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If you are considering Cause and Effect (C&E) Dog Training, a few words of advice: Focus on the reviews written by C&E's current clients, not those written by onlookers at the dog park or people who knew Kathy Kear 10 years ago. If you find you can relate to C&E's current clients - their concerns about their dogs and willingness to change their relationships with their pets - then you probably are a good fit with C&E.

For my family, C&E has been a godsend. We will be forever grateful that Kathy taught us how to handle dog-aggression problems in our beloved Jack Russell Terrier, Phoebe. When we started 7 months ago, Phoebe had already been turned into the City for biting a neighbor and his dog, had been kicked out of dog daycare for aggression and bolting from the off-leash walks, had killed two skunks, attacked cats and raccoons, and almost lost an eye in a fight with the next door neighbor's dog. We were willing to do everything we could keep Phoebe, but were genuinely concerned that she was a danger to herself. We were not willing to treat her like a "disposable pet" for the sake of our kids. But we were starting to run out of alternatives.

We worked hard and C&E was a serious time commitment for us. (I'm a professor, my husband runs a software company and we've got two kids - no need for more responsibilities but there you have it.) Kathy worked with our family at home, in the neighborhood, through email, in written "cheat sheets" - in a very intensive and close-up way. It took daily effort. But that's what we needed. We needed nothing short of a "reboot" in our whole relationship with Phoebe. And because we were willing to change, Phoebe changed. Ultimately, our kids got an important lesson: even if you've got major problems like Phoebe did, your loved ones will find help and work hard to make things right.

It took a lot of effort - and yes, careful use of a prong collar, e-collar and muzzle - to get Phoebe to respect us, behave properly in an urban area (to stop trying to kill anything that moves) and come when called (JRT's have unnecessarily short life spans because they are so prone to bolt and get hit by cars). I was not familiar with leash and e-collar corrections when we started, but kept an open mind and questioned things at every step. (You can be sure that I tried that e-collar out on my own bare skin before I put it on my dog!) It really took time, effort and momentum to follow through on all the changes needed to rehabilitate our dog's aggression. But Kathy proved even more tenacious than Phoebe. Her care and understanding helped us stay the course. Even now, long after we've finished the program, she is part of our lives. She understands that rehabilitating an aggressive dog is a long term project and simply refuses to give up on us or our dog.

If there's any good analogy, I'd say that Kathy's approach is similar to the one used on NatGeo TV by the "dog whisperer." Cesar also skillfully uses leash corrections and e-collars with aggressive dogs. But the main focus is to teach the human how to communicate correctly in the dog's language. This means using body language, gestures and sounds that quietly read "do that" and "don't do that" to a dog. It means that the owner stops yelling "Sit! Fido sit!" and starts moving and giving the dog boundaries, rules and limitations. This makes the dog feel like the owner is in control so she doesn't have to be. Phoebe clearly gets now that it's not her job to constantly protect me from other dogs, guard the territory, bark at strangers, and aggress on trespassing raccoons that are twice her size. As a result, she's no longer vigilant and anxious around the house. She's relaxed and just plain happy.

It's very important that people not confuse leadership with cruelty. Kathy trains people to be leaders so their dogs can relax and stop protecting their families in all the wrong ways, like Phoebe used to. In America, we are affluent enough to have the luxury of being able to treat our pets as if they were our children. But dogs are a whole different species. They don't live in democracies. Kathy taught me how to establish leadership in the dog world so my dog could relax and be a follower. Yes, now I'm my dog's dictator, but I'm a loving, benevolent one! To me, this is the essence of compassion towards animals: fulfilling their needs and protecting them on their terms. There's a gulf of difference between leadership and tyranny.

My guess is that picking a dog trainer is like picking a school for your kid: it's all about finding the right fit since every dog is unique and has particular needs. I've had dogs my whole life but never a JRT, and never an aggressive dog. For this unique little canine, C&E Training was the perfect fit.


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