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- Published on Thursday, 02 August 2012 06:26
- Written by Nadja Maril
Five years ago Kirsten Tolley needed a dog trainer. The Severna Park mother of four boys, the youngest of whom was three, had made an agreement with her husband. Yes, she could have a dog if the dog was "completely unobtrusive." A friend knew a trainer who she said was the best in the region. He could teach high-end obedience. His name was Ira Hartwell.
"I'm not taking any new students," he told her when she called.
"I decided I was going to phase out. I had been advertising and I was frustrated with the lack of effort from the people I was seeing. I felt I was wasting my time and wanted to be more selective," says Ira, a former Marine in his 60s, recalling the first time Kirsten tried to contact him. "I didn't want to say an outright 'no' so I told her she could call back in a few weeks if she was still interested. I figured I wouldn't hear from her again."
But Kirsten did call again, and again. By that time she had purchased her new puppy, a chocolate lab named Kona, and she was determined that Ira was going to help her train him.
Fast forward to late spring 2012. Three mornings a week, Kirsten, her dark blonde hair tucked under a baseball cap, assists Ira at his classes. She now owns two dogs and they are both model pupils. Calmly they wait in the back of her SUV. The trunk is open but the dogs will not leave without Kirsten's permission—the appropriate command. The younger dog, Finn, a yellow lab, turned two in June.
"Call your dogs," Ira requests, as half-a-dozen dog owners stand and observe. For several of the people present, this is their first visit to the class. They are uncertain what to expect, but they do as they are told. They keep their dogs initially in their cars, the windows slightly open, and they watch.
Individually Kona and Finn are called to come and sit at Kirsten's side. Finn is sent back to the car to "load up" and wait, while Kona walks around the perimeter of the property where the class has convened. He perfectly matches her steps and stays to her left, sitting and laying down instantly on command. There is no leash.
"Your dogs can be trained to do the same thing," Ira tells his prospective students, "but it takes a lot of work. It takes three years to train a dog."
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Responses (11) Go to discussions >
Replied by on Thursday, September 27 2012, 02:59 PM · #Ira is a wonderful trainer. My dogs responded wonderfully to his techniques which includes positive reinforcement. Thank you Ira and my dogs thank you also, they are happier, calmer and balanced due to your training!
Caroline, Bo, Jasper
Replied by on Sunday, August 19 2012, 11:29 PM · #I have also used Ira's method through one of his finished trainers who started Komplete k-9,when training my Maltese puppy. The methods used do work but people have to understand that in order for it to work they have to be EDUCATED about the tools used & actually putting the work into it by showing up to class & working with there dog/ puppy a little bit everyday. Learning should be fun & challenging & I get that every time I show up to class. Everyone has an opinion but coming from a veterinarian background there is No Way you can fully train a dog or puppy in 1 month! If some tells you differently then they don't have there facts straight. You can not fully train a 3 month old puppy in 1 month & if a trainer can do that I would love to see it. That is like stating that you can train your 5 year old child everything they need to know in life. Every dog/ puppy learns at there own pace. If a dog owner who is not taught how to use the training tools Appropriately, yes the dog can become Injured. That is not the goal. The goal is to educate the owner & have a obedient dog who is happy to work with you & for you without aggression. Every new command end on a positive note for the dog/puppy. I would highly recommend to use either Ira's facility or Komplete K-9 with Jim.
Replied by on Thursday, August 16 2012, 02:12 PM · #What a wonderful experience Ro and I had training with Ira. I can't imagine training with anyone else and if in the future I get another dog there is no doubt that I will be back in Ira's yard again training with him.
Christine and Ro
Replied by on Wednesday, August 15 2012, 01:14 PM · #Absolutely do your homework if you are looking for a trainer! No one trainer is going to be the right fit for every owner. Your research should not be limited to a trainer's methods or tools, however as terms and definitions have become distorted over time; look for the results of the training program. Ask to see the dog of a student who has been through the program. Ask to observe a class--are the students' dogs working happy? Is the class well-run? Are the students happy with the program? Ask to see the trainer's dog(s); you're only going to get results at the level the trainer him or herself is able to achieve.
To the previous poster, prong and electronic collars are training tools, not a training method. Like any tool, they can be misused or used properly. When used properly, they are both humane and effective. I'd invite you to come to one of our classes to observe, before you make and pass on your judgements.
Replied by on Tuesday, August 14 2012, 06:27 PM · #I think it’s great that Ira can claim such success with his pupils: both human and dog.
However, I do not see anywhere in this article a description of his techniques. I’ve heard that Ira is of an older school of dog training thought and relies on shock collars and prong collars to help teach a dog to behave. Using these methods of pain and fear can sometimes bury a dog’s behavior problems instead of fixing them. It’s like putting a mask on the dog, and masks can come off at bad times.
A newer school of training, positive reinforcement, results in dogs that are trained faster and are happier throughout their lives. It shouldn’t take three years to train a dog. With positive reinforcement, it can take a month if you’re dedicated and know what you’re doing. Yes, you have to reinforce the training over time, but that’s the same with any and all training methods.
To the public: if you are looking for a trainer, please do your homework on the different types of training methods available and make an informed decision on what you think is best. Personally, I do not think Ira’s methods are the best.
To the magazine: I would like to see Chesapeake Taste do an article on a trainer in the Annapolis area who uses the positive reinforcement method of training animals. It’s good to get both sides of the story, right?
Replied by on Sunday, August 12 2012, 08:18 PM · #Ira is wonderful. But some of us- Cheryl, Bev and I- remember plenty of bitter cold mornings, snow, rain and blistering heat.We had classes at shopping centers, bagel shops and banks. We all survived and our dogs are outstanding companions, protectors and good canine citizens. Thanks Ira! See you soon, Beth and Nola.
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