Xena the Abused Puppy Trained Positively

Xena/Lisa MatthewsXena is a pitbull mix whose amazing transformation from a neglected, emaciated puppy to a thriving companion dog for Jonny, a boy with autism, has made national headlines. The bond between Jonny and Xena is incredible.

Xena's story was brought to my attention by Atlanta-based  (VSPDT) trainer Lisa Matthews, founder of Pawsitive Practice in Alpharetta, GA (pictured kneeling). She is helping the family train Xena and I couldn't think of a better person to teach and guide them.  Linda, Jonny's mother is adamant that Xena will only be taught with positive methods, not just because she is a special dog who is incredibly bonded with a little boy, but because she, like every dog, deserves to be taught with kindness and respect rather than with intimidation and fear. I have no doubt that Xena will be a wonderful symbol of the power of positive training.

Of course I'm thrilled that Xena's family has chosen a Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) to help her acquire more skills, but what really warms my heart is that this beautiful dog has now found comfort and companionship in a loving home as well as becoming a little boys' best friend.

Watch Jonny and Xena's story here:


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  • Xena is a fantastic dog, and we are blessed to be working with her. Victoria is so right: every dog deserves to be taught using positive reinforcement training. Sadly that's not the case, and people all over the world are being scammed by trainers who use force, fear and intimidation to teach new behaviors or to suppress existing behaviors. If you are looking for a fantastic trainer who trains positively, make sure you check out positively.com first to find a VSPDT near you.

    But if you find yourself outside the VSPDT service area which is growing daily by leaps and bounds, here are 8 essential questions to ask every trainer you interview:

    1. What is your training philosophy?
    2. How do you go about getting my dog to repeat a behavior?
    3. How do you go about getting my dog to stop repeating a behavior?
    4. Do you carry liability insurance?
    5. Do you maintain a current business license?
    5. What are the pros and cons of each training tool you might use with my dog?
    6. Would you share a copy of your code of ethics for my review?
    7. What degrees and certifications do you hold, and how do they apply to dog training?
    8. What and when was the last continuing education class you attended.

    And finally, do a gut-check with every answer you hear. So often we ignore the early warning signs and red-flags that speak so clearly to us. No Pain, Just Gain. You too can learn to Train Humane.

    Lisa Matthews Ed.S., CPDT-KA, VSPDT Owner of Pawsitive Practice Training in Johns Creek, GA

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