My company produces large expos for pet lovers across the country. As a result, Ive met literally thousands of dog trainers, from Anchorage to Miami and Boston to San Francisco - and gotten more advice than Id like from many of them. I can confidently say that Erin Wigginton, owner and head trainer of Helping Hounds Training, is one of the very best and she quite literally changed our lives.
I originally reached out to Erin because my canine soulmate, Enzo, had become fear reactive and I knew it was only a matter of time until someone was seriously injured by him; hed become a very dangerous dog and could no longer be trusted.
Even though I had originally been working with another trainer, who talked a lot about rehabilitation and being balanced, dog psychology, being the pack leader and making sure I was the alpha, the original problems I had sought help for (Enzo behaving like a normal six-month teenage brat), ended up becoming much much worse. One of the first things that this trainer did was fit Enzo for a pinch collar and the second thing that he did was show me how to properly snap the lead to correct any undesirable behavior or even to prevent an anticipated unwanted behavior.
I really hated how Enzo yelped with each correction. When I expressed concern, I was told that it was simply doggie drama" and that the collar didnt really hurt him; it was just like the correction that a mother dog gives her puppies and it was meant to get his attention - that if I didnt buck up and start acting like a pack leader, like the human alpha I should be, Enzo would turn into a monster. According to the trainer, the problem wasnt with Enzo at all - the problem was with me.
In the meantime, Enzo started displaying some new and scary behaviors, like lunging and growling at strangers and anything human in shape, including sculptures and statues, and no longer enjoyed his daily walks. And he absolutely terrified of his trainer - like pee on himself when the trainer arrives scared.
I decided that I didnt care about any theory or rehabilitation, I cared about Enzos well-being, so I fired our trainer and began searching for options that I hoped could help make Enzo whole again. The more I read, the more I learned, the more (legitimate) canine behavior experts I spoke to, I came to realize that Enzo wasnt being trained by his former trainer, he was being bullied, terrorized and abused.
After a ton of research on Helping Hounds and their training methods, I thought that they might be the answer to our prayers. Erin was a very different type of trainer and proved to be everything that I had hoped for: patient, understanding, kind and respectful of Enzos needs. Enzo loved her immediately - and most importantly - Erin loved him right back.
As a result of her patient work with building Enzos confidence and educating both of us on how to better understand one another, my boy is now a happy and healthy canine who no longer lives in constant fear of strangers. Erin believed in him and believed in us and I cant even tell you how much that means to me - and Enzo.
I made some big mistakes - HUGE mistakes - with Enzos early training and may never get over the guilt; I can promise you that if you introduce Erin to your own best friend, youll be nothing but happy and your canine companion will thank you for it.