We have an amazing team, and we want you to get to know them! This is the second in our series of Trainer Highlights! In this article, we ask Lead Trainer Dana O’Lone Long of Valor K9 Academy – Chattanooga some questions about her life and life as a dog trainer.
1. What is your favorite dessert?
All of them! Cheesecake, cupcakes, apple pie, tiramisu… It really just depends on my mood but I will always go for something homemade. I really love food in general!
2. What breed of dog would you be?
Hmmm, I knew I should have taken that Facebook quiz… I’m struggling with this one because I see such a variety of personalities within the same breed. I think I would be a Malinois like Essie (not just any Malinois 😉 ). She is happy to work & happy to settle. She loves to do new things and go new places (really just DO anything), and I feel similar. She gets excited to see people she knows but is ok to do her own thing, too. And, she is very food motivated. I guess a number of breeds could be described that way so maybe I’d actually be a mutt ☺
3. Coffee or tea?
Both. I like coffee, with lots of creamer, and I like tea with honey
4. If you had a time machine, would you go back in time or into the future?
Neither. Not to be too philosophical but I wouldn’t want to go back in time for fear of accidentally changing the current state of things, and I wouldn’t want to go into the future because I may learn more than I want to know. Good or bad, I think the knowledge of what was to come would cause more problems for me than it’s worth.
5. What is your favorite meal to cook and why?
Anything pasta. One of the beautiful things about pasta is it can be as simple as boiling water & noodles and adding a premade sauce, or you can spend hours making everything from scratch. Both make me very happy to cook & eat.
6. What did you do before dog training?
I started working in veterinary medicine in 2003 & was a vet tech in an emergency & specialty clinic for the 9 years prior to becoming a dog trainer . I worked in Emergency & Critical Care, Internal Medicine & with a Neurologist/ Behaviorist, as well as working in a general day practice.
7. Why did you decide to make the switch to training? When was that?
I decided to change careers in 2015. I was very torn on what I was supposed to be doing with my life at that time, and there were a lot of changes taking place in my work environment. I’ve always felt that my job was to help people with their pets, and now I get to do it in an entirely different way.
8. What has your experience been like with Valor K9 Academy?
Being a trainer with Valor has been more than I could have truly anticipated almost 6 years ago. The people I’ve met, the dogs I’ve helped, and all of the things I’ve learned over these years have been life changing. When I met Amy in early 2015, I had the strangest, very distinct feeling that I was supposed to know her. Fast forward a few months & I was living in Spokane, learning from the first dog trainer I’d met in many years to actually make sense to me. My experience with Valor has been so rewarding & educational, from the very beginning & I hope to never stop learning from this company.
9. What is your favorite type of training?
Helping a family regain the peace in their household, even through basic obedience training, is very rewarding. But my absolute favorite type of training is working with fearful dogs. It’s a time consuming endeavor but absolutely worth it to see a dog’s confidence in themselves & you grow.
10. Tell us about your pack!
I’ve had the opportunity to own many dogs throughout my life. I’m so grateful I grew up in a family that embraced having dogs, with parents that let me talk them into probably more than my share of pups over the years. Currently my husband & I have 3 dogs – Charlie, a 7 year old West German Showline German Shepherd Dog from Kennels von Lotta, Yedi, a 4 year old Belgian Malinois we adopted at 6 months from his previous family, and Essie, a 5 month old Belgian Malinois from Loups du Soleil.
Charlie is the first dog I ever sought out from a breeder and he is everything I asked her for & more. He has been such a versatile dog, teaching me more about dog training than any other dog, and has been such an asset helping me rehab other dogs. He’s not super interested in interacting with other dogs these days but will still go out of his way to entice a super nervous or fearful dog to play. He’s incredibly gentle with tiny dogs & is the epitome of patient with puppies. At this point he is partially retired, really only working with client dogs when there’s food involved ☺ He’s earned his downtime now but still enjoys learning new things, hiking and going out in public so everyone can tell him how handsome he is.
Yedi belonged to a client of mine years ago & he was just not a good fit for their family. He was a nervous reactive dog, sold as a German Shepherd with fake paperwork. He came so far in training as a young puppy but no amount of training will change temperament & everyone was unhappy in the household. Yedi was the first dog to graduate from one of my Board & Train programs that I was really sad to see leave & it seems appropriate that he would come back to live with us. He is not the easiest dog but has come so far & is so much more confident than he was. He also now helps me with clients and their dogs, both in private lessons & Board & Trains. The day he acted as demo dog with a new male client whose own dog was too nervous to take food during her first lesson, I had such pride knowing there was no way he would have come anywhere near someone like that before training. He’s patient and playful, bringing new dogs out of their shell, and is the sweetest, cuddliest, and most motivated boy. He is solely responsible for turning me on to the Malinois breed & I’m so glad he’s a part of our family.
Which brings us to Essie. Yedi made me want another Malinois one day, one that had great genetics and an even more resilient temperament. After lots of research, I reached out to Michael Ellis about his breeding kennel, Loups du Soleil. Michael is another mentor in dog training and I loved every answer he had when we talked about his program. I picked up Essie from California in January and she is the most amazing puppy. She also is everything I could have asked for, including things I didn’t think of. She’s so sweet & affectionate. Quick to cuddle and equally quick to jump up and train or play or go somewhere. You get all of her focus & she is a little too smart for her own good sometimes! Nothing slows her down and she’s all 4 feet in, no matter what the situation. I’ve rarely seen her uncomfortable with something for more than a second and then she just presses on, looking for the next adventure. I couldn’t have asked to be matched with a more perfect puppy & I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together!
All 3 of our dogs are active family members, going where we go & doing what we do. Each brings unique traits to the table & I don’t want to imagine life without them!