[themify_box style=”light-green rounded” ]Guest post courtesy of Bruce Driggers, creator of Tallahassee Pet Net, a directory of over 100 organizations & businesses serving the Tallahassee pet community. [/themify_box]
For dog people, nothing can quite match the joy of getting a puppy. They’re bouncy, playful, loving, fun, and most of all CUTE. They’re also messy, unruly, mouthy, noisy, and troublesome. If you don’t get a handle on their behavior early, you might find yourself dealing with a huge problem six months down the road.
This is where The Puppy Ladies can help.
Jean Hewitt, founder of The Puppy Ladies, has been training dogs since the late 90’s, but decided to devote her full attention to puppy training after becoming alarmed at the huge number of dogs she encountered who had been exposed to shock collars and prong collars.
“I knew if people did things right with their puppies,” she told me, “they would not have so many problems with aggression in their adult dogs.”
Helping people and their dogs has been a lifelong mission for Jean, who got started early while doing a stint teaching elementary school in Miami. “The first 8 years I taught in the inner city schools. There were a lot of stray dogs wandering on the streets. I used to pick up puppies, take them home and to the vet to find them homes. One day I brought home a naughty puppy. I adopted her out twice and she was returned to me. I did not know anything about training dogs. I called a professional who told me to put her in a pinch collar and correct her for her ‘bad’ behavior. I was trying to figure out how to cancel the rest of the lessons as they did not sit well with me. Hurricane Andrew hit a week later and, long story short, I ended up keeping the dog and started searching for better ways to help her with her ‘issues’.”
This search eventually led her to a local veterinary hospital, where Jean was offered the chance to attend a prestigious dog-training facility at the behest of the vet. “She heard that [it] was a great school and off I went. I had started reading the few behavior books that were around at the time (1997) so I had a pretty good idea of what R+ was. However, the first day of class, my heart sunk when I realized I was at a heavy duty forced based training school. They did a lot of police work there, and I ended up staying for 6 weeks because I had paid the money and was far from home. I did learn a lot of useful information there, but as far as dog training that felt good, the search continued…”
Not long after, fellow Puppy Lady Janelle (who was working with Jean at the same animal hospital) got an opportunity to go to San Francisco to learn Positive Reinforcement Training. “What a great stroke of luck that was! Janelle went to school and learned from the best. Janelle’s teachers were Ian Dunbar and Jean Donaldson, some of the biggest names in the industry. When she came back, she taught me everything she learned. Then we went off to our first APDT seminars together and the rest is history!”
However, before The Puppy Ladies, Jean started out doing private in-home training for Mind Your Manners, the business she started with the vet who sent her to training school. “As it turned out, a large percentage of my business involved aggression. It was stressful going into people’s home with aggressive dogs. I got bitten pretty bad the first month that I worked. I started really learning canine body language and studying Karen Overall’s behavior book, going to seminars and learning a lot about aggression. Over the years, I saw the need for classes so I started doing them at my house. I also started boarding some of my client’s dogs.”
Eventually, Jean got burned out on working with all the aggressive dogs and took a break. It was during this time that she decided to start The Puppy Ladies. “I started hearing about trainers using shock collars and prong collars on puppies,” she said, “and I decided to start a new business focusing on puppies. I really did a lot of research on training puppies, went to a lot of seminars and spoke to top names in the industry so I could create a good puppy curriculum. I was back out on my own but by then Janelle was home with her young kids. She missed training as well and she joined The a Puppy Ladies shortly after I started the business. My daughter, Marlee also helps out with the business quite a bit.”
Jean opened The Puppy Ladies early in 2012 at her 11-acre home in Eastern Tallahassee. “I looked around for facility space but I wanted green space. We are talking about dogs! I didn’t want to be stuck inside a building. We have a nice covered porch and a decent-sized back yard so I started doing classes in our yard. It has worked well, though we do have to work around the weather. But we have a lot of property and now have a beautiful agility field set up in one of the pastures.”
With over two decades of dog training experience between them, The Puppy Ladies are Tallahassee’s premier puppy training facility. They currently offer Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced classes, a Board and Train program (Private home lodging: no kennels), and private one-on-one behavior consultations. And they’re just getting started.
“My long term goals include a facility and education center,” Jean says. “My dream is to have several trainers working under one roof to help the people and dogs in the community.”
“We recently added a new Puppy Lady to our staff,” Jean said. “Peggy Pinholster has been studying and taking classes in R+ training over the last couple of years. She is a long term competitor in dogs sports such as obedience and agility. She is now teaching agility classes here as well as teaching some puppy and Basic Manners classes.”
“I also want to start some kind of alliance for R+ trainers. I like talking and learning from other trainers. I like sharing my ideas as well. To me, it’s about helping people and their dogs. It shouldn’t be about competition. I refer a lot of business to other trainers. We go to seminars together, call each other for advice, etc. I’d like to grow that and include other trainers that feel as strongly as we do about R+.