Training Dog Owners
Nathan Whitehorne and his staff work with their clients at 4 Paws Academy on North Grove Street in Rutland Town. Samís Good News photo by Natalie Aines.
By Natalie Aines
For many dog owners their dogs are not just pets, they are family members, perhaps with a little more hair. That concept holds true at 4 Paws Academy at 2442 North Grove St in Rutland Town.
Owner and head trainer Nathan Whitehorne is originally from the Rutland area but relocated to Boston as a freelance photographer. Darci, his then girlfriend, now his wife; joined him bringing along her rescue dog Sam who had previously been neglected which led him to attack just about anything. Nathan went from trainer to trainer looking for help but repeatedly heard that Sam couldn't be trained and should be put down. The Whitehornes finally found a trainer with a different outlook. She told them Sam was fixable but they had to do the work. They did and Nathan enjoyed it very much. He learned to interact with Sam in a way that took him from being an aggressive dog to a sweet, sociable animal. During my visit I met Sam and found it hard to believe that he had ever had a bad day. This experience changed Nathan’s life. He gave up photography and volunteered during the day training dogs while doing other work in the evenings to pay his bills. Though not as lucrative, this new direction was incredibly rewarding for him.
In 2005 Nathan and Darci decided to come back to Vermont. They wanted to have kids and raise them the way that they were raised. Nathan’s goal was to start his own training facility. In the meantime he did in-home training and held temporary jobs.
At first he opened up in West Rutland, but the building was too small to do more than training. “I wanted a one stop facility that people could take their dogs to, that I would feel comfortable taking my own dogs to. Everything we do and sell here I either use or would be comfortable using for my own dogs. We have a small retail shop and I don't offer products I wouldn't use on my own dogs,” says Nathan.
In 2006 Nathan moved to his current location and started his full service facility. One building houses their daycare with a dedicated staff that makes sure that your four-legged family member is well taken care of. Across the street is the academy where not only are they in good hands, but are being trained on the same things they have been learning at home. There is also a full service dog grooming which is open to the public.
Dog boarding is offered with a new approach. Very few dogs are boarded at a time and the dogs go home with one of the trainers at the end of each day where they get the same personal attention as if they were home with you.
Then there is the training. According to Nathan, “We're not here to train dogs, we're here to train them (the owners). We give them every ounce of information from how they communicate to their dogs down to what is good food for their dogs and what other foods will do to them. A lot of people refer to our approach as 'natural dogmanship', but I'm just a dog trainer, well a people trainer really. We teach everything from proper grooming to proper diet to proper behavior and everything in between. Information and knowledge are key to anything we do. It's not one size fits all. Every dog and owner is different. For me it’s about helping the dogs control themselves and teaching their owners how communicate. That way they can communicate effectively with their dogs and understand why they are doing what they’re doing. Owners should be able to take their dogs anywhere dogs are allowed and do anything with their dogs. Dogs should enrich their lives and not just sit at home. If I wanted that I would get a goldfish. I want to enjoy everything with them and I want them to enjoy life with me.”
4-Paws also offers breed consultation. If you are looking for a rescue pet or a purebred they will help you decide what breed is right for you. They will even go a step farther and accompany you to look at specific dogs before you make the final decision. Nathan explains, “That way you will start out on the right foot. I have not met a dog yet that couldn't become sociable and stable as long as the people do the work.”
Nathan tells of a rottweiler abandoned by its owners in another state that eventually came to their facility. The landlord went to the apartment when unable to get in touch with his tenants and found a large mess. As he was cleaning he grabbed a garbage bag that was lying on the table and realized it was not a plastic bag at all, but a lifeless, malnourished rottweiler. He took it to a shelter where it was nursed back to health. A lady adopted it but found that due to neglect it had become an aggressive animal. She committed to helping the dog and brought it to 4 Paws Academy. Now, instead of being put down as many are, this dog has a social, stable and happy life.
To contact 4 Paws give them a call at 802-855-8025 or visit www.4pawsvt.com.
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