Kerry Hall Certified Canine Training Specialist and Behavior Consultant
Looking back, I think it was all in the cards. I was born in the year of the dog, in Mount Vernon, NY. My very first word was the name of my family's German Shepherd, Lisel, or "Li Li." To make a long story short, I was an animal obsessed child. I owned one doll, a present from my mother's friend who, of course, thought that all little girls love Barbie dolls. Needless to say, Barbie rode proudly with her hair blowing in the wind on the back of my Breyer horses. I basically had a one track mind: animals, animals, animals. After wishing, hoping and praying enough, I willed my first horse into my life. How I actually acquired him is a story all its own. Although I grew up poor, I can tell you this: If you want something badly enough, it can and will happen for you. Once I had a horse of my own I was enthralled in training him, working out his kinks and terrible ground manners. I learned a lot about horses from books and folks at the barn, but a lot I just let the horses teach me. I soon started riding green horses at the barn and began training them to know their gates, verbal commands, and acclimating them for the farrier. I even conditioned them to feel comfortable in the trailer when being transported. I didn't have another dog after my family's German Shepherd died until I was in my early 20's, living on my own. I responded to an ad on Craigslist for an "Abused Chihuahua Puppy." Apparently I was the only person who responded that didn't ask to see a picture of what the dog looked like. The lady had rescued Charlie from kids in the street who were hitting him. She felt comfortable enough with our email exchanges and short phone conversation to ask me to drive to Queens to adopt him. When my best friend and I arrived, out trotted an adult Chihuahua mix dog. He was white with tan patches and had the most nervous, unsure demeanor about him.
Well, from that moment forward I started doing everything for Charlie, wrong. I coddled him when he was shaking. I gave him all kinds of freedom because I felt bad he was abused. I talked to him as if he understood me like a human being. I scolded him and pointed his face near his pee when he had accidents in the house. I didn't crate train him. I just "expected" he would understand the rules of my world and eventually "get it." Well, the only thing my expectations got me was a dog that wasn't overcoming his nervousness and fear, just becoming more and more confused. So, I did what any well-meaning owner would do to help their dog, I got another one. Yes, Charlie seemed to perk up bit and follow Lucky's confident lead in certain situations, but it only made our relationship feel more distant. Not only that, I now had a large bully breed mix dog that was pulling me down the street, completely destructive in the house and disobedient. After years and years of professional bartending, I was desperately seeking a way out from behind the bar. I yearned for a new, enjoyable career I could be proud of. After a lot of research I decided to just go for it and I looked into schools to become a professional dog trainer. I wanted the whole enchilada: a dog college, a real-deal school for dog trainers, where I could bring my dogs with me to help them. I found that in Triple Crown Academy, now Starmark Academy in Hutto, Texas just outside of Austin. This was the most comprehensive course I could find in dog training. TCA was a real trade school that taught students a plethora of methods, techniques and training philosophies. I packed up Charlie and Lucky and hit the road for Texas. The first day of class was January 5th 2009, my birthday. There were students in my class from all over the world. I knew I had found the right school that very first day. It was the best experience of my life, enabling me to change my relationship with my dogs for the better. Lucky was perfectly obedient after school and no longer destructive. Charlie was so much more confident with the new obedience and structure he had learned. He even began to play out in public which he never did before!
After graduation, I got great experience working at The Ulster County SPCA in Kingston, NY, working as a kennel technician/trainer. I was dealing with fearful, reactive and extremely human/dog aggressive dogs everyday. I was thrown to the wolves, so to speak. The time I spent at the shelter was the most critical part of any hands on experience I have gained in my career. This is where I learned my best defensive handling skills, that are the core to staying safe while working with unstable dogs. I soon became the Head Trainer and facilitated evaluations, enrichment programs, and training programs for individual dogs, as wells as playgroups for the general population of dogs in my care. I worked with dogs that were constantly trying to bite out of fear, stress and frustration. Many dogs I worked with were also puppy mill dogs which were typically shut down or feral. Once we began to implement playgroups, we saw massive changes in behavior and were able to show staff and volunteers that some of the shelter's long-term residents were indeed not dog aggressive, but just frustrated or reactive inside the kennel. There were tremendous breakthroughs with aggressive and fearful dogs through the use of playgroups. Learning these "street smarts" from the shelter is truly what has made me able to handle and problem solve the behavioral issues of some very difficult dogs throughout my career.
After the shelter, I moved onto working for dog daycare and boarding facilities, one of which had packs of 60+ dogs together in one space. I also taught classes to the general public through a community out-reach program called Pit Bull EDU, which was put on by Game Dog Guardian a local bully breed rescue in Lawrence, Kansas. As a trainer for GDG, I also helped evaluate dogs in their program for appropriate placement, trained individual dogs, created enrichment programs and worked one-on-one with adopters and their new dog. After Kansas, I was ready to go back to New York and take a job for Westchester K-9. As Head Trainer, I had a wide range of responsibilities. I worked one-on-one with clients in private lessons, created individual programs for dogs in the Stay and Train program, trained 4-8 dogs a day and taught staff safety training and defensive handling. I also worked with Pet Rescue New York, the local rescue we were affiliated with, assisting them with their more difficult dogs as an evaluator.
I've spent over 8 years enthralled in this industry, constantly gaining new insights and practical experience. I've enjoyed working for the companies and rescues, but 2015 is the year I decided to become a lone wolf and start my own dog training and rehabilitation company. Flash Dog Training is a culmination of all of my diverse experience in the dog training world. I am combining all of my skill sets to give the dog owners of Colorado the whole enchilada. Whether you have a happy go lucky pup and are just starting out, or you have a dog with years of aggressive behavior, I can help you. Training dogs and teaching people how to maintain that new relationship is not just my career, it is my life's work and my destiny.