"Daisy, an English Yellow Labrador Retriever, was one of 8 pups born on Feb. 9, 2016. It wasn’t hard to decide which female we wanted as a big, inquisitive, loving puppy chose us. She wanted to be with people from the beginning and has always been a food hound which we found has made training easy. We were able to do some basic commands with Daisy but she had a mind of her own and wanted to talk back with a bark and a special look at us! Since Daisy was going to be a big dog we wanted some help with her training so we had her evaluated by Stacey Payne, the Canine Behaviorist, at Positive Paws k9 Training, who was recommended by other dog owners in our area. Training and daycare began on August 25, 2016 and we immediately noticed a happy 6 month old puppy full of enthusiasm to go to “play school” and individual training sessions. Daisy loves Stacey and all the treats and I was amazed at how many commands she could do by the third session. At the fourth session she did the commands: sit, down, stay, wait, free, come, leave it and settle. Actually she settled on one side then the other and finally on her back with legs in the air between Stacey’s legs. Funny! By October 19 Daisy, at 8 months of age, passed her beginner test and we were ready to join a Therapy Dog Training class. We continued to work on basic commands, especially having the dogs pay attention to their owners, and to have dogs socialize in a proper manner with all the other dogs. Daisy has always been a dog that likes to show what she can do but has had to learn patience which is an ongoing work of love. Through doggie parties offered by Positive Paws and Therapy Dog visits to nursing homes, children’s libraries and schools, both Daisy and I have enriched our lives. We have met wonderful people everywhere and Daisy has shown her love and caring nature to everyone we have met.
Daisy has progressed from a puppy that wanted to jump up on people for their attention to a dog at 19 months of age that has good manners and that loves to give kisses and to do tricks to entertain people. It is a real pleasure for my husband and me to be Daisy’s owners and to take her everywhere with us. Thanks to her training from Stacey, Heather, Sharon and others at Positive Paws and to the socialization she got at daycare we have the best dog ever! We hope to continue with our Therapy Dog Team for a very long time." -- Sandy H
"I love their doggy daycare for Daisy. I lead a busy life selling insurance, and I can't always give Daisy the time she needs to play and interact with other dogs or people. Also being in Doggy Daycare has made her friendlier with other dogs when she meets them in the park or at the car shows I take her to. I just cannot say enough about their Doggy Daycare. When Daisy comes home from Doggy Daycare, she is pooped. which is good for me. I know she has had the exercise she needs.
She is more obedient since she has been in training. The training is good for her and for me. It teaches me how to follow up with the training she has received in the classes." -- Judy B.
I, Rafa, greyhound extraordinaire, have asked my mom to give her impressions on the value of POSITIVE training. What follows is her account:
Dear Positive Paws team:
My life with Rafa started on September 2016. I had had a greyhound before and was in love with the breed. These dogs work hard at what they do and at the end of their career they get discarded in ways I cannot mention as it hurts me to no end. This is a ROYAL breed. The longest domesticated breed in existence, the only breed mentioned in the Bible by name (Proverbs 30:31 KJV), they appear in Egyptian hieroglyphs and were buried with their Pharaoh. Rafa my grey ran 142 races, he stopped suddenly on his last race without completing (likely hurt). From there he spent 3 months without "producing" for the race kennel manager and went to a "rescue" group. Basically he went from the concentration camp of the race kennel to the prison yard of the "rescue" group. When I found him he seemed broken, downtrodden...he was in a bleak yard with a muzzle so tight on his snout it left him scarred. He was riddled with fleas, parasites and 15 pounds underweight. I knew it would be a challenge but I could not leave this noble animal where he was. He had been in the "rescue" group 9 months ... 9 months in prison...I knew it would take a lot of work. He was scarred physically and EMOTIONALLY...in human terms he had PTSD. He had lost his purpose in life and was held in a bleak situation by no fault of his own. I brought him home and the first few weeks were really trying. After I got him I thought I could train him myself but he had wounds to his psyche that ran DEEP. I was not prepared to handle him. I thought I would have to return him to the "rescue" group and that pained me.
