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  • Cassidy

Handling Reactivity - with Eddie from Classic K9 Academy

Transcribed from the Spicy Dog Mama Podcast

Hey guys, it's episode nine, I kind of can't believe it. But thank you so much if this is your first time listening, or if you've been here since the beginning, which also feels like yesterday, I'm Cass, the host of the Spicy Dog Mama podcast. And I'm dog mom to Rey my reactive bully breed girl, who I'm very much so obsessed with. I use this platform to share my experiences rescuing, raising and training three very different dogs, the mistakes that I've made and the wins that we've had, to help and encourage others on a similar journey.


It can be hard raising a dog even without reactivity. And I think that all owners have something that we can learn from one another. But all of our dogs are different, and our journeys will all be different. So no matter what, just do what is best for your dog. Remember that my experience is just that, it's mine. I'm learning as I go. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm not an expert. I'm not a trainer, no matter what I've gone through, seek professional guidance for your own dog with a trainer that matches your values.


So on this episode, I do get to chat with a trainer, which I only just got to know recently. Eddie from Classic K9 Academy will share parts of his journey, where he started, what he's learned and how he got to where he is today. Just like all of us mistakes were made, but he's found what works for him, and has been able to help others as well. Let's go.


Cassidy

Hello! I've pretty well only been following you since starting this podcast. I heard about you through @RaisingRoxy who is just an absolute star. Her and her mom, holy smokes. They're doing incredibly.


Eddie

They are amazing. They are a story to tell unravel. For sure.


Cassidy

Why don't you just introduce yourself?

Eddie

Alright, so my name is Eddie, I am the founder of Classic K9 Academy, I have roughly reaching about eight years of experience. Prior to doing this whole training, I was actually a dog handler for a structured daycare, which I'm actually in the process of owning as well. So before I did any sort of training, I was actually watching dogs and understanding certain breeds have certain personalities, meaning certain breeds work better through different styles of training.


Cassidy

Do you focus mostly with reactive dogs?

Eddie

I deal with a lot of... surprising, right now due to COVID, it's a lot more anxious dogs rather than reactive. Prior to COVID. It was a lot of aggressive/reactive/dog to dog aggression, like those kind of behavior cases I was dealing with. Now it's more so obedience and anxiousness.


Cassidy

Probably prior to COVID it was poor or the incorrect socialization. And then because of COVID, there was the lack of socialization.


Eddie

Exactly. Well, the thing is people don't understand due to like reactivity. It doesn't stem from aggression, that usually stems from lack of confidence and anxiety as well. So that's kind of like, so it does fit in with anxiety with reactivity, it just really depends on the dog. And that's what kind of my experience comes through. Like say, I can work with a Bully, a Great Dane, a Shiba Inu, a Husky, a Cane Corso. And because I have the experience of through their personality, not just reading it up online before seeing the, I guess you can say, the clients, but I can see their dogs in action around other dogs as well. So I do understand more so the dog's body language, which is where I can actually work through his dog body language rather than just correct, correct, correct, reward, reward, reward. I try to figure it out behavior first, and why the dogs act this way. And right now I'm looking into, like I said, owning the business, structure daycare, where 80% of the dogs that we currently have in a structured daycare came from behavior. So it's not impossible to have a dog who's primarily aggressive to be a good dog around other dogs. Yes, they might need attention. But they are still living the life they want to have in front around other dogs as well.


Cassidy

I love that. I think that there should be more structured style daycares. I'm not one who wants to send Rey to a daycare because of the way that she is, the environment. It's not necessarily a space that she's going to want to be in because of the over excitement and the noise.


Eddie

And the difference here is there are there are daycares out there who may be good. It's just you want to be very careful. Last thing you want is to bring your dog to a daycare where it's structured as if it's a dog park, right? And the way we do it with our company is we actually, and this is not to say like hey, come to me, I'm structured. It's nothing like that. It's just so people actually ask certain questions. If they are interested in daycare, and they don't come to us ask these certain questions or see what their methods are.


