Dog Training: A Day in the Life of an Apprentice

February 6, 2018

For those who haven’t heard the exciting news, Quinebaug Kennels has welcomed its new and first round of Apprentice Dog Trainers! Four of us have been selected by QK Dogs owner, Jennifer Broome, to spend months in this new program which includes learning, spectating, and applying what we have been taught each day. The goal is to thrive and graduate to the next step, Assistant Trainer. Coming to the end of our second month, each one of us has been asked to take the time to project our thoughts and give some insight on what has brought us to this point, what we have learned so far, and how we want our future with QK to be. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, as well as opinions and what we take from each day and each lesson. Coming from different backgrounds, yet sharing many similarities, we are now introducing ourselves and sharing our experiences with you.

Destinee Florence:

When I look back to my high school years before graduation, I would not have seen myself here today; that I, Destinee Florence, would have such an amazing opportunity come into my life that includes working with one of the things I love most, dogs. When I first came to know about Quinebaug Kennels, it was mostly just from driving by it every day when I used to live in the area. Once I asked around, I had heard so many great things from numerous people and even found I was acquainted with folks who have worked here before, both of which, loved their job. As someone who was looking towards the veterinary field and worked as a veterinary assistant, I was always intrigued by dog training and eager to learn more. Currently, I own a beautiful blue nose American Bully named Carlee that I’ve had since she was 5 months old. When I first brought her home, I only knew basic training skills and was baffled about how to work through certain things, this then lead to the beginning of my learning process. While working as a cake decorator, one of my co-workers referred me to a woman she knew for training. The program was a high distraction/ public access service dog class that went on for 10 Saturdays and required owners to do a lot of the teaching/reinforcing at home during the week. The training included working with somewhat similar techniques that we use in our program at QK and allowed Carlee to successfully graduate from her course. Since day one of meeting with Jennifer Broome and the trainers at QK, I was instantly drawn in and have learned how much more effective and wholesome the training is here. Fast forward to starting my apprenticeship; under the instruction of our lead trainer Jordan, I have learned that so much goes into training a dog, and most importantly is to establish yourself as a confident leader. Our first month included going over multiple things including another important key factor which is properly reading a dog’s body language. Also, how to properly cue with a lead, establishing pecking order, how to build a point of contact, the primal instincts to come with, stop, and go with and the forms of resistance; fight, flight, and freeze. During my time working with the dogs, it has been made clear to me that you won’t have much success unless you understand what the specific dog in front of you needs, whether it be pushing them to work harder/faster or slowing them down to make them think. Each day I arrive to work, I become more eager to thrive and reach my goal of making it to that next step. In 5 years, ideally, I see myself here at QK continuing to enforce our training program and teach dogs proper manners/social skills with the possibility of specializing in working with clients who have disabilities and working to train their service dogs. Even though we’re only coming to the end of month two, I know I have a lot of work to put in and even more learning to come, but you can bet I will be working my hardest and looking forward to a bright future full of dogs!

Kate Lussier:

I met Jennifer Broome about three years ago this fall. I had recently purchased Skye, a trained Labrador Retriever and wanted to learn how to correctly handle her with the goal of running in AKC retriever hunt tests. After my initial meeting and evaluation lesson with Jennifer, I began attending weekly private lessons with Jennifer and her staff. At these lessons I would be given “homework” to work on with the dog, and the following week we would reassess our progress. Jennifer also granted me the opportunity to attend seminars on the silent command system of training held at the kennel by some of the top trainers in the country. With a referral from Jennifer, I also began training with a weekly retriever hunt test training group run by Jim Pickunka of Pondview Retrievers. All of these experiences allowed me to gain the ability to handle my dog, Skye, successfully through AKC Senior Level hunt tests, as well as bring along Skye’s son Blue, who recently turned two years old and I hope to run in Master Level hunt tests. Through this journey, I quickly realized that retriever training is a strong passion of mine and that it would become a great part of my life.

The silent command system has been the strong foundation upon which I was able to build a solid level of obedience, line manners, and focus for the dogs while working in the field. When I was granted with the amazing opportunity to attend the new QK Dogs Apprentice Program, I jumped at the chance for a more in-depth learning of this amazing dog training system.

