of the (figurative) dog house, give them more positive reinforcement, and turn them into another important member of your family!