I decided to seek professional help. I took Rafa to a "trainer" who without assessing him or asking me what he was like, slapped a SHOCK COLLAR on him! I was stunned! I asked "don't you want to assess him first?" Oh, "don't worry, he will be fine, this does not hurt". Well after a few tries of "threshold marking" with the collar I could see the little progress I had made disappearing from Rafa, then came the yelp....I took the collar off and left, never set foot on that "training center" again. That incident set Rafa back to his PTSD baseline, I would talk to him and he would cower, tremble...I was crushed. I searched and found a lot of "trainers" that used the same tactics. Then I found Positive Paws. I decided to call. I made an appointment and Stacey met me and Rafa. What impressed me was Stacey's patience. She asked me what were my concerns with Rafa then she made an assessment, she OBSERVED him and developed a plan for him. She understood Rafa's fears, lack of confidence and his broken spirit. I knew I had the right place for Rafa's training right away. Since then Rafa has been training with positive reinforcement, he has become a more confident dog. He is loving, not vigilant, eager to please. After several months of training we started Doggy Daycare at Positive Paws and this has helped Rafa get along with other dogs without being in the "prison yard" environment. Rafa would have been a REACTIVE, FEARFUL dog if a shock collar would have been used to "train" him, instead he has become a WHOLE DOG, a THINKING dog, he makes decisions and that makes him happy... and me? ...grateful, grateful for the Positive Paws experience, they have given my best friend a chance to succeed.
Keep it POSITIVE -- L Gonzalez
After months of looking on rescue websites for a puppy, I came across Lottie's picture and immediately fell in love with her. She was in a foster home in TN where she had been for several months. Lottie was found under a car in a vet's parking lot when she was very little. She was malnourished and very scared when the rescue group took her in. Before moving forward with the adoption process, I spoke to the foster mother who had Lottie and she stated that Lottie was great with everyone and when I mentioned my desire to have her be a therapy dog, she thought that would be great for Lottie. We got Lottie on February 12, 2016 and after the first week when she came out of her initial shock, we discovered plenty of challenging behaviors. Lottie appeared to be a ball of anxiety and had not been exposed to males. Regardless of how much exercise she had or how much attention we gave her she never seemed settled. This went on for weeks. Although we knew it would take a while for her to be comfortable after the transition I had no idea how to handle the issues she was presenting. To be honest, I thought that we may not be able to make this work. We sought basic training from an individual. The trainer almost immediately told me to use to pronged collar, which I directly stated would not be used. We went through the six week course but Lottie only seemed more anxious by the end and it was apparent that trust had not been established yet.I knew there had to be another approach that would make a difference. I searched for programs that could train therapy dogs and came across Positive Paws. Immediately, Lottie was met with a gentle approach and focus was given to what she was able to do. Lottie picked up basic commands pretty quickly. She continued to have some behaviors at home that we were not sure about how to handle. She would charged at my daughter and I and put her mouth on us. Although not in an aggressive manner, it was unpredictable and stressful for the entire family. She was scared to walk past trash cans when they were sitting on the curb, she lunged at men when they walked past us and continued to be a ball of anxiety although we couldn't identify what was causing it. Stacey at Positive Paws was always available to discuss what issues Lottie were presenting and offer suggestions. Lottie attended training class as scheduled and while I kept saying that I didn't know if it were realistic that Lottie ever be a therapy dog, Stacey consistently said that she was capable and continues to see amazing potential in her. Lottie has worked to overcome issues with unknown men through planned exposure to males at doggie daycare, training class, and other situations that Stacey helped coordinate.Through the training we received at Positive Paws and consultative discussions with Stacey, Lottie has become a model dog in our home. We couldn't ask for a better dog with our children and our family members. Lottie no longer goes after our cats, chews up her bed cushion, puts her mouth on us and best of all follows commands and has learned where her boundaries are within the house. A few months ago when we were considering getting another dog, we talked to Stacey about our concerns that Lottie may not handle the addition to our home. Once again, Stacey was optimistic and saw the potential in Lottie. Stacey helped walk us through out to introduce the new dog to Lottie, which went beautifully. Lottie is an amazing big sister to our new family member. We have also been able to use what we have learned from Positive Paws to ensure that our new pup started off on the right foot.Through the positive approach and belief in Lottie's potential that has consistently been demonstrated by Stacey and the staff at PP, Lottie has transformed from a dog that was unsure of herself, her surroundings, and what to do next to a dog that is on her way to providing comfort to others. I believe that Lottie's success is a direct result of the comprehensive approach (training class, doggie daycare, personal trainer consultative, and an individualized plan) provided by Positive Paws. I am proud to say that Lottie's beautiful soul is now apparent because the disturbing behaviors that were masking it before are now in check (mostly). Although Lottie still has a way to go, I believe she will one day be a therapy dog because of the unwavering belief of Stacey and the staff at Positive Paws.Thank you Positive Paws -- J. Matheny-Eckstrom
Things don’t always work out the way you think they’re going to.