For example, the structure daycare that we have here is the same people who are training dogs are watching your dogs in a daycare so they understand that dog who is going through training and their quirks, it's triggers etc, and watch them in the daycare, having a dog calm down if they're overstimulated, introduce them to the pack correctly, you know, speaking to the owner. So this is one thing where it's honesty first for us, where if a dog actually has issues at the end of day be like, hey, that you might want to look into this and this and that, to make sure the dog goes home well and the trainer's or even the owners understand 'Hey, he is right. We're going to work on this'. We don't have to go to him to work on it. But we'll give you guys advice on how to actually work on your dog at home as well.


Cassidy

I love that. That's super cool. I mean, some dogs can do just fine in the high energy, crazy daycares. It also might lead to some leash reactivity or frustration, but I don't think they should only be for the happy go lucky dog.


Eddie

In all reality, dogs socialization isn't your dog playing 24/7? Right? That's what people have to understand. It's simply your dog is okay sitting laying down next to another dog. And watching dogs play as well. That is enough mental stimulation when a dog goes home and learns like, Hey, I don't have to join this play over here. Just because I'm with them. I just have to look and be like, Okay, it's alright. I'm safe here. So understanding the dog is one thing as well, where the dog actually understands, first of all, that dogs in their area is safe and has no need to react if they're in the general area as well.


Cassidy

No, that's awesome.

When you first started working at the daycare, did you already have any kind of training experience? Or did you go in blind to behavior.

Eddie

So the funny story is my parents never allowed me to have a dog. So I was 17 at the time, working at McDonald's, I pretty much did everything incorrectly that I that most people would be like, Hey, don't do this. So I had like, exactly with dogs. So with my own dog, so this story with my own dog is we're actually got into the training business as well and handling dogs. I had $600 t o my name working at McDonald's. I went on Kijiji that's already a red flag right there and looked up doberman. They didn't do any research on their breed. Another red flag right there.


Cassidy

A good looking dog. That's what you thought. Right?


Eddie

Exactly. I fell for everything that should not have been done in the first place. Right? I went over there. The parents they opened the door, the parents of the Dobermans puppies were barking at me, another red flag, right? And because I was 17 at the time, and I really, really wanted a dog I adopted a dog, their priced at around 850 or $1,000, something like that. And I told them hey, I only have this much. Right? So they gave me the runt of the litter and they gave me the puppy that has a scar on its tail through docking. And that's how I ended up with my now almost 11 year old doberman.


I went through a lot of mistakes that now I'm learning and because I went through those mistakes experience wise, I'm able to let people know like hey, like this is not what you guys want to do their dog. I learned firsthand going through like three mattresses, two couches, many shoes, many clothing, carpets like I've been through the whole nine yards. Yeah, he was reactive to buses, dogs, bikes, etc etc. So I was I was having to work on that. And and then what happened was I went to the, I actually applied to be a dog handler, I mentored under David who actually- the reason- so the place is actually called The Original Dog House. It the reason why it was called that it was opened up 18 years ago, so it was the first ever dog daycare center in Toronto. That is why it's called The Original Dog House. And he worked with a lot of dogs prior, he was in the military working with dogs as well. So I mentored under him but as time goes on, technology goes on as well. So I'm applying things that I would be learning to this generation and adding some of it from past generations and pretty much using my own, quote unquote, balance method as well.


Cassidy

Yeah, we're gonna learn and grow 100% along the way. I want to talk about your Doberman because I want to know exactly... was it all fine and good? You had a puppy, you were just kind of teach him like...


When did things really start going downhill?

