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Melanie and Pony

I can hardly believe that I am now walking my pit bull, Pony, in dog parks around Berkeley. In the Midwest, I walked him three times each day, taking care not to let him interact with other dogs (and the people who were quick to avoid him). Soon after arriving in the East Bay, I met a few calm, sweet pit bull dogs and their young owners walking in the Solano neighborhood in Berkeley. The image of the way that people around them casually accepted them and their calmness stayed with me. I really wanted to feel that Pony and I could simply walk calmly down a street like that. But I knew that we had challenges- my lack of experience in dog training and his lack of social experiences and reaction to other dogs. So I set a goal to spend my first months in California working with a trainer to try to get Pony to relax and be more comfortable with other dogs.

I was delighted when I found Kathy Kear. Although she was very busy, she agreed to meet us. Her reputation as a trainer with pit bulls (as well as with many other breeds) is so strong that I had confidence in her right away. While I set out to get her help to change Pony, I was surprised when I found that Kathy was helping ME - to develop my leadership ability and confidence. I was really grateful when she supported me to develop calm assertiveness and a more focused presence with Pony (in place of my usual focus on others around us).

Kathy has taught me to:
* trust in the training process and not focus so much on outcomes;
* detach from my emotions and trust in myself as a leader; and
* balance focused training challenges with moments of release as a way to build confidence in Pony.

Pony is starting to relax, knowing that he can trust me to take care of him and lead him! So, these days, while I still have Pony on a leash and use a muzzle in the dog parks, we participate in pack walks with other dogs! Soon, he will be going on pack walks with a wonderful dog walker to whom Kathy referred us. At times, these changes seem miraculous, but I know they are the result of: Kathy's wonderful calm yet challenging teaching style, the way she clearly models leadership and provides demonstrations, and my own hours of practice with Pony. I am grateful for Kathy's ongoing support and for her excellent training notes which I refer to frequently to remind me about the focus for our practice sessions. I look forward to many more lessons with Kathy!

Melanie McIntosh,
Kensington, California

 

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