SOMERS, N.Y. – Despite his master’s degree in physical education and sports pedagogy, and his ensuing career, Somers native Steve Reid decided to switch his focus from training humans to “changing the world for dogs.” The epiphany occurred about two years ago, when he casually volunteered to walk dogs at the Putnam Humane Society.
“Nearly 4 million companion animals a year are killed in shelters in this country,” Reid said. “A lot of dogs are surrendered because of behavior problems. I want to help prevent that, and I want to help shelter dogs get adopted.”
Reid enrolled in an intensive course for dog training, spending three hours a night, five nights a week, from September to December, learning the ropes. “It was very comprehensive,” he said. “There was an oral exam and a hands-on exam.”
Now a certified trainer, Reid has established his own business. “Any dog can be re-educated,” he said. “It’s never about harsh training or punishment or just a simple reward. It’s about setting clear and fair expectations that your dog understands. Too many people are uninformed, or misinformed, about how to achieve that.”
You have to be fair and consistent. If a dog jumps on you on Saturday, when you’re in your shorts and T-shirt, you can’t get mad when he does it on Monday, when you’re wearing your suit. “Dogs can’t tell the difference,” Reid said.
The adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is false, he said. “Every dog is unique and individual, just like people. Any dog can be trained. Some are faster than others, depending on age and energy level, for example. You’ve got to evaluate every situation.”
Reid’s services usually begin with a consultation and observation in the home, perhaps two or three hours long. From that, he develops a customized training plan. The usual problems are aggression, house-training, general puppy training and various phases of obedience training.
If you have a question about your dog but do not require a professional trainer, you can email Reid through his website for a personal response. If you are searching for a trainer, find one who is patient, realistic, fair to the dog, well-trained him- or herself, and never, ever harsh.
“Dogs are not throwaway,” he said. “They’re lifelong family members.”