Eddie

First of all, I didn't do crate training when he was young, biggest mistake. There goes the mattresses right, the mattresses, the carpets, pee everywhere in the house. Which is why I always drive people to get a crate for your puppy for your dog. And then eventually you can wean off I'm not saying to keep them there for your whole life. If you get off of it, let your dog free roam, it's totally fine as long as they understand the boundaries of the household. It's not because you want to keep your dog couped. It's more so you want to create structure and safety for your dog. The same way with a toddler you would not allow a toddler to crawl around the household without anybody watching the toddler. It's the same thing there and as he aged into the I guess you can call it a teenager phase around eight, nine months old was when I kind of was dealing with the reactiveness to TTC buses, cyclists, joggers, bad recall off leash, went to PetSmart. Big mistake there as well. I just didn't know at the time that Petsmart doesn't train for behavioral issues such as I wouldn't say reactive is behavior issues, moreso a confidence building thing. But that didn't really help them as well. So it was up until when he was one and a half, two years old until I dove deep into research and like, figured out Oh, actually to deal with Rambo. But like I said, I'm sure you know, as well, all dogs don't learn the same.


Cassidy

Exactly, yeah. Did you just research on your own and apply those? Or did you seek out a trainer?


Eddie

At the time, so this would have been this would have been the peak days of Cesar Milan and the dog whisperer. So that's where all my things were applied from. But even then, some things didn't work with him. He was a very stubborn dog. And because of that age, he was also more disobedient to testing my limits. Which is fine, like all dogs go through it. But it was a lot of more so watching certain people do certain things on TV like Cesar Milan. And then if it didn't work out, actually Google research. At the time, there weren't a lot of highly known trainers at the time tha t will say just because Instagram, tik tok wasn't out there exactly like that to, to for people to showcase their skills and services. So a lot of it had to be Google.


Cassidy

Which is also going to be trial and error.


Eddie

Exactly. So there was a lot of trial and error on my part. And right now he's actually a really, really good boy. So it took me about until he was three and a half, maybe even four years old to actually work on everything. So meaning,

just like every dog out there who are dealing with reactive issues, don't expect an overnight kind of solution. I worked on it for almost two and a half years to get him to where he was hard work very hard. But is it worth it.

Cassidy

There were so many red flags when you got him. But does that... do you think that that absolutely set him up for failure? Was it just hand in hand with how you raised him? Or like, do you think that you could have brought him home and you could have been fine.


Eddie

If I did my research prior to the breed and understanding how to upkeep a puppy, and what was needed for a puppy in the first place. 100% I could have set him up for success 100%. I could even do my research prior to look for a trainer who had worked with working breed dogs, that would have got him a lot quicker to where I wanted them to be. But also certain things with dogs behavior wise does stem from their parents. So that was a red flag in itself where when I walk into the house, the dogs are barking immediately. And regardless of how much the breeder would tell them to stop, they would not stop. And guess what, when Rambo aged? He did the same thing as his parents. Right? So there is a mixture and I will take blame 100% that he was the dog he was at a young age because I did not set him up to succeed at all.


Cassidy

In hindsight, is a Doberman the right dog for you? Or would you have picked one knowing about the breed?

Eddie

Ah, one hundred percent, I would let myself go through exactly what I went through. If I were to do it again, to learn. Or otherwise I would not be here, where I would not be able to be in this podcast with you guys. I help people with their reactive dogs as well. I would not suggest certain breeds for certain people. Do your research. Don't be like me.


Cassidy

No, I agree though, you had to make those mistakes to get to where you are now. I got my rescue. And I did so many things wrong. But I also wouldn't be here right now knowing what I do. Still making some mistakes still trying to learn from it, but learning from others too, which is why I'm so excited to talk to you.


Eddie

And this is a thing where dogs will never be perfect. They are creatures of habit, you'll never have a perfect dog regardless. And people say their dog is perfect and which people have to understand don't compare your dog to other dogs, the work that you've done with your dog, you keep it to yourself, you enjoy that because the dog that I've done with myself, my clients, et cetera, et cetera, might have been a lot more work might have been a lot more easier, but at the same time, it's your dog. It's a process you went through and this is where the trust building with your dog maximizes at its most is the one on one training session that you do with your dog.


Cassidy

Absolutely. And I love that you did work as a handler at a daycare prior to doing dog training and getting to know so many breeds and their behavior because training every dog is different. And I myself, I had my rescue bully breed, I'm not sure what he was a mix of, I had the golden. And now I have Rey, they all learned completely differently. I'm still learning so much. And there's no way that what I'm doing with Rey is going to work with every other dog.