In late December 2016, my husband, Kean, and I began looking for a puppy to fill the dark hole left by the death of our beloved Springer Spaniel the preceding Christmas. I had in mind a silky, or at least soft, mature female, max 20 pounds (ideally a poodle- or spaniel-type dog), that would love to go on walks and be content to sit on my lap when home. At the time, Kean just wanted a dog. We agreed we’d get one from the pound this time, not from a breeder.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we rotated daily through animal shelters in Augusta, Nelson, and Albemarle Counties, hoping to find “our dog.” What we soon discovered, though, was that most of the dogs were hound or pit bull mixes—far from my image. Then on Thursday, January 12, we stopped by the Augusta SPCA, and Kean kept going back to check out this little black-and-tan coonhound mix named “Stella.” She was a pretty, composed little three-month-old puppy, staring out at us from her cot with this unearthly calm, wise gaze, the only dog not barking in in the whole SPCA kennel. She took Kean down memory lane, remembering the hounds his favorite uncle had raised. A savvy kennel worker suggested we take Stella into their “interview” room. As the picture suggests, Kean bonded with her instantly. I said no way, nope, nope, nope, it’s off we go home, right now.
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t looked over at Kean on that drive home. He looked like he’d just turned his back on his best friend or walked away from a lifelong ambition. OK, OK: So I did a quick mental calculation and decided that, Yes, I could live with a puppy! Yes, I could live with a large dog (the SPCA guestimated she’d be 50 to 80 pounds)! Yes, I could live without silky hair—‘cause after all, I’d be getting a female! I turned the car around, and we adopted Stella on the spot.
Things started off calmly. Stella, whom we immediately renamed “Sophie,” took to her crate right away, the vet said she was a “good dog,” and, at the vet’s recommendation, I signed us up for obedience classes at PetSmart starting in just three days. As a bonus, it turned out that our new house had an invisible fence that just needed activating, so I made an appointment with the fence guys to come the next week. Walks around the neighborhood that first weekend were ... interesting. No matter how far we walked, it was never enough to tire Sophie out, whereas for me, walks that had taken a half-hour with my spaniel now took an hour with Sophie, who had her nose to the ground the entire time and who, even at such a young age, could only be moved past every interesting scent with force. Then there were the neighbors’ dogs: Little Sophie barked and barked whenever we passed another dog, twisting and tugging on her leash to get to them. I began to get the sense in just those first three days that she was desperate for the company of other dogs, so I was really looking forward to our first group obedience class.
The first class at PetSmart went pretty well: There were just three dogs, including Sophie, and they were all puppies and all hearing clicks and getting treats for the first time. Then there was all this in-between time before the next class. We got smoother at practicing her homework, but our walks were not getting more enjoyable, and she always seemed to be on the lookout for something else to do, somewhere else to be than with us. Then, at night, when Kean and I were winding down, Sophie would be firing up, until one night she charged at me and hurled herself up onto my lap, availing herself of my arm as a chew toy. I flipped out and followed a vet-friend’s advice: I swatted her. Big mistake. She leapt down off my lap, howling and scurrying off to hide behind the furniture. It took a lot of coaxing and apologizing to get her to come to me again.
