"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

She made the switch from teaching humans to teaching canines, and now she’s dog gone glad

By on March 1, 2018 in Articles with 0 Comments

Dog trainer Jennifer Frese envisioned this custom-designed building for easy care and lots of activity. She is pleased with her big dog training space, and her Belgian Malinois, Tracer, seems to enjoy it, too.

By Susan Lagsdin

Jennifer Frese is excited about the near future, when she’ll have a chance to indulge her love of dogs in her own newly-constructed training facility, right next to her home.

Ever since she quit her elementary school job 10 years ago, shifting from teaching young humans to teaching all ages of dogs, she’s been clear about focusing her talents and her boundaries, and she’s getting good results.

In her dog training business, Positive Tails, she doesn’t prepare dogs for the show ring, hunting field or agility course. She doesn’t groom them or kennel them. What she does is help dogs become good companions for their humans.

She is generously democratic about dog breeds. For instance, “I’ve never had anyone bring me a bad pit bull. I love them — they’re funny, silly — and they’re kinda wiggly. They’ve got a bad rap, and I think that’s an owner problem.”

Jennifer said some big, family-friendly dogs have been tough to train, some little rascally-reputed breeds have been easier.

Jennifer explained, “It depends a lot on their individual personalities — if you can learn to communicate with them, it takes the pressure off… dogs naturally want to please you, but asking too much of them too soon is like asking a kindergartener to do calculus.”

Most dog trainers, generally open-minded about their four-legged clients, could say, “I never met a dog I didn’t like.” Jennifer is also in the no-bad-dogs camp, with one reasonable exception.

Jennifer plays with Tracer, one of her three well-trained personal dogs.

She said, in the most judicious terms, “A dog who is willing to bite, to fight with me with the intent of doing harm, is not one I particularly want to work with.” She trains alone, and though she’s well-insured, an injury would put a major crimp in her career.

Jennifer rarely sees that kind of behavior. She deals with puppies at the start of their long life with humans as well as dogs with problems that have come to a head, like leash-pulling, counter-surfing, reactive barking and similar annoyances that should and can be stopped.

Or, she said, “Sometimes I’ll re-train an older rescue dog who’s new to the adopting family but shows a history of abuse or incorrect handling.”

“In a sense, dogs train us — they know what they want and are pretty smart about teaching us to give it to them.” This 41-year-old trainer firmly believes that most dogs are capable and willing, but some owners can’t hold up their end of the bargain, and so make progress difficult.

Jennifer, a Wenatchee grad, as a child wasn’t raised around dogs, just cats.

But while she was teaching and living in Las Vegas 10 years ago, she had problems with her Bichon Frise mix, Bijou, and took the dog to a trainer.

She was so inspired by the process and the results, she said, “I jumped right off the cliff — I quit my teaching job, made a big move to Southern California, learned everything I could and started training dogs full time.”

She moved back home in 2011 to be with her parents, Glen and Sue Frese, who she said continue to be a tremendous help to her. The economy was still sputtering, and she was new to town again, but her business grew, partially enabled by demand.

“There are relatively few dog trainers here, and lots of dogs and dog owners,” she said.

Hobbies and social life, sports and travel pale beside her connection to dogs. She lives with her own three well-trained companions, a Belgian Malinois, a toy poodle and the same life-changing Bichon she had problems with years ago.

The big, boxy brand-new dog training facility on five acres in far east East Wenatchee is for her the culmination of a long period of striving and planning. She’s made her two smaller downtown Wenatchee venues work well for the last six years, but this new home for her business has everything she wants. Besides an existing house with privacy and a view, there’s a large fenced pen and a spacious building to suit her specific needs.

Stefan Swoboda designed it, and Shane Covey, of Custom Construction and Cabinetry, built it. The earth-toned cement panel and shake-look siding matches the home, and it’s no-care and fire resistant. The main training area, 1,600 feet square, allows plenty of room for exercise or group classes, and the rubber-matted cement floor and metal wainscoting mean it’s equally maintenance-free.

Jennifer said, “Now that the building is finished, I may get some more time for myself.” That translates to “more time with dogs.”

She added, “I think I’ll look into ‘nose work.’ Or maybe ‘dockdogs.’ Those sound like a lot of fun — and the dogs know they have a job to do.” (The former is the search and rescue dogs’ specialty; in the latter, dogs retrieve, jumping high and fast into water.)

Working with first and second-grade school children in her 20s taught Jennifer patience and empathy.

“With both kids and dogs,” she explained, “ It’s all about practice and repetition. You need to walk them through the steps at first and slowly increase the challenge. And you always have to remember that if a child, or a dog, does something incorrectly at the start, it’s very unlikely they’re making the mistake on purpose.”

Jennifer’s training in psychology and elementary education helps her communicate effectively with dogs.

Now, a decade after leaving the classroom, she’s enjoying a life of (almost) constant canines —  putting her abiding dog love to work.

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