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Best Friends Need Time

by Janet Nesler

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Can you teach old dogs new tricks?

After 35 years of training dogs, Jim Miller, local professional dog trainer says, “A dog is never too old to be trained.” 

Miller, an ex-Detective with the Indianapolis, Indiana Sheriff’s Dept. for 26 years, moved to the Lucasville area in 1992, with his wife, Judy.  He had already realized he had a gift with dogs.  “I learned to train dogs with my first German Shepard, who taught me how to train her.  Someone gave me the dog and it took me a full month before I could even touch her.  I tried to train her and she taught me what she would learn and what she wouldn’t learn.  She was the greatest teacher I ever had. From that time on I wanted to do dog training.  Aggression and behavior problems are the number one death in dogs.”

Today we live in such a throw away society that pets are handled much the same way.  “In 2003, some 1,500 dogs in Scioto County were put down,” said Pam Frowine, secretary at the Scioto County Dog Pound.  “We receive, on average, 150 dogs per month, of which some are aggressive and not available for adoption, and therefore are put down.”  

Sadly some dogs are abandoned due to behavioral problems, which can be solved through simple training.  “We only keep non-aggressive dogs three days for owners to reclaim them if they are lost,” continued Frowine.  “After that they are made available for the public to adopt.  After one and half to two weeks, if not claimed or adopted, the dogs are put down due to the overwhelming number that we receive.”  Dogs can be adopted from the Dog Pound for a $10.00 fee and buying a $5.00 tag.  No matter what the age, with a few weeks of dog training both the rescued dog and the new owner would feel a sense of  bonding.  

Miller’s training experience has been gleaned from years of practical hands-on training and reading every book he could find on dog training.  He absorbed all the good advice and added his own experiences to teaching.  “I feel that I have a God-given talent for communicating with dogs.  I can read their body language and watch the way they act and I can then communicate with them,” says Miller.

In Miller’s experience he has learned that most dog behavioral problems is not really the dog, but the owners, not knowing the simple key elements in training their pet.  “Dogs are the ultimate opportunists.  They will try you; even a perfectly trained dog at times will test your will.  It’s our responsibility to establish the fact that we (owner) are leader of the pack.  If the dog realizes ‘you’ are the leader they will be happy with that.” Informs Miller.

Although he is employed full time at Riverview Retirement Center, Miller officially began his own business, Jim Miller Dog Training; two years ago when he saw the areas need for a local trainer.   He already had several clients in the area and decided to offer his services publicly.  Jim Miller conducts his training skills at the home of the dog being trained with undivided attention.  This assures a source of comfort and faster learning for the dog, and gives Miller a chance to see the dog in it’s own environment.   

Miller is an AKC (American Kennel Club) certified evaluator in this area to conduct Canine Good Citizen testing seminars for local dogs. The testing is held annually if there is enough interested dog owners to make a class.  He helps to certify local dogs for visitation to nursing homes and hospitals.  The AKC tests are mandatory for anyone who wishing to take their dog to a nursing home or hospital for visitations with patients.   The dog receives a Canine Good Citizen Badge and a certificate from AKC.  The dog must exhibit certain behavioral standards to be a visitation dog. 

Whether your dog is a purebred or a mixed-breed rescued from the pound and exhibits behavioral problems, like chewing the furniture or jumping on visitors, there is a cure. “Where training is concerned, I have found it depends a lot on the personality of the dog, not the breed,” says Miller.  “I take each dog individually and spend time getting acquainted, trying to get in each dog’s mind and see what going on in there.  This way I know how to work with them.  Most of the dogs that I train have behavior problems or are aggressive.  This is what I like and specialize in.”  Miller smiles, “Most of the time the problem is the owners.  When I change the owners behavior slightly and the way the dog is treated – things start popping into place.” 

Miller continues, “I try to teach the owner how to enforce habits and not to depend on me to do it all.  We have to be fair and loving with our dogs, but they cannot be boss, as an example, never let a dog get his head above yours.  That is the first sign of dominance.”

Some major tips that Miller stresses are: “Aggressiveness in an older dog is more difficult but not impossible to be unlearned.  They learned it in the first couple years of their life, which makes it harder to deal with.  Being neutered or spayed does not have any effect on their dog training.  But for male dogs will make them less aggressive with other male doges, especially in the same household.  I recommend spaying and neutering of your pet.”

“I start training dogs as early as 8 weeks and we get the preliminary puppy training out of the way.  There really is an art to raising a puppy properly,” emphasizes Miller, “I train because of my love for dogs.  I couldn’t do this just for money, be bitten and slobbered upon.  Some of the best dog friends I have are the ones that just nearly ripped me apart when we first met and we got things straightened out right away.  I couldn’t do that for a living if I didn’t really love it.  I can be having a bad day and the first puppy I meet then it gets OK.  Even some of the worst puppies make my day.”

Miller is available for in home Dog Training By Appointment Only by calling 740-259-5058 or 740-935-5058.  


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