Bringing dogs (and owners) to heel

at work

Linda Kaim, professional dog trainer and owner of Coeur d'Lion K9 Behavior Management, Westminster

March 01, 2009|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to The Sun

Salary: $35,000

Age: 48

Years on the job: 30 years

How she got started: : When Kaim was about 10 years old, she got her first dog, an Irish setter, from a top breeder who served as her mentor in breeding and training dogs.

"I knew it was essentially what I wanted to do."

She started professionally training dogs at the age of 18. She traveled the country, always keeping her hand in dog training, which included apprenticeships with dog trainers and professional handlers, and working as a veterinary technician. She eventually moved to Maryland and opened a dog-training business. She also worked as the dog behavior counselor for the Humane Society of Harford County. Kaim moved to her Westminster location about two years ago. She is a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals.

Typical day: : Kaim teaches dog obedience classes and private lessons on her property and travels to provide private, in-home sessions. She starts her day at about 5:30 a.m., feeding, exercising and training resident dogs. She works with about 15 clients in a typical week. Group classes mostly occur on weekends, with private lessons held during the week. She covers all of Carroll County and parts of Baltimore, York and Adams counties. She says her training combines positive reinforcement with well-known techniques that are easy to follow.

"Dog training is about cooperation and acceptance. It is not about dominance and submission," she says.

Kaim says she works almost exclusively with dogs that have behavioral issues and is often a last resort for many owners who don't want to see their dogs destroyed or in a shelter.

"I can take these dogs and get a reasonable amount of control on them in a short amount of time, and people like that," she says.

When it comes to dogs, she says avoiding inappropriate behavior before it starts is much more effective than waiting to correct behavior. Dog training is mostly common sense, she adds, and giving them as much socialization as possible is important.

When training for the day is over, Kaim usually attends to administrative tasks.

Biggest mistake people make: : Treating dogs like people. Kaim says owners should know that dogs have a different means of communication.

Best advice: : "Don't wait until you're over your head. Seek help before you need it, as opposed to after the damage is done."

The good: : "I save dogs' lives."

The bad: : The job is physically demanding. "Dog training is not for the faint of heart."

Times she has been bitten: : Two in 30 years.

What to look for in a dog trainer: : Someone who is comfortable with many training methods because not all methods work on all dogs.

Her dogs: : Cotton, a 6-year-old English pointer, and Joe, a 4-month-old black Labrador retriever.

Philosophy:: Recognize the need for dog training. "Get it right the first time."

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