Eddie

The thing is because you've worked with reactive dogs, so you have already had three dogs, that you've trained yourself, you already have more knowledge than your typical first time owner. Right. So you can definitely help first time owners even with simple obedience in the first place, right? But can I you a dog trainer? It's the fact that you're willing to help based off your experience.


Cassidy

And that's why I want to share my experience because even talking about the first time that Reese bit a dog and what I did wrong and socializing, I've had people say like, I probably would have done the same thing. So it's, I'll share my mistakes, and maybe make myself look really bad just to help somebody else not make the same mistakes, or at least be aware of it. Because maybe they do want to do the same thing. Okay, but here's what might happen, like dog parks. And like daycares. Yeah, here's what could go wrong. You can do what you want with your dog. But, you know, these are the risks.


Eddie

And it's people like, like you who are needed in the community is the fact that, yeah, your dog may look good, they listen on camera, but there were a lot of issues and things that had to be worked on. And being as honest as possible, lets the community understand as well. It's, it's not all butterflies and flowers. You set them up and understand, hey, it's not all fun. But at the end of the day, when you work through it, it is a beautiful process.


Cassidy

Yeah, I love how much more people are becoming transparent on social media. I love seeing the progress and people saying, Yeah, okay, here's also what... either you messed up or something did go wrong, is huge to help other people, even just so they don't feel bad about what they've done. Or feel that shame.


Eddie

And this is why with with people in general, and I speak with I tell them, like, trust me the issues that you guys are dealing with, like I've been through with my own dog.


Cassidy

How far into working as a dog handler at the daycare, did you start your business?

Eddie


So I was so I was a dog handler for about two years. So I did have two years of just watching dogs walking dogs, understanding the personalities and behaviors. And then I went into obedience afterwards with only puppies. Just because generally speaking puppies are a little bit more, quote unquote malleable to learn certain foundations of basic obedience in the first place. So everything that was taught to puppies was easier, so to speak. It is just like teenagers or children or babies who cry, it's they will get over it eventually, as long as the process of learning and telling them an understanding, no, or enough or reward as well for positive behaviors, eventually, the puppy does understand everything.


And then from there, I went into advanced obedience a year after working with dogs over the age of one that was a little bit more difficult because by one years old, certain dogs have certain habits, meaning you have to untrain one year worth of experience with bad habits and kind of push it to the side and put in the good habits and a good foundation afterwards, which just doubled the work which is totally fine. And then two years after that I went into behavior work. That was very, very difficult because my first behavior case was a German Shepherd who bit like three people, multiple dogs, and pretty much it was unsafe around dogs. That is for first case which I did not manhandle it myself, I was mentoring underneath David as well who kind of guided me through that.


And the thing with dogs is I like to put an analogy to a balloon where if the dog is over stimulated, the balloon has already been fully blown and the next trigger will make the balloon pop. And the pop is your dog barking out of reactive or out of reactivity, or actually going the full length of attacking a person or a dog meaning you have to try to deflate that balloon as much as possible. And every time it continues to blow up you want to kind of keep deflating so it doesn't actually get to that case where it is.

So that was the behavior. I've done a lot of anxiety work, aggression etc but that's where most of my my experience comes from is more so behavior work ever since then I was doing less obedience work and more behavior work at the time. Because it was something that grabbed my my mind a lot where I was like, why did this dog do this? Why is it acting like this? What signs is he showing that he's gonna react or he's gonna attack or what's making them uncomfortable? And this is where a lot of times my training comes from body language of the dog first and understanding why did it do this? And if there's a reason why, can I find a method to get him not to react that way through his body first, or his nose, for example.


