By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — A 15 year old dog named Lola helped 27 year old Thomas Davis discover his calling of training and rehabilitating dogs. Davis, of South Glens Falls, is now bringing those skills to Clifton Park.
“She taught me a lot about canine behavior. She continues to teach me the right way to work with canines,” said Davis as he pet the dog as she sat in the front seat of his pickup truck. He believes the trust and understanding he has built with Lola over the last 15 years has contributed to his ability to connect with canines others might otherwise give up on.
Davis, officially kicked off his own dog training business, Upstate Canine Academy, in South Glens Falls last March. This month, he’s opening the doors to a new location in Clifton Park.
Davis chose to move to Clifton Park because of it’s centralized location. “We have clients coming from Canada and New York City. We have a lot of clients in Clifton Park. There’s a big pull from Albany, Schenectady and Troy,” said Davis. He, along with a staff of three, will open August 15th, though they’ll be doing consultations leading up to the grand opening on September 17th.
Davis said he never wanted to be a dog trainer, but his natural abilities led him down the path he’s on today. After a semester studying criminal justice at Adirondack Community College, now SUNY Adirondack, Davis knew it wasn’t for him. “I didn’t like the idea of limiting how creative you can be with your career,” he said.
Working with dogs is something Davis said has always come to him organically. “I was naturally drawn to dogs. I started off as a dog walker and as a pet sitter. It grew from that,” he said. “I work with canines the way dogs treat dogs. I pick up on how they treat each other and throw that into the mix,” he said.
Watching Davis work with a young dog is almost like watching a dance. Where he steps, the dog follows. If he spins around and walks backwards, the dog will trot backwards with eyes focused on Davis.
Though he offers doggy daycare services and trains therapy dogs, Davis said his specialty is rehabilitating aggressive dogs. “I’ve studied canines intensely for the last couple years. I like taking the dogs nobody else can work with,” said Davis. “I’ve taken countless dogs out of the euthanasia line,” he added.
Behavior modification, according to Davis, is all about figuring out and addressing the root of the animal’s actions. Davis’s knack for figuring out those root causes and his ability to remedy them is why he says his name has traveled far and wide. He works with international clients via Skype and Facetime consultations, as well. The first two weeks of boarding and training are already booked by international clients, according to Davis.
Davis said he will be offering discounts to law enforcement, veterans and soldiers seeking his help.
For the past three years, Davis has been travelling to Colorado to observe wolves at the Mission Wolf Sanctuary. “I camp out there for weeks at a time from sunrise to sunset. I study them at their rawest form. I learn about body posture and how to be calm around potentially dangerous animals,” he said.
When it comes to working with animals, Davis said it always comes down to experience.“A lot of people misinterpret fear for aggression,” said Davis. Many dogs who are labeled aggressive are simply misunderstood, he said.
There’s no such thing as a bad dog in Davis’s book. “No bad dogs” is actually stamped across the back of one of his t-shirts. They key to bringing out the best in potentially difficult dogs is setting them up for success, according to Davis. “It’s about being creative and patient. It’s about not crossing boundaries and being a good leader,” he said.
“Hate is being reinforced. We are creating it,” he said. “Some people get certain dogs because they want certain things out of them. People ruin the dog,” said Davis.
David said some clients have come to him desperate for help after working with multiple dog trainers from Lake George to Albany. “I’m able to get them running in a pack of 15 dogs within an hour,” he said.
One of the most difficult dogs Davis has worked with was a dog that was given to a grandmother by her grandchildren. “They collectively adopted her a dog. The dog was so feral and so neglected that no one could touch the dog after a week,” he said. The grandmother didn’t want to return the dog so she sought out Davis.
“I spent weeks getting bit, snarled at, scratched at and everything in between,” he said. In less than three weeks, Davis said the dog made improvements and could hang out with the woman’s grandchildren. “It can have a nice life as a dog. The gift she was given was broken and I was able to help,” he said.