Fidela, a Czechoslovakian, fully trained police dog, pure bred, black German Shepard, came into my life when she was 4 years old. I was her fifth owner. I took her in to help me get over the recent death of my 21 year old cat, Emmet. In other words, I was a “cat person”. When Fidela first arrived, I assumed she was a turn-key dog. Professionally trained to within an inch of her life, I figured all I needed was to learn a few basic Czech commands, and we would live happily ever after. That theory worked for about 3 months, until she realized that I was no alpha, and so began her descent into increasingly wild and uncontrollable behavior. Where in the beginning I was able to walk her in the woods off-leash with her staying near, and coming when called, eventually it got to the point where I could only walk her on-leash else she would just run off and not return to me until she felt like it, which sometimes took a very long time. It was beginning to feel like it was just a stress-inducing burden, having her in my life. When she nearly dragged me over the edge of a cliff during a walk, I determined to enlist the aid of a professional trainer to help turn around this rapidly and steadily deteriorating situation. Enter Kyle Warren. It took a little research to find a trainer who I believed would be capable of transforming a militarily-trained dog into a manageable, all-around family pet. When I happened upon an interview with Kyle in the Kingston Daily Freeman, I knew immediately that he was the trainer we were looking for. Here was a man who worked with search and rescue dogs, and had extensive experience with German Shepherds! Little did I know just how amazing he would turn out to be…
On our first session, Kyle instantly had Fidela responding to his commands like a precision instrument – a dog-robot! It became immediately apparent to me that the problem was not with Fidela – clearly she was trained, understood, and was willing to obey commands…The problem was my inability to establish, and maintain, alpha status in our little pack of two. But I did not want to have a relationship with her that was based on fear and punishment. Kyle understood this implicitly. So began our journey of learning to communicate human to dog in an effective and mutually enjoyable way. What started as training oriented toward getting her to sit, stay, come and not run off into the woods like a wild animal, became even more critical when Fidela developed a dog aggression that grew increasingly more vicious with every single dog encounter, an apparent result of never having been properly socialized. But Kyle patiently and persistently led me through the process of convincing Fidela (and me) that I was the alpha, and that her “drives” were second to my directives. And we both worked her through learning that her strong instinct to control and attack other dogs was totally unacceptable, and in fact, playing nicely with others was a much better way to go.
A year ago, walking in the woods with Fidela meant she was on leash, and muzzled. Today, it’s a whole different story. Our daily walks in the woods require no leash, and no muzzle. Her “best friend” is an 18 week old dachshund whose entire body is smaller than Fidela’s head, and with whom she plays happily and gently. When we encounter other dogs along the way, I no longer dread her reaction. She comes when I call. Heels magnificently. Sits and stays as directed. She is playful and happy. We are comfortable, and enjoy each other immensely. It seems like several times a week people stop us on our walks and tell me they can’t believe that she’s the same dog! She is no longer the terror of the dog walking community, and I am often complimented on her impeccable training. I can hardly believe it myself sometimes, but I really love having her in my life and by my side. It would appear that in spite of myself, and most definitely with the guidance of Kyle Warren, I have become a “dog person” after all!
One last thing- About Kyle Warren: I had the opportunity some years ago to watch Micheal Jordan play basketball – up close. It was like poetry in motion. It was like seeing someone who was doing exactly what he was born to do. That’s what seeing Kyle in action is like. He really has an undeniable gift – for understanding and communicating with canines of all kinds; for training them; and for understanding, communicating with, and training us humans, as well. Working with Kyle, I consider a privilege, and I count the time spent together among the most challenging, rewarding – and also fun – hours of my life so far. So, Thank You, Kyle!
Elena Spiotta, Woodstock, NY