The bulldog was 10 weeks old when Jen Frazier picked him from a passel of puppies at the Humane Society and carried him to the car.
Frazier clutched the dog, letting him settle in her lap as she and her husband, Nick, stopped at every pet store on the way home, loading up on food, supplies and toys. Once home, the puppy was introduced to the cats, and the rest of the night centered around play and potty time, excitement thick in the air.
The next morning’s routine included the new member of the Frazier family: Tyson, their first bulldog.
Frazier first taught Tyson boundaries, leash walking and potty training. When she took him places, she received compliments from friends and family: “What a good dog.”
People started to ask for advice: How do you get him to walk without pulling? How do you keep him from reacting to the doorbell?
It was then that Frazier realized she was interested in training more than just her own dog. She and her husband did some research and eventually launched Dignified Doggies, a family company that specializes in dog training and rehabilitation.
“We really figured out that we had that passion, first of all for dogs in general, but also for helping people,” says Frazier. “Dogs in general make me happy. ... I greatly enjoy seeing the dogs make progress, achieving the goals their owners have set forth. I am very proud of the dogs no matter how big or small the challenge is.”
Frazier provides three main services: dog training, dog walking and pet sitting.
On any given day, Frazier could be teaching a trick, watching a pet or trekking around the block, dog in tow. In the winter, she piles on clothes and pulls on boots to walk her clients’ dogs around the neighborhood. Teaching dogs to walk on a leash is a common training request.
“Everyone wants to enjoy a nice walk with their dog without the dog pulling their arm off,” says Frazier.
Frazier often grows attached. One dog she remembers was a whippet named Buddy whom she would walk Monday through Friday, often pet sitting on weekends.
“There were days I saw Buddy as much as my own dogs,” says Frazier. “I enjoyed my time with Buddy and got to know him very well. I was sad as Buddy got older, and I knew our time was close to its end.”
There is often an emotional undercurrent coursing through Frazier’s work. Usually the emotions are positive — adoration, joy, love — but sometimes they are negative: disappointment, distress, irritation.
“It frustrates me when people expect me to walk in, wave a wand and magically fix their dog,” Frazier says. “It also frustrates me when people are not willing to fulfill the needs their dog has, such as proper exercise.”
Another challenge is stripping a dog of hobbling fears.
“You have to walk a fine line when addressing the behavior because you need them to face the fear in order to overcome it, but you do not want to make it worse in the process,” says Frazier.
To reprogram a startled dog, you have to be patient and pay careful attention. Frazier is willing to do both.
“You have to figure out that dog’s personality and what is going to make sense to the dog,” says Frazier. “I always strive to guide the dog through the process using encouragement and finding something they are motivated to work for such as food, affection and toys.”