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Several pictures of the trainer working with different dogs and a picture of just the trainer

Meet Our Trainer
Tracey Hagan, CPDT-KA, FDM, CSAT, FFCP

I began my dog training career nearly 20 years ago when I found our family in need of a service dog for my son with autism.  I felt that adding a service dog to his life could help him become more independent and more social.  The first dog I got was a yellow lab named Kaylee.  I picked her out myself and began training her because I knew that training a service dog can be cost prohibitive.  I quickly realized that I needed help!

I eventually found a trainer who helped me train Kaylee to assist my son.  However, as we did the training, the trainer and I realized that Kaylee was not the right dog to help my son.   The trainer ended up choosing a different dog to train for him.  Carmella was a mixed breed dog that we think was a Wheaten Terrier mix.  She was the sweetest, most gentle, loving little dog you could ask for.  And the best thing about her was that she was the perfect dog for my son.   She helped him tremendously and my son is now 27 years old and lives independently and holds a full time job, drives himself everywhere, has friends, and has a normal life.  I feel that Carmella was the main reason for this.  Carmella recently passed away at the age of 16 years and the entire family misses her dearly but she did the best job and made such a difference in his life that when I asked him years ago if he wanted to get another service dog to replace Carmella (we suggest you bring a new service dog in before you loose your current dog), he said he didn't think he needed another one. 

During the training process I also realized how much dogs and children with autism have in common.  Here are just a few of the similarities I noticed:

1)  Dogs do not use verbal language and have other ways of communicating their wants and needs.  Some children with autism are also non-verbal and find other methods of communication that work for them.   My son is verbal, but I also worked with some children who were non-verbal.

2)  Behavior is communication in both dogs and children with autism.  Learning to see behavior as communication is important in helping to paint the full picture of what the dog or child needs in that moment to succeed. 

3)  Dogs, like children with autism, "see" things in black and white.  they do not understand grey areas where maybe this is OK sometimes under certain circumstances. 

They need clarity and predictability between daily choices in order

to succeed. 

4)  Dogs and children with autism have a hard time generalizing skills

to new locations and need help in doing so. 

5)  Neither dogs nor children with autism will socialize themselves. 

They both need our help to make friends and learn how to interact

with their world in a safe and predictable way. 

6)  When teaching dogs and children with autism, there has to be

consistency, patience and lots of repetitions of a skill before moving

to the next step.  Practice, and how you practice, matters.

Once I realized these things and thought about them within my own life and dog training experiences, it was easy for me to begin understanding how dogs learn and how to work with them to help both the dog and the human.  This was an important part of my growth as a dog trainer to help me better understand the needs of families and their dogs and how best to serve them in their specific situation. 

After I was finished training Carmella, I knew I wasn't "finished" training dogs.  Seeing her and my son work as a team and understanding all of those similarities fueled me to learn more and enter the world of professional dog training.  From that point, I took classes, attended conferences, seminars and read as many books about dog training as I could.  I was lucky to mentor under the trainer who had helped me train Carmella for many years.  As time went on, I became interested in learning more about behavior issues in dogs such as fear, aggression, and anxiety.  I continued to gain knowledge and experience working with these behaviors so I could help more people and dogs.  I am proud to now have more than 17 years of experience working with dogs (and have had the pleasure to work with many different species over the years) and families across Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana and more.  My goal in working with families is to help them build a team they are proud of.  Every dog has its purpose in your family, and I want to help you find that together.

While I have now helped hundreds of teams succeed in their service dog goals or helped families successfully navigate aggressive behaviors in their family pet, for me, my learning is never done.  In addition to running my business, I strive to continue my education at every possible opportunity in order to bring the most up to date, effective positive reinforcement methods to practice with my clients. I find that being able to look holistically at the dog and family from a needs based perspective helps my clients succeed long term.  I hold a variety of certifications and continuing education certificates from world renowned organizations such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, Family Dog Mediation, Aggression in Dogs, The International Association of Applied Behavior Consultants, and more.  I also have a wide range of education in holistic approaches and methods that include animal aromatherapy, canine fitness, gait analysis and more. 

Helping dogs and families succeed is my biggest passion in life and I would love the opportunity to help you and your dog find your purpose.  If you are ready to get started on your training journey with your dog, schedule a consultation with us and let us help you achieve your training goals.

A boy with his service dog looking at each other lovingly

My son and Carmella

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