Why I Became A Dog Trainer

Picture of Matt Hendricks

Matt Hendricks

Dog trainer and behaviorist.

I got my first dog in 2005 and named him Spirit. He was the reason I got into dog training. See, Spirit was my first dog. My family had other dogs before, but Spirit was my dog. When I brought Spirit home 10 years ago this October, I pretty much did everything wrong in terms of behavior. I gave him lots of affection, but no rules or boundaries. I walked him on a harness because I thought it would be safer than a collar because he pulled me when we walked. I was happy when he was all excited when I would come home. The problem was, though, that by the time he was 2 years old, these behaviors of mine had led to bad behaviors in him. He would jump on people and scratch their legs. He pulled hard on the leash and barked at other dogs, and he had developed a dislike of his harness. He never came when I called him, and he wouldn’t so much as sit when I told him to, let alone do anything else I asked of him. Finally, the behaviors got bad enough that I decided I had to do something to stop them.

After struggling with these behavioral issues for a couple of years, I thought about it and decided that I needed to train him. I didn’t know anything about behavior modification (or much else really) at that point, but I figured that if he was trained, I could at least give him a command so he had to do something other than the bad behavior. I ended up watching a training video that my family had bought a long time ago and followed the instructions. Fortunately for me, it was actually a fairly decent video. Even so, I didn’t have anyone else who knew about training to help me, and it took me several months to teach Spirit just 5 simple commands (sit, stay, come, down, and heel). I finally was successful, however, and I even ended up getting him off-leash trained.

Even though it took me a long time, I realized that I had enjoyed the process of training him and decided that I would like to study dog training more and be able to help other people train their dogs. I proceeded to watch as many videos as I could and stay up for hours every night (this is not an exaggeration) reading books as well as online articles about dog training. I quickly realized that dogs were pack animals, and decided that I needed a pack to help me learn. One by one I created a pack from my neighbors dogs by offering to walk them for free every day. This was really the point where I actually started to figure dogs out. I learned a ton from that pack and quickly improved my skills.

Finally after years of studying, working with the pack, and training several more dogs, I decided that I was serious about becoming a dog trainer. I eventually went and studied with world renowned dog trainers Sean O’Shea and Jeff Gellman and proceeded to open Follow The Leader Dog Training and Rehabilitation LLC.

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