I was so relieved when the week had passed and it was time for the second class! But the class did not go well. This time there were five other dogs there, and Sophie could not stop barking and jumping out of her skin. I had no idea how to cope or what to do, and after five minutes, Kean and I agreed that we needed to leave. The teacher was not trained enough herself to know how to help us handle the situation, and it made everyone in the class feel awful to watch us walk away. At this point, I was desperate and knew that the next day I would have to either (a) find someone to help us with Sophie, or (b) return her to the SPCA.
The next morning I discovered Positive Paws online and called; Sharon scheduled us to meet with Stacey in two days. Ah, relief. Stacey’s calm in the face of the storm that I knew as Sophie, her solid reassurance after checking Sophie out that positive training would work well for her and for us, and Sophie’s obvious delight in doing what Stacey asked of her all combined to make us feel good about signing Sophie up that very afternoon for all levels of obedience training available. Not only that, she would start going to doggiecare three days a week! The only drawback was that we had to agree not to use our invisible fence for Sophie to exercise in, because it would involve the use of a shock collar. This dog that loved to run and run and run, and run some more, would have to make do for her exercise program with doggiecare and long walks with me, a senior citizen.
I’m here to tell you that Sophie has come a long way since January. The first thing I noticed was that she was finally getting tired out:
The best way I can describe what has changed is that Sophie has been “whispered to” by Stacey. How that plays out is that she has learned at Positive Paws doggiecare not to get so aggressive in her play, and she has reveled in the loving, firm, and fun care that she receives from all the staff at Positive Paws. She has become a lovely walking companion for me, although I occasionally need to remind her still how not to pull so by switching from the Easy Walker harness, first introduced by Stacey, to the Gentle Leader one, also introduced later on by Stacey.
As a therapy dog in training, Sophie is very sweet and attentive to the guests/residents at the care institutions we go to. She is pretty good at doing the important commands being asked of her in training classes and outcalls (sit/ down/ stay/ wait/ come/ free/ finish/ stop/ all directions), especially when the other dogs are doing the same thing; she has a way to go in getting motivated when she’s not in the company of other dogs. She is not a fan of doing tricks. At all. Also, at this point, if she’s given her freedom off leash, she will choose to ignore all commands and spend her time the way she sees fit; we will be going to work with Stacey next week on off-leash commands!
Stacey helped us find our way forward with Sophie, for which I will be forever grateful. Stacey and the staff at Positive Paws continue to create a place where dogs can both play and feel useful—and come home tired but happy at the end of the day! I look forward to exploring new directions—especially like scent work for this hound of ours!—and enriching the avenues we’ve already started down. Thank you to all of you at Positive Paws for the opportunities you’ve put in our path ☺
My husband and I decided to get our first puppy shortly after we got married. We ended up adopting a 13 week black lab/golden retriever puppy. We named her Ellie. She turned out to have a great, calm personality and loved people!! We were lucky that she loved people as we live in a boarding school, and we constantly have boarding students in our apartment. We decided to make her a therapy dog. We first contacted a trainer in hopes of helping Ellie becoming a therapy dog. She came out to the apartment and started working right away. Shortly after we found out Ellie had a cancerous mass cell tumor on her head. She had surgery and we continued her classes. She was such a good dog the trainer decided to have her take the test just after one therapy session. She passed with flying colors and we were told she was now a certified therapy dog. A few weeks went by, and we still had not received her paperwork saying she was certified. We contacted the trainer, and she said she could not certify Ellie because she was under the age of 1 and for other reasons.
