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 didn't have another dog after my family's German Shepherd died until I was in my early 20's, while 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 the wrong way. 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. 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. I took a job in New York 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 9 years enthralled in this industry, constantly gaining new insights and practical experience. I've enjoyed working for 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 Denver, Colorado and Bend, Oregon the best dog training services possible.
As of November 2018, I will be taking clients full time in Bend, Oregon, but have left my past and future clients of Denver in the very capable hands of Breanna Leonard. Bre is a seasoned trainer with a passion for dogs that is tangible. Breanna and I have known each other for years as colleagues and friends and I couldn’t be happier to welcome her to the team as Head Trainer of our Denver location.
When Breanna was in her late teens, she got her first personal dog, Duchess. Because she wasn’t even 18 yet, no shelter would adopt a dog to her so she turned to Craigslist in hopes of finding herself the perfect companion. She saw an ad titled, “Bandog Puppies, Need Gone ASAP.” Bre responded to the ad and was on her way to meet the puppies within hours. When she walked into the house all the pups ran over to her except one. The smallest puppy of them all stayed back watching her cautiously from as far away as possible. When she approached the pup it yelped and peed itself. She handed the man the money he wanted, took the fearful puppy and off they went.
It took a while, but slowly Duch started to become less fearful of Breanna. This seemd like a great accomplishment, but fast forward a year and Bre was in way over her head. She now had a large dog that would not let strangers in the house, started attacking dogs at daycare and couldn't be left home alone without destroying the house and disturbing the neighbors. Breanna started doing research and reached out to local trainers. After finding the right trainer for Duch she was inspired to learn more about dog training. She bought every book she could find on dog training and watched hundreds of hours of anything dog training related she could find on the internet.
In 2009 Breanna began attending Mount Ida college in Newton, MA for Canine Behavior. After graduation she was hired to teach basic group classes a few nights a week at a locally owned holistic pet store in the greater Boston area. From 2010 to 2018 she worked her way up through this same company. A small gig of teaching a few puppy kindergarten classes a week, had turned into a full time job where she was not only teaching all levels of pet obedience training, but was now teaching apprentices how to train dogs professionally.
Breanna has an extensive background in rescue work. She has worked closely with local shelters by evaluating their dogs, and fostering/training countless dogs in need. Breanna’s main area of expertise is bully breeds and behaviorally challenged dogs, but she also has a strong background in puppy raising and has spent years finding the most effective ways to raise the perfect family dog. She enjoys being able to work with all breeds and behavioral issues, and draws from her experience to tailor every training program to each individual dog and owner. Breanna is also a seasoned E collar trainer and has virtually dedicated her life to helping dogs and people in need. In the summer of 2018 Breanna moved to Colorado to join the Flash Dog Training team and we couldn’t be happier to have her share her diverse experience with the dogs and owners of Denver.