Jeanette Groner hates to hear stories of children attacked by dogs, although it happens every year. She hates it because she believes it doesn’t have to happen.
“The dog community needs to step up to the problem,” she said. The Rockford dog trainer took a step in the right direction herself by authoring Child and Dog Safety, a book she believes is good for any parent or dog owner to read. The mother of four said she often sees situations which could be dangerous.
For example, she rarely lets her daughters pet a strange dog on a leash. She said a dog on a leash has limited options to escape should it feel threatened.
“It just takes a second for something to go wrong,” Groner said.
Groner said her first work was training law enforcement search and rescue dogs in her native Netherlands. She gave up the career when she took time off as a full time mother. “One of my proud brag moments was to see a dog I trained in body recovery at an earthquake site on CNN,” she shared.
Here in Rockford, she is often asked to help with family dogs with behavior problems. Local business owner John Shattuck of Car Star and River Valley Auto had a dog with problems. His adopted a golden retriever—a breed known for its loving personality. This dog was not true to the breed.
The Shattucks, who have a daughter who is adopted, took the dog to a trainer, who said it was too aggressive and would have to be put down. They didn’t want their daughter to go through the trauma of losing a loved pet and tried another trainer. The answer was the same: the dog is unsafe.
“She took him for a week and had him at her home with her own family and children,” Shattuck said. “Now the dog is fine.” He said he had the opportunity to show the canine to the first trainer, who couldn’t believe it was the same animal. Prior to Groner’s intervention, Shattuck said the pet was completely aggressive and had no qualms about biting or attacking. Groner said the dogs actions stemmed from never learning proper behavior. This can happen when an animal is taken away from its mother or litter mates too soon or if the mother is unable to teach the pup socialization skills.
Groner said she believes any dog is redeemable, as long as there isn’t some physical condition, such as a tumor, preventing training. Some trainers believe in a purely positive approach to training using treats and toys. Groner is not of that school and said boundaries are important.
She told the story of a dog she worked with that had been bottle fed and babied by its owners. The little dog had no bite inhibition and would turn on its owners.
“All I did was grab her by the scruff a few times,” Groner said. She said she helped the owners rebuild the relationship and turned their dog back into a dog.
She said it is sometimes more important to train the owners than the dogs. “It is important for them to learn how does a dog understand,” she said. It is a common mistake to see your dog as a human and treat it that way.
She said training methods of many different sort may work. On popular television trainer Cesar Millan, she commented, “He has a talent and some great approaches, but what he does the average dog owner probably can’t do.”
One thing Groner recommends to any dog owner is to get out and do things with your dog. Too many people have dogs with problems because they don’t spend regular time with them. “Take them with you, go to the park and play. When dogs learn to trust you, you can see the bond building.”
Groner said the book includes stories, examples, signs to watch for, and lots of different information.
Writing the book was a way to help keep kids—and the dogs that might bite them under the wrong circumstances—safer. It is her life-long love to which she is dedicated. “I teach classes, I go to homes, a couple of times a month I am in the YMCA lobby with my dog teaching kids some basic things. It is my passion.” Groner also has a blog called Dog Training Simplified at balanceddogtraining.wordpress.com.