We moved on and found another trainer at a local community college and went to the first meeting without Ellie. After the meeting we felt very unwelcome to the class but we continued even though they told us she was too young, not mature enough, and not ready. They even told us taking the class would be pointless as she would not be allowed to take the test at the end of the course.
Soon after we started the class someone told us about Positive Paws. Right away we contacted them and had an initial visit and Ellie was accepted into the therapy dog program. Not long after we discovered a lump on neck. We had countless vet visits, surgeries and other procedures done to find out that at 15 months old she had a progressive algae call Prothoteca. It is such a rare condition that many vets have not heard off and sadly there is no cure. In addition to having the algae she was also diagnosed with Indolent Lymphoma. Due to having 2 different cancers and the Prothoteca, we decided it would be best to stop her therapy classes at Positive Paws while we started her on medication and treatments. Positive Paws immediately reached out and worked with Ellie’s vet schedule to keep her in training. Soon she passed and became a certified therapy dog!
Ellie became an amazing therapy dog because of Positive Paws. She brought joy to all that met her. She went to work at school everyday and visited with students, teachers, and administration. If students were having a rough day they would come to the apartment and sit with Ellie and talk to her in the evenings. She became the school dog. She was so important to the students, faculty and staff she got her photo taken and put in the yearbook!
Positive Paws staff and trainers never gave up on Ellie. When she became blind, they helped us brainstorm ideas to help her build her confidence and taught us ways to help her, for example scent training. They never stopped loving her. Ellie touched the lives of so many in her 2 short years and again that is because of Positive Paws. Sadly, Ellie took a turn for the worst in August and passed away.
We were heartbroken. Ellie was everything to us. Wherever we went Ellie would go whether it was on campus or off campus. The staff and trainers at Positive Paws were amazing. They kept in contact with us and made sure we were okay. We are expecting in February, and we really want our child to grow up with a dog. As hard as it was just losing Ellie, we needed to start thinking about the future and what would be best for our family. The Positive Paws community, staff, and trainers stepped in and helped us out. Thanks to Stacey and the Positive Paws community we now have a new addition to our family, Clover! She is another 15 week old black lab. She is full of energy, loves to chew, and loves to play. She is currently spending her days at daycare and comes home to spend her evenings at Stuart Hall with the boarding community. We are hoping she will be able to start her therapy dog training soon. She is super smart and sweet!
None of this would have been possible without Positive Paws and their support throughout everything. The Positive Paws staff, trainers and community is just amazing. Words cannot express how happy and grateful. They take the time to get to know you and your dog. Ellie became an amazing Therapy dog and that is because Positive Paws went above and beyond what any other training facility would have done. We are so glad and fortunate to be a part of the Positive Paws community. -- S. Harms
Here’s my story with Ben and how Positve Paws has made a positive influence on us :)
I suffer from severe anxiety, as well as bipolar, paranoia, and a less severe form of PTSD. In the process of anxiety attacks, I cause damage to my body by pulling out my hair, and scratching my skin off. Some days it’s to the point I can’t go to work, or even be out and around other people. I got Ben back in April. Him and his sister lived with an older dog who didn’t like to play and ended up biting Ben, and left a huge scar on his head. After the first couple nights in the house, Ben and I had a very strong bond. He just made life easier. My doctor had recommended service dog to help with my anxiety disorder and my SIB (self injurious behavior). I did some research about getting a SD and decided if it was possible I wanted Ben trained for it instead of going through an out of state program and waiting 2+ years. This would give me a chance to also learn. But I wasn’t sure where to go from here. I was skeptical, I already feel like people stare at me, and talk about me behind my back. What would happen if I had a service dog with me everywhere I go? Wouldn’t it just make the staring and talking worse? “What’s wrong with her?” “She has a service dog, I bet she’s going blind...” or something along the same lines.
Fast forward, I found Postive Paws online and decided to call them. Stacey was able to get me an appointment to see her that very day! I was so thankful and excited! During our assessment, I was scared and nervous. Stacey was very reassuring and straight to the point with me. Her and Sharon talked to me like a regular person, not someone who was broken. After explaining to them what I wanted and needed, Stacey said “I can do all of that, and more.” I signed the papers that day.