So for humans, it's if I see it, I believe it for dogs is if I smell it, I believe it. Right. And that's the thing with dogs is, if there are, a lot of times you'll see dogs before they get reactive, they're stiff. Their nose is kind of towards the trigger, quote, unquote. And it's constantly breathing, right, and their ears are usually back or pointed up, depending on what the trigger is. And if you are able to, you can say distract those symptoms first, before the reactivity. You don't have to deal with the reactivity and cause yourself the stress.


Cassidy

Don't let the balloon blow up.


Eddie

Exactly, exactly, that's exactly what I'm trying to say. And over time, the more often you're able to distract the symptoms, you don't have to stress yourself out with the reactivity. And over time, your dog's not going to react as much where because you're having them understand, hey, all I need is to show you... have you show me that your body language is showing me that you're stressed, I'm gonna take in control, I'm going to step forward, I'm going to kind of tell the dogs to back off and kind of let me handle the situation. And over time, what's going to happen is, your dog will look at you and be like, Mom, Dad, I'm kind of uncomfortable.

And your your step is to get like, Okay, let me take control as a parent, back off, let's go this way, let's go that way, or no, enough is enough. That is exactly what you're trying to get is turning a trigger into a cue because if you go out in the street, if a dog looks at you, it's pretty much asking, 'I don't know what to do right now, please help me'. And you step in, and over time it dogs just says hey, I trust my owner, I'm not going to react, he's got my back, or she's got my back, etc.


Cassidy

That's the goal, for sure. Exactly. And with different breeds and different types of reactivity, there must be different ways to deflate the balloon


Eddie

There is. So for example, there are methods so I'm, I'm gonna get I'm gonna get this out there. And I'm a balanced trainer, there are a lot of methods to breaking reactiveness through positive reinforcements through balance training, that does not abuse a dog whatsoever, I go by relationship-first, correction, reward. And then add that all together to actually get the the results of dogs in general. The thing with balanced training is just because you're going through the training exercises and methods, etc, does not mean you automatically go and set your dog up right beside another dog. You work from a distance and you gradually get closer and closer and closer. And what you're doing is you're desensitizing the distance of the dog or the trigger, the point where the dogs like, Oh, I've seen this 150 meters away, 100 meters, 25 meters, 10 meters, okay, like it's done the whole thing, I'm over it kind of thing, right? Of course, dogs are dogs, they're gonna react here and there, which is totally fine. It's the fact that you don't give up, you just apply the same thing you guys were working on and keep your head up and continue going forward.


Cassidy

A huge thank you to Eddie for taking the time to talk and share about his experience and what he's learned on his journey. As a dog owner, handler and trainer, there's so much that we can learn from other people's mistakes. And it's also nice to be able to relate to someone else as well when our experiences are very similar. We had such good conversation that there's actually so much more that's not on this episode. I didn't want to try to squeeze it all in. So instead, I'm saving the rest of our conversation for a later date. So this is only the first half of what we've talked about. And I'll keep the rest a secret for now. You can follow Eddie on Instagram @classick9academy.


Finding a professional trainer is the best thing you can do for your reactive dog. Taking advice from a podcast, pointing fingers at myself is not the way to do it. Like I said, this is not what this platform is for. So do your research into trainers that will suit your dog and align with what you want to achieve, and also what you believe in. It might take some time to find what you're looking for. And it might be trial and error to find what works for your dog. We've all been there. Keep at it and stay strong. The work that you're doing for your dog is incredible. And you should be proud of yourself.

I hope you've been able to take something away from this episode that has helped you or encouraged you in some way. I would love to know your thoughts as well. You can reach out to me on Instagram @spicydogmama, you can send me an email at spicydogmama@gmail.com.


You can also rate my podcast; that would be amazing. Send it to a friend if you think they'd like to hear it. And if you'd like to share your experiences, your thoughts on reactivity and your journey I'd love to chat with you.


Next week. We get to hear from another great friend of mine, Julia and her experience with her Malinois/ Border Collie, Kilo. Her story will sound a little different than the ones that we've been hearing but there's still a lot that can be taken away from it. So stay tuned for next week, episode 10 and the final episode of season one. I love you all have a great week you're doing amazing.


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