Jordan Wells, who is QK Dogs Lead Trainer and heading up our Apprentice Program, is teaching our apprentice group how to read a dog’s body language and establish a correct point of contact for the dog to work from. The silent command system is exactly what the name portrays, you “silently” communicate with the dog to effectively and lightly “command” them to perform a task.  Essentially, you learning to “speak” dog language, which is based on primal pack instincts, pack leadership (dominance) and body language.  As Jordan would say, we are learning to “…be an effective leader to the dog, and not just a boss.”

While I had already been introduced to this training method on a surface level, Jordan has spent the past months going deeper into the theory of the training.  Jordan is teaching us how to read the minute details of the dog’s body language that speak so strongly on the dog’s behalf.  Simple, small details, such as the bat of an eye, relaxing of the jaw, and change in tail set speak volumes about the dog’s mindset. These small details will allow you to see when the dog is beginning to look to you for leadership, accept the job at hand, and become open for learning. Dogs cannot be asked to learn until they have bought into your role as a leader and have a stable mind that is receptive to learning.  Once you have a dog in this state of mind; learning can, and will, take place very quickly and your training will have lasting effects.

During my past two months at QK Dogs I have watched many dogs complete the four-week gun dog program and have seen the amazing results that is produces.  Some dogs will come into the training unconfident, unstable, disobedient, and unsure of themselves and where their place is within a pack.  At the end of the program they will leave as a confident, mentally stable, bird dog who is capable of learning from, and working for their handler.  I look forward to mastering the incredible amount of skill it takes to have these positive and lasting results on a dog. The silent command system is certainly a difficult, highly refined training system that requires a great amount of finesse, but nothing truly worth doing ever comes easily.  Ideally within the next few years I can see myself working at QK Dogs and integrating this training method even more in the retriever training world, which traditionally uses very different training methods.

Jessica Velasquez:

I have been working for QK Dogs since late April and this job was a deciding factor in whether I’d leave Texas to come back to Connecticut. Before I moved back, I was working for a boarding and daycare facility where my passion for dog training began. While working there I learned to gauge pet behavior as well as how to manage groups of dogs to ensure dog and human safety. One of my main responsibilities was to supervise play groups, both daycare and boarding. This included all different temperaments of dogs ranging from shy and timid to extremely hyper and playful and even dealing with aggressive dogs. I was responsible for ensuring that the dogs all played well together and gauging their behavior to group dogs with the same play style and attitude. I gained experience in how to manage groups of dogs as well as how to alleviate any stress or conflict that may arise within a group of dogs. I am always willing and eager to learn more about how to effectively gauge a dog’s temperament as well as interactions with other dogs and people.

When I was considering moving I had heard about this place from a family member who at the time had a very aggressive boxer mix and she really wanted a place that wasn’t going to sugar coat anything and help her train her dog. After I did a little bit of research I reached out to Jennifer and told her about my dreams and goals as a dog handler, soon after I became a member of the QK team. It was important to me that when I started at a new facility I would be able to grow with the company. I started as kennel care and learned so much from my manager, my peers and the lead trainers. I began using our training techniques on my two dogs at home, and saw an amazing difference with my dogs now willing to work for me. When the opportunity to do the apprenticeship came I made sure to act quickly so I could reach my goals of being a trainer faster. While in the apprenticeship I have learned so much, I am very passionate and driven about my goals. This is the perfect program for me as I have been given the opportunity to learn from three trainers with different dog handling backgrounds, so they are able to teach us things from past experiences.

The things I’ve learned taught me to be a better dog owner in many ways. While I’ve had Harley, a Catahoula mix, since she was a puppy I soon learned I had done everything wrong and “ruined” my dog, but luckily she’s very smart and learns rather quickly so once I stepped up she became a different dog. My other dog, Ozzy, a Coonhound rescue, is very stubborn and slow to learn, he’s tested me as a dog handler in many ways. While working him I’ve learned a lot about working the dog I have and not the dog I want. This training style is different and highly effective because it works on mentally stimulating the dogs. For dogs like my fast pace and smart Catahoula it will teach her to slow down and truly focus, on what I’m asking her to do. On the other hand, it has also helped my Coonhound to gain confidence because with the technique I am able to teach him that he is just as capable of doing everything my Catahoula can. The training boot camp does have a high standard for every dog to meet but with this technique we are able to make sure every dog succeeds and leaves a confident and changed dog. My goals after the apprenticeship are to successfully train dogs to the QK standard and working on further my education, I am working towards a bachelor’s degree in animal science. The dog training world is always growing and I’m grateful to Jennifer for creating a program where I can grow with such an amazing company.

