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Why Pick Soozy Pooch?

Growing up in a household of animals teaches you many life lessons such as responsibility, how to love and to understand death.

Since my mother is a huge animal lover, our house was always graced with at least two or three dogs, many cats, several birds and other little critters. I always had a strong bond with the animals in our home. I seemed to be able to read and understand them better than my siblings and even my parents. Being around animals is so natural for me, I can’t imagine life without them. It’s only natural that when it was time for me to hit the work field I would find myself working with them.

At one point in my young adulthood I was employed as a kennel worker in three different dog-kennel facilities: Emas Pet Hospital in Ardmore, PA; The ASPCA in Media, PA; and Old Marple Boarding Kennles in Springfield, PA.

I would literally go from one job to the next. My duties at each kennel were to feed, bath and exercise the dogs. I ran into hundreds of dogs with different energies and personalities, but I knew there was more to this. I wanted to move on and work with animals on a higher level.

I took a course in animal science and learned many things about animal health and a bit about behavior. That is when I knew where my interests truly were: animal behavior. I enrolled in a dog-training course from The National Institute of Dog Training with Matthew Margolis in Diamond Springs, CA. Uncle Matty is the trainer of the “stars dogs” and “star dogs” (dogs in movies) themselves. Here I learned the correct way to give corrections, the importance of praise, amazing training techniques and how to build and run my own business. I learned so much, but I was hungry for more knowledge.

I wanted to know why dogs were misbehaving and what was going on in their minds.

Later, I took a job working as a veterinarian technician at Old Marple Vet. Hospital in Springfield, PA. I ended up working there about seven years. I started out knowing only a little from the animal science course I had taken earlier, but the head veterinarian (and owner of the establishment) had faith in me. He said the best way to learn is to do. He was right. I don’t think any book could have taught me better from what I learned by being hands on.

At Old Marple, I worked with the dogs and cats: taking their blood, x-rays, giving treatments for the sick, restraining animals and assisting in surgery. I learned so much about pet health care, diseases and treatments for injuries. I dealt with the animals and their families in their most vulnerable times.

Still, my need to understand animal behavior was still so strong. I asked the owner if I could read the books he had in the hospital on animal behavior. He said as long as I kept the books on the premises I could read whatever I wanted. What a goldmine! I was able to read books from the University of Pennsylvania and books by other behaviorists and scientists that I could not just go out and buy — and if I could I couldn’t afford.

On my lunch break I would read, read, read. After my shifts I would stay late and read more…any chance I got I would be reading. With the knowledge I obtained I began to work with the dogs in the hospital's adoption program, which were all dogs surrendered by their families for behavioral issues.

I soon learned that reading about things and actually doing them are two different things.

Each dog was so different from the next and responded differently to corrections and praise depending on their energy levels and personalities.

I also learned that you can teach a dog certain rules, but when placed into a new family that does not enforce those rules, the dog behavioral issues resurface. Realizing this, I set up a training program for the families that adopted dogs. I would go to their homes and teach the new owners what the dogs were capable of as long as someone was there to enforce the rules and continue the training.

Somewhere along the line, I jumped out of the animal field and started working with children.

For one year I had a wonderful experience working as a music therapist and art teacher for autistic children at Green Tree School in Germantown, PA. Each child was at a different level of learning and communication. Some were great at speech others would use pecs (pictures) or sign language to communicate. Working with these children I learned many precious lessons such as the importance of body language, the necessity of patience and the power of positive reinforcement. I found that each child, no matter what level of learning, would pick things up quicker if I made learning or doing so fun. This was done through giving rewards or even sometimes just talking about the exercises and projects in a more excited fashion.

I also learned that the more projects I gave the children to be in charge of, the more confident they felt and would be more focused and inspired to work. Of course, I cannot compare a child to a dog, though some studies prove dogs have the same learning capacity as a three year old human child. Humans and dogs have different needs and desires. Working with these children gave me great experience and insight on teaching and communicating on many different levels. I will never forget it and am forever grateful for what each child has taught me.

Back into the world of dogs…

I soon came across a wonderful opportunity to work with dogs again...and back I went.

This time, I began working for Pattonium Inc., a breeder in Wynnewood, PA. What an amazing opportunity this was! I was now able to learn from the best teachers of dog training and behavior…the dogs themselves.

I had a front row seat to watch communication and play between littermates, corrections from the dam (mama dog) to her pups and the relationship the dam and the pups had with the sire (daddy dog).

I found myself surrounded by over 20 dogs for 8 hours a day 6 days a week.

I learned so much about the body language of the dog and the pack hierarchy. I was able to experience the difference between training and communicating with a “new to the world” puppy as compared to the adoption dogs I had worked with previously.

Not only were these dogs the best teachers I’ve ever had they were also the most intense, dominant dogs to learn from, Rottweiler’s, Boerboel’s (South African Mastiffs) and Cane Corso’s (Italian Mastiffs). Because of the intensity of these breeds I learned one of the most precious lessons of all…How to be ALPHA. The other, “so called”, more experienced handlers instructed me the bigger and more dominant the dog, the more harsh and rough I needed to be. The dogs, however, quickly taught me that was the wrong way to act towards them and it was a sure way to get myself injured or possibly killed. The dogs taught me “alpha” is about respect.

With over 25 years of working with dogs and 15 years of working with their owners,
I find I am still learning and growing with them, discovering new tweaks to the methods.

And every dog and family I work with is as precious as the last.

Patti La Belle, Cesar Millan, Soozy PoochI continue to study dog behavior and continue to teach it to everyone and anyone who wants to learn. I’m still reading, watching and listening. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and discussing techniques with many amazing trainers and behaviorist across the United States, including the world famous Cesar Millan — who had helped me bring one of the dogs I work with into my own pack successfully.

Millan’s amazing understanding of dogs brought me to a new level by pointing out the small details I was missing and taking me on a roller coaster ride of soul searching to find the true alpha within myself. I hope to continue meeting more amazing trainers and behaviorists. Everyone I meet (dog or human) teaches me more about myself and brings to the surface the mistakes I make (and I have made almost every mistake in the book) to help me understand that there is always more to learn, figure out and teach. I especially have so much respect for my own family… a pack of four dogs, five cats and two humans.

Not one minute in our home is ever dull.

I hope to always have the pleasure of being surrounded by dogs, dogs, dogs and the simple, beautiful way they view life.

SoozyPooch dog trainer, behaviorist serving all of Philadelphia and surrounding areas ©2019