In this article, our first in a series of client interviews, we get to know Connor Wilm who has trained both of his dogs with us at our Chattanooga, TN, location. Connor and his wife are longtime, loyal clients, and we’re grateful for their business and so happy they’ve had an exceptional experience with us!

chattanooga dog training

1. Connor, where are you from and what made you choose to train with Valor K9 Academy – Chattanooga?

We are from Knoxville Tennessee and we chose Valor K9 Academy for many reasons. First, we had used a local trainer and did a two week board and train program with our field lab, Wes. They did not meet our standards (we didn’t get any results and they didn’t seem to know how to handle Wes and his high energy) and we were looking for additional training. Jordan found the Valor K9 instagram page and discovered the Chattanooga location. After looking at the Valor K9 website, social media pages, and youtube page we decided to inquire about the board and train program. This started our relationship with Valor K9 and Dana. We have sent multiple dogs to Dana as well as recommended Valor K9 to many families.

2. What were your dogs like before training?

Wes is a very high drive lab and before Training, he was a dog that could not control his energy, was inconsistent with obedience and unpleasant to be around due to his lack of manners. He could never sit still and we felt like we constantly needed to tire him out. Not to mention having him walk nicely on a leash was something we felt like we would never accomplish. Wes also was nervous around passing cars, strangers, and random objects such as a trash cans, etc. He could only be described as “out of control” and was labeled by the local trainer we used as “the worst puppy she’s ever worked with”.
Our other lab, Hank, was adopted from the local shelter and was more of a typical lab puppy with a happy go-lucky attitude, however, no manners, zero leash-walking skills, and higher prey drive (leading to him jumping the fence a few times). Hank is lower drive than Wes and has never met a stranger. We wanted Hank to attend the board and train to become a well rounded dog we could take anywhere.

 3. Which training program did you sign up for and what are your dogs like now that they’ve been through training?

Both of our dogs attended the Board and Train program. Now, they are both well-mannered and have a good off-switch. Wes is able to channel his energy and once we have exercised him, he is able to be calm and level-headed in the house. In addition, Wes had a huge aversion to the nail clippers. Thanks to Dana, we are able to use the nail dremel without issue now. We use the place beds on a daily basis for both dogs. They’re great for when company comes over, we’re eating, or the dogs just need to relax. Thanks to our training with Valor K9, both dogs are treadmill trained. So, when the weather isn’t great or we had an extremely busy day, we know the dogs can still get mental/physical stimulation. Hank is a laid back lab that loves to retrieve with rock solid off-leash obedience. He also no longer attempts to jump the fence! We often get told that we have the most well-behaved dogs in the neighborhood!

4. In your words, what is balanced training and why are you an advocate for it?

Balanced training to me is the most effective way to train a dog because it paints an extremely clear picture to the dog of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It’s also a great method once the dog understands what you are asking off them when giving commands and you feel it is time to hold them accountable. We are advocates for this method because it changed our lives with our lab, Wes. He has been described as “hard- headed” and “stubborn” and holding him accountable has been very important. A positive-only method, where there are no consequences, simply would not (and did not) work for him. We have found it to be very important to balance praise when earned and with corrections when necessary. The balanced training method also requires that the person and the dog have a relationship of mutual respect. The balanced training method is one that can be used on all types of dogs but adapted specifically to each dogs needs. We currently foster for a rescue and this method has been very helpful with our foster dogs. For example, one foster was biting the crate/trying to get out and was definitely going to injure herself. She had a consequence for biting the crate and positive reinforcement when she was calm. The behavior quickly stopped and she was able to be calm in her crate.

5. You continue to drive from Knoxville to Chattanooga to board your dogs with us. Why?

We continue to drive from Knoxville to Chattanooga (about 2 hours each way) because we have 100% trust in Dana and Valor K9. We know that our dogs will be taken care of, held to the training standards we have for them, and be given mental and physical exercise. When we go out of town we do not have to worry about our dogs and have peace of mind. This makes the drive worth it to us.

6. Did you work with any other trainers before you signed with Valor? If so, what was that experience like?

We had worked with one local trainer who was recommended by a friend prior to finding Valor K9. Wes attended a two-week board and train at this facility that left much to be desired. The facility itself was not well maintained, the trainer used mostly positive reinforcement (which did not work for Wes), and after the board and train we were told we could have private brush up sessions as needed for 1 year. During the 2-week board and train, we went to Wes’ one-week progress session. He had essentially learned a repetitive sequence of Sit, Down, Leave it. We knew this because when the trainer was holding the reward he would offer the behavior in that sequence every-time. This was not functional or practical for real life. The trainer made frequent remarks about how “bad” of a puppy Wes was, and it was clear his high drive/energy was too much for this facility to handle. We considered removing him from the program as the trainer said we could take him home and work on the commands ourselves and bring him back at a later date for his last week of training. We elected to have him remain in the program as we didn’t feel like she gave us with much to work on. Upon completion of the program the trainer told us Wes was the worst puppy she had ever trained with the sharpest puppy teeth she had ever felt. She did introduce him to the prong collar, which she told us should be worn like a necklace hanging off his neck so there is no pressure unless you are giving a correction (we later found out this was terrible advice). After getting home, we were left with a puppy that could do Sit, Down, and Leave it, but continued to be “out of control”. It was after this board and train program that Wes became extremely fearful of random things/people. We realized we had not achieved any of the goals we wished to accomplish from training and started looking for another program.

7. What is one thing that stands out to you as an exceptional part of your experience with Valor K9 Academy?

One thing that stands out as an exceptional part of Valor K9 are the high standards they set. The entire board and train process was extremely detailed from start to finish. The trainers deliver results and provide you with all of the necessary information/education. It is up to you to continue to implement the strategies at home.

8. Is there anything you’d like to add?

We would like to add that a training program for your dog is just as much a training program for yourself. Dana made sure we understood how to maintain everything our dogs had learned as well as the reasons behind some of the behaviors our dogs were displaying. We have learned so much from Dana/Valor K9 and are very thankful for the knowledge she has shared with us. We now volunteer for a Belgian Malinois rescue by fostering dogs. We have been able to take what we have learned from Dana and help our fosters to be a well mannered dog for their forever home. Our well-mannered dogs have been a crucial part to helping our fosters as well. We will always recommend Valor K9 Academy any chance we can!
Thank you, Connor, for allowing me to “interview” you and for sharing your experiences with us!