19 August 2008

Low Stress, Lots of Love: It's a Dog Trainer's Life

Angel Soriano can't recall a time he wasn't around dogs. When he was a boy in New Jersey, his dad always owned a couple of German shepherds. Today, Soriano has five shepherds at home. At work — at K9 University in northwest Oklahoma City — he's surrounded by all breeds of pooches. According to his business card, Soriano is president, chief executive, chief operating officer and master trainer. But the name embroidered on his company sports shirt says it all: "DogMan."

Soriano spends his days training canines in basic to advanced obedience, search and tracking, personal protection, police training, drug detection and more. His furry students range in age from eight weeks, the ideal time to start training, to 14 years old. "I can see the change in a dog the minute I start working with them," Soriano said. "I like the immediate day-to-day satisfaction." Conversely, when he worked a corporate job, he never realized his impact on the bottom line, he said.

Soriano has been in the dog training business for 23 years. He trained part time in California and Oklahoma before he and his wife, Lynn, started the business three years ago. At K9 University, he and six other trainers offer six-week, group obedience lessons, private lessons and a 10- to 15-day boarding school. A dog's bad behavior quite often is his owner's fault, Soriano said. "For example, dogs as puppies may have nipped at fingers or barked at strangers, and their owners thought it was cute and didn't correct it,” he said.

Soriano also teaches protection and advanced obedience to what he calls executive dogs, or primarily German shepherd or Belgian malinois breeds — to place with families with large properties and traveling spouses. He breeds dogs from imported European lines, and also imports 4-month-old to 2-year-old dogs to sell. Executive dogs sell for $20,000 to $35,000 each, he said.

Training police dogs - At Canine Unlimited in Tulsa, owner Oscar Hall also imports dogs, primarily shepherds, retrievers and Labradors from Europe and specializes in placing dogs with police forces nationwide. He places 30 to 60 dogs a year for around $10,000 each. Hall has been in the business 35 years. He's trained through the U.S. Customs and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, he said. Since 9/11, dogs who detect explosives are in demand, he said.

Dog training is a lot of hard work in all kinds of weather, but Hall loves it. The best part, he said, is hearing about his dogs' feats, like when Chico found a lost child. Hall recommends people who are interested in the dog training business mentor a trainer and train their own dogs to see whether they like it.

Kaylin Woshida of Piedmont did just that. Soon after she got her bull terrier puppy 15 months ago, she took a part-time job with K9 University. A few months later, she quit her five-year job in medical billing to become a full-time dog trainer, where she's exceeded her former salary. "My office job was a lot of stress,” Woshida, 29, said. She worked in a cubicle and had a long commute. "Here, my doggies love me. It makes me feel good to come to work.”

[Source: NewsOK.com]