New Pet Service Facility at Forefront of Modern Dog Training Movement

May 23, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Last Saturday, Rebecca Weiss flung open the doors of her Lucky Dog Pet Services facility in Little Egg Harbor and welcomed the public with music, food and training demonstrations. The event could’ve been the canine equivalent of a UN assembly. Dogs of all breeds and sizes gathered in peace to promote the business venture of their mutual friend, Weiss, whom they all greeted with considerable gaiety. Weiss herself was beaming, zigging and zagging from client to newcomer, client to newcomer.

Ten years ago, Weiss’s husband brought home an unruly puppy. Inspired by the spontaneous, furry addition to their lives, she decided to leave behind a promising career in management and seek work at the shelter their new puppy had come from. What began as cleaning up after animals transformed quickly into dog training.

“That’s where it all started. I was cleaning kennels; it was not a glorious job at all. I realized then, as soon I started, it was a passion and I had to follow it,” she said.

Weiss started Lucky Dog Pet Services six years ago as a remotely run business. She made house calls and even opened the doors of her own home for obedience lessons. It wasn’t until this year that she was able to find a large enough property to give her business some roots, some permanence.

The space was open and simple, with smooth concrete floors and a high metal ceiling. In one corner stood a pet portrait station for visitors to dress and immortalize their dogs for $35. Food tables in the adjacent corner offered coffee, doughnuts and sandwiches. Another corner held chairs and a German shepherd in an intimidating neon vest, preparing for the bite demo that was to be held later on in the day. Left and right, dogs were panting happily, owners were conversing, and the easy rain was drowsy background noise. The building was a dog-lover’s hazy weekend dream.

Weiss was laughs and smiles, but she was also business and discipline. “The biggest problem I see with dogs today is that we as a culture want to humanize dogs too much. When we don’t treat them like canines and we treat them like people, we’re actually fostering really bad behaviors and long-term, severe issues,” she said.

She stressed that this excessive human-like treatment of pets can be detrimental to their development. Dogs raised under these “love you to death” habits tend to be protective to a fault, insecure without their owners, anxious and reactive on leashes.

“Deep down, they’re dogs. They need to be dogs before anything else.”

Through Lucky Dog Pet Services, Weiss and her sole, full-time employee, Emily Richardson, strive to educate owners on the effects of excessive coddling, and explore solutions for the resulting displays of disobedience.

The Manahawkin native spent five days in Holland for an intensive training program. “I’ve made it my mission to seek knowledge and I give that knowledge to Emily freely, as much as I can. We are extremely qualified at what we do. We have a lot of good knowledge, and we’re all about modern dog training.”

For Weiss, modern dog training employs a motivational approach. It’s an emphasis on positive reinforcement, the method by which a dog is rewarded and praised for good behavior.

“The big difference in dog training 50 years ago is really that positive reinforcement was unheard of,” Weiss said. “We make good behavior the most comfortable behavior for them so that they seek it on their own without being told.”

It looks as though her training philosophy has worked thus far. One of her own dogs was sold as a bomb dog for the Statue of Liberty, and another is a dual-purpose patrol and narcotics dogs for the police force.

Prices at Lucky Dog Services begin at $400 for a package of four group classes. The cost of the programs increases based on how involved or uninvolved owners intend to be. Lucky Dog offers puppy training, problem solving and basic obedience; options vary depending on what kinds of issues a dog is exhibiting.

“We can train the dogs to do anything, but if we don’t get the owner on the same page as us, then nothing is going to stick,” Weiss said. Owners are required to either come in and train with their dogs, or simply observe Weiss and Richardson working the dogs themselves.

Darren Krebs and daughter Brianna Krebs were two of many clients who came to the event. The Krebs family had rescued Pilot, a copper-colored pit bull mix, a year ago and brought him to Lucky Dog Pet Services for training. The new addition to their family had serious behavioral issues – chasing after the family cat, pulling at the leash on walks. Weiss worked with him for 20 days before returning him to his family. “We saw a huge difference right away. Literally a different dog,” said Darren Krebs. “When we first got him, if he saw a rabbit, he was gone. But now he’ll look, but he won’t go.”

Around 2 p.m., Weiss pushed the event outdoors for the scheduled demonstration. Onlookers huddled under a tent while Weiss and a panting German shepherd trotted back and forth in near unison. A man loaded with padding stood some ways away and braced himself for the bite demo portion of the afternoon. With a word, Weiss sent the dog vaulting, mouth agape, toward the unflinching man. The dog latched onto the padding around the man’s arm dangling in the air, and with another word, Weiss summoned the animal back to her side. A simple game of fetch and return. The dog looked up at Weiss excitedly, a testament to Weiss’s theory that well-trained dogs are happy dogs.

Lucky Dog Pet Services is located at 1500 Route 539. More information can be found online at http://luckydogpetservicesnj.com/

— Sarah Hodgson 

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