Alison Dodds

I am a mom, an avid equestrian, a youth lacrosse and hockey coach, and an apprentice dog trainer. For as long as I can remember I have been an animal lover, most fondly of horses and dogs. I began riding horses at the age of 4, competing at a young age and continued all the way to the Amateur-Owner jumpers. Like many young riders I begged my parents for a pony in the back yard, the closest I got was teaching the family Golden Retreiver to jump over a course of jumps.  At the time it didn’t occur to me, this was my first go at obedience training.

Fast forward to my college days when I purchased my very own yellow lab puppy. I had always wanted a lab of my own, and living off campus made it possible. I knew that training my puppy was essential, so on Saturday mornings I would wake up early and take my puppy to obedience class. We went everywhere together including swimming, trail rides, horse shows and hikes in the mountains. She was the perfect happy dog, this was due to proper training and a mentally stable and challenging enviroment.

Our next labrador joined us eighteen years and two kids later, and we expected similar results. We had done this before and thought it would be easy this time around. This did not prove to be the case because our new black lab puppy had an entirely different personality from my yellow lab. Our home situation was much busier and different with young children mucking about. I  began analysing what went wrong, how could we have made this mistake? I quickly realized the problem wasn’t the dog. It was the owners…us!

We had not provided our puppy with the same opportunitites that we did with our previous dog, hindering the training process and relationship with our new puppy. We realized that instead of bringing our puppy with us on family excursions, we ended up leaving her home. Our dog was a social disaster. Knowing that there had to be a solution, I started reaching out to friends and  people around town who had puppies or young dogs, the same names kept surfacing; Quinebaug Kennels, QK and Jennifer Broome. Rosey went to Boot Camp! We ended up learning just as much as she did. With the silent command system we could easily walk Rosey on the Wonder Lead using simple light cues. And, the best part was she no longer pulled us around. An afternoon walk was now a delightful experience. Also, while at QK Rosey had the opportunity to have a positive social experience with other dogs under the watchful and knowledgeable presensce of the QK Trainers. Rosey’s training was a success all around.

After my experience with QK, I realized that I wanted to move away from a career in customer service to pursue my interest in working with dogs at a professional level. Being on both sides of the fence, I have seen how much better and enjoyable life can be with a properly trained dog. For example, when our children walk Rosey on the trail, we find tree trunks and rocks to use as an obstacle course. A short distance walk can turn out to be a great mental workout for both the dog and the kids. All of this led me to respond to Jennifer’s apprentice job listing on Facebook. Since I started at QK, I have learned so much about reading dogs’ behavior some of which reminds me of my riding days. For example, the “silent command system” which reflects the unspoken relationship between handler and dog, similar to horse and rider.

As a client and apprentice, I truly beleive in the QK way! I’m getting excited as I see March approaching, not just for warmer weather, but because I will be training my first two dogs! I look forward to meeting and helping you and your dog!

March will mark the end of our apprenticeship and we will be given the opportunity to train our own two dogs. These two dogs will be some of the most important of our career, as they will determine if we pass or fail the program. While Jordan and the other trainers will still be keeping a close eye on our training and be available for guidance, we will be ultimately responsible for the training of these two dogs. While you have met us already on paper, we encourage you to call or stop by the kennel to meet us in person! All four of us are eager to begin our dog training career and will be putting 110% into our March dogs. We strongly encourage you to consider providing us with the opportunity to enroll your dog in our March program.

As the end of our apprenticeship is on the horizon we are all looking forward to the future at QK as Assistant Dog Trainers and working with new and returning clients. We would like to thank Jennifer Broome, Jordan Wells, Sharon Ywarsky, Joe Lussier, and all of the QK Dogs staff members who have pitched in and supported our development. Spring is on the way and there is no better time to book your dog for training with one of the QK’s Apprentices. Get out and enjoy the spring and show off your dog’s superb training, we can hardly wait to welcome you and your dogs to QK!