Professional dog trainer Jennie Jones, owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Wartrace, has introduced a new service that’s designed to place highly-trained rescue dogs into loving homes with advanced tools for their long-term success.
“A lot of people give their dogs up because of behavior problems or lack of knowledge how to get through the puppy and adolescent stages,” said Jones. “Our program focuses on prevention by setting up the owner and dog to succeed.”
Trained at the Triple Crown Academy in Hutto, Texas (now Starmark Academy), Jones opened her dog training business in 2001. Over the course of the last 14 years, she has been hired to correct a host of pet problems that would lead many homeowners to completely abandon their pets.
So, she’s recently come up with a plan to fully train rescue animals for placement before they develop the bad habits that can drive a wedge between a pet and his owner.
“These come from what we’ve seen from over the years. We’ve done a lot of boarding trains where people bring their dog to us and pay us a bunch of money to fix a bunch of problems,” said Jones. “So not only are we training them, but before we can train them we have to go back and fix a lot of things.” With the new “Saved and Trained” program, Jones said, “We’re trying to work on prevention here.”
Dogs that enter limited-space Kindred Spirits’ program can be saved from any number of situations. Some are rescued from puppy mills and some are intercepted before an owner abandons the dog to a shelter, but most are rescued from area shelters. “We’re big on going to animal control because those, a lot of times, are kill shelters,” said Jones.
Jones said that when she visits a shelter, she is looking for specific traits in a dog that will match certain family dynamics and lifestyles that she’s seen over the years.
“Ideally, what we’re looking for are the dogs that are going to be really good matches for home family companionship. And usually, unfortunately, those are the ones that are passed up in the shelters.”
Sitting quietly near Jones as she makes this point is a personable 3-year-old female mixed breed named Star, who was rescued by one of Kindred Spirits’ apprentices.
“We see dogs like Star in the shelters all the time, great little companion dogs that are put down. She’s a sweetheart, but she gets passed up because she is kind of plain Jane. But she’s a great mellow family dog.”
“We see so much value in these dogs,” said Jones. “I still meet so many people who go out and buy pure-bred dogs – and there’s nothing wrong with getting a pure-bred dog – but a lot of times the dog they pick was bred to work and they are the wrong match. A lot of times, what people are doing is going out and buying dogs because they are cute or they have this eye color or that eye color and that can lead to a lot of heartache because it’s not necessarily the right match for their lifestyle. People go for the huskies with the blue eyes and don’t realize how much dog they are getting.”
Shelter dogs, on the other hand, often tend to be mixed breed dogs that don’t have the same strong innate characteristics of the often-bred working breeds, which Jones says “makes them better, more home-bodied type of pets for people who are working five days a week and who play with their dog on weekends.”
“We’re picking dogs and we’re looking at them from the standpoint ‘Okay, can I turn this dog into a well-rounded family pet?’ A lot of people think that’s the easiest but actually it’s the hardest. I liken it to lesson horses for kids at riding camps. Those guys are worth their weight in gold because you want to put your children on them. You really need something that’s balanced mentally and exposed to a lot of things.”
Choosing the right dog
Jones said that her years of experience in training help her to select those mild, balanced and non-aggressive dogs that can be trained to fit into an average home situation but which might otherwise be overlooked in shelter situations.
It’s matching those dogs to the right owners, Jones said, that is key.
“A lot of times families with small children will pick a really high-energy dog. And the kids are in school and the parents are working and it’s really not the right match. That dog might be better matched with a young person that has more free time – like maybe a college student that’s into athletics – or an older person that has more free time.”
On the flip side, there are those families for whom a high-energy dog would be ideal. “So we have several dogs at one time and we pick a range.”
Once selected, “Saved and Trained” dogs are spayed or neutered and are tested for heartworms. Then the training begins.
Depending on the dog, that training can take a matter of months or up to a full year.
By the time a “Saved and Trained” dog is ready for sale, he has learned to sit calmly for leashing and unleashing, to ride calmly in a car and then to wait at the car door rather than shooting out into traffic or across a parking lot, to not rush the door when its owner admits guests and to go to its crate and stay in its kennel while the guests are there.
The trained dog knows to accept baths, trips to the vet and nail trimmings and he’s also been fully socialized and exposed to a wide array of people and other animals, including cats.
“You can put in a dog in a home that has no cats and that’s great, but the owner is still going to have to deal with cats at some point if they have the dog outside. They need to have some kind of command that means ‘don’t touch’ or ‘leave it alone’ and that command can be for anything from a cookie in front of its nose to a cat or a cigarette on the ground.”
And, of course, the pet is fully housetrained.
“We’re trying to do simple things really well — the basics of what people really need in a pet dog — so that they can take the dog home and it will flow much better into their household and into their life.”
But around-the-clock, expert dog training doesn’t come cheaply. Jones said that the baseline starting price for one of her “Saved and Trained” dogs is about $3,000.
Still, that’s a price that allows a new pet owner to bypass a whole host of startup costs – from veterinarian expenses to basic pet supplies – and to confidently avoid the repair and replacement costs that often come with breaking in a new pet. “Saved and Trained” dogs won’t scratch the walls or furniture, won’t chew shoes or other household items and aren’t going to soil the carpets – causing damage that easily match the cost of buying a fully trained dog.
“The training is where the bulk of the cost comes from. Dog training is like anything else that takes time and skill. You’re talking about people who do it on a daily basis and have the skills and a lot to offer to make dogs that can make people’s lives better.”
“Our dogs go with us on vacation, they travel with us everywhere. We invest a lot of time and education into it. We have countless hours invested in them for the socialization and exposure in addition to the basic commands,” Jones said.
“The dogs are not only obedience trained, they are house trained and they are socialized. You’re talking about the whole package.”
In addition to their extensive training, “Saved and Trained” dogs are fully vetted and come with a six month supply of heartworm medicine as well all of their own gear.
Standard gear includes a leash and collar, a food bowl, a pet bed and a selection of toys. Some dogs, though, come with additional gear that is specific to the animal. For example, an off-leash “adventure dog” named Josie comes with her own life vest because, Jones said, she loves to be out on the water but isn’t a great fan of swimming.
Jones also stressed that every dog comes with a crate.
“We believe that the crate is very important. That doesn’t mean that every dog that we sell is going to be crated at home because some people are not going to want to do that, but all our dogs are crate trained because it goes back to their vet care and their boarding care.”
Jones said that when she worked at veterinary clinics, she saw first-hand how pets that were never crate trained would go through “a lot of trauma” when they were boarded.
“I learned that early on,” said Jones. “It can be sad. When they go to stay at the vet, they’re going to be in a kennel or a cage – and sometimes, unfortunately, they have to go.” Because times of sickness are already stressful for a pet, Jones said, “We believe (crate training) is really important for their mental health.”
“It’s a new concept. I’m really passionate about it,” said Jones. “My hope with this program is that people will see it as something they can use in their lives. I hope this will bring more recognition to rescue dogs and to educators in the industry.”
Currently, Kindred Spirits has three dogs that are trained and ready to go. Another two are undergoing training.
Jones will be on hand with Star to discuss her “Saved and Trained” program during the Tullahoma Animal Shelter’s Sept. 19 celebration of Pet Appreciation Week at Tractor Supply.
Star is expected to be available for purchase after an Oct. 9 follow-up visit to her vet.
For more information about the program or about Jones’ training services call 931-580-4467 or visit the dogs online at www.kindredspiritsdogtraining.com.