Inside Ottawa Valley

Be the leader of your pack, local dog trainer says NEWS| Aug 25, 2011| Smiths Falls Record News


Move over Cesar Millan, Smiths Falls has a new dog whisperer in town!

For the last year Robert Suffel has been putting his life-long experience with canines to work for local dog owners who are struggling with a challenging pet and feeling like the only solution is to re-home them.

"A lot of people don't realize that their dog can be fixed," Suffel said.

This self-taught trainer has seen a variety of cases since opening rehabilitation and training services to the public a year ago, including anxiety and severe aggression. In most cases he can demonstrate improvement within three hours of working with a dog.

"The dogs are the very easy part it's always the people that are a challenge," Suffel said.

One case involved a four-year-old hound who caused a significant amount of damage to a home, including ripping up carpet due to severe anxiety. Within five weeks of training with Suffel he said the dog had returned to a balanced state of life and he and his owners were very happy.

To assist anxiety riddled dogs simply don't react to the situation that causes their anxiety. Suffel has come to realize that many owners, particularly of small breeds, humanize their dogs and this can cause all sorts of problems.

"They try to apply human psychology to dogs and it just doesn't work," he said.

The key to owning a balanced pet is to recognize that dogs are pack animals and always need to have an identified leader. If their human owner doesn't assume this role then the dog feels it is them who must step up and be the dominant force, which is where trouble can begin. "We're really not doing any harm to a dog to lead it," Suffel added. "You really are doing them a big favour."

Dogs need to know when to pee, sleep and eat. Their simplified approach to life, including the ability to not focus on the past or worry about the future has given Suffel the gift of grounding.

"That's what's great about dogs is they live for the moment," he added. "We've got a lot to learn from them."

Suffel provides obedience classes each Wednesday night at Campbell Road Veterinary Services (off Roger Stevens Drive) and offers his services in the home environment as well. Classes are small (six-to-seven dogs per class) and focus on the basics (sit, stay, lie down, shake a paw) while addressing individual needs of pet owners.

"We try to make it as individual as possible," Suffel added. "We just want to make a good pet out of them."

Dr. Gaelin O'Grady, veterinarian at the Campbell Road clinic sits in on a number of classes and has provided her insight into the service on occasion.

"I'm learning quite a bit from her," Suffel said.

For more information please call Robert Suffel at 613-285-1157. Suffel works full time in construction and is self trained in the art of dog training from years of raising dogs. He currently has two Japanese Chins (Jethro and Ruben). Suffel can be found visiting a number of area retirement homes where both dogs receive a warm welcome.