Ben started doggie daycare as part of the training, and I could see a major difference in the first month. He would come home tired and ready to learn! His puppy energy was worn out after 8 hours of playing with pups his size! Training for him was going great! He was such a fast learner and eager! Me on the other hand, completely different story. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything right, I was messing up my dog, and I was ready to give up. Between Stacey and Heather, they were able to get me to a point that I could have a more positive outlook.
Ben and I go out in public as a team now, and just having my dog by my side has made a world of difference. What I originally thought was going to be people staring, and making fun, has now become an educational experience. I know they’re not staring at me but my gorgeous dog! They’re not wondering what’s wrong with me, they’re staring because they are amazed at how well behaved he is, and how he’s able to work for me AND with me together! I’m able to go out in public and not have to worry about an instant anxiety attack. Ben has also learned that “when Mommy is upset, if I lay on her she gives me attention”. None of this would be possible without the help of Postive Paws.
To further help me, all the staff have been even more accommodating and let me volunteer on my days off in the back with daycare. That has also helped my self esteem and my SIB. There’s been several times that I had no clue I was radiating fear, trepidation and nervousness and the dogs have picked up on it, making me more aware on how I handle myself and of my body language. Without Positive Paws, I would still be in the dark and unable to come out of my shell. Ben and I have benefitted from their help in so many ways I never would have thought possible. The bond between us would have never been this strong without the help of Stacey, Sharon and Heather! Words can not even describe the difference they have made in our life. If you would have known me before training, you would be able to SEE the difference they have made and how far Ben and I have come as a team. I am forever grateful to all the staff at Positive Paws. :) -- N. McGovern
We rescued a 2 year old German Shepherd named Haben on Feb 4 2017 from Southeastern German Shepherd Rescue. They knew nothing about what he had suffered in his past. We knew that he had been in the shelter before he was a year old and that he had had a couple of homes with SGSR. He had two trial visits that didn't work out and returned to rescue. He had a fear of people, and he took time to warm up to people. When we met him he had his head down no eye contact. He didn't like petting or touching. He didn't even wag his tail. This was our first time rescuing a dog, and we didn't fully understand what needed to be done. We had a vet visit which they encourage us to find training for him. He seemed to adjust to us and our home life pretty well. We began taking him to the park and walking him to get him used to people. We went to the park on a Saturday, and it was very crowded. A lady came running past me, and Haben crossed in front of me and grabbed the arm of her fleece and ripped a large hole in her sleeve. At this point we realized we needed to find someone to work with us to rehabilitate Haben.
We took him to Positive Paws for evaluation. I was not familiar with the Shepherd breed, and we were unsure of how he would react to the training. The first two weeks were crate training and food training. Haben responded well to this, he didn't bark in the cage; he liked having his own space. Today he will go and lay in his cage and sleep. Then we worked on basic commands which he learned quickly, he also did socialization with other dogs at the doggie day care. Haben liked going there and interacting with the other dogs; he would come home tired at the end of the day. Then came time to increase the training. Positive Paws has worked with us every step of the way. They would meet us at the park, in our home, where ever we needed to work on some issues. Positive Paws went above and beyond what Haben needed; they coached us, instructed us, and helped us learn how to work with our dog. Through all of this we see that Haben is a sweet lovable dog. He is a dog that deserved to be given a chance to overcome his fear. We continue to work on taking him into crowds and busy places helping him to learn and grow into a stable dog. It's been 8 months since we rescued Haben; he loves to be petted, he looks us in the eye, he wags his tail, and seems to be adjusting to a normal life. Haben likes all the people who work at Positive Paws which is a big plus for a fearful dog. We have come to realize that when you rescue a dog it's an investment of time and money; a huge commitment one that you don't quit on. We are so grateful to Positive Paws for the hard work they have invested in us, and for the love and dedication they have shown to Haben. -- S. Shoop