Ribbon cutting planned at dog training business


In her 11 years as a professional dog trainer, Monica Rivera has worked with most dog breeds.

No matter if their owner wants them to walk better on a leash, stop jumping on people or follow commands, it’s not all on the dog to learn. It’s more about the owner, she said.

“Every client I ever get, I always tell them it’s 85% teaching the humans and only 15% teaching the dogs,” she said. “It’s all human learning. They are the ones that need to learn how to be consistent and make them follow it through and greet their dog and are they getting it or are they not. They are the ones that really need to change the behaviors.”

It’s up to the owner to put in the time and work so their dog will learn faster.

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“People kind of find out throughout the lessons, ‘Oh, this is more teaching for us than it is the dogs.’ ‘Now you’re catching on. Now you’re getting it,'” Rivera said. “The dogs always reflect the humans. They’ll get out of it the amount of work that they put into it.”

A lot of people don’t understand how much teaching and training goes into it, she said.

“I told somebody the other day, ‘Our kids go to school for 12 years every day pretty much. You can’t expect a dog to be perfect after just a couple of weeks or six weeks,'” she said.

Rivera used to work for a national pet store before deciding to take a different job and do private lessons on the side.

As the group lessons continued to grow, she realized she needed a facility. On June 10, she opened Dog Training with Monica in Suite 204 at Shops at Seymour, 357 Tanger Blvd.

At 11 a.m. Friday, she will celebrate that achievement with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. She will have lunch, drinks, giveaways (dog goody bags with treats and a toy), training coupons, training tip handouts and a prize for a free spot in a group class.

She said her business is unique to Seymour.

“I guess I didn’t actually realize how much we needed it until I started doing it full time. People would specifically say that to me, ‘We need this around here,'” Rivera said. “I didn’t realize that we don’t have anything. The closest one is Columbus, so at least I can provide that because Seymour is a very dog-loving area. And not just Seymour, but Jackson County. People are crazy about their dogs.”

Rivera’s interest in dogs began in high school when she had one that she taught tricks and commands. She only used her face, no hands and no words.

“I’ve always loved dogs, but I just found out that I just kind of had this uncanny ability to understand them,” she said.

In 2008, she looked into schools where she could become a certified dog trainer and came upon Animal Behavior College. It’s based in California and pairs students with mentors in their area who are connected to the program.

The first part of the nearly yearlong course consists of bookwork, learning about clicker training, basic obedience, tricks, dog behaviors, breed types, personality types and tendencies.

For the final six months, she participated in an externship at Humane Indiana in Munster, near her hometown of Griffith. Lessons were once a week, and she also shadowed the trainer three other days a week.

“I had to take a dog through (the trainer’s) class, then helped him teach a class and then taught one of my own,” Rivera said.

Once she was certified, Rivera landed a job at Petco in Merrillville teaching group classes. She also did private lessons.

“Because I was certified and I went through that college, they hired me right away, so it was super easy to get a job because of that,” she said. “That was really exciting.”

In 2010, she moved to Seymour. She worked a full-time job for about eight years and did dog training on the side.

In 2017, she quit her job and did dog training full time with her business, Dog Training with Monica. She traveled to people’s homes to do private lessons. That’s a six-week program that involves working with a dog and its owner for an hour once a week.

“It’s individualized, so whatever they need to work on as far as commands and following manners, we do that there,” Rivera said. “It’s a little bit easier for them to learn inside their own homes, depending on what their training problems are.”

There also are puppy classes for dogs under 10 months old and dog classes for those older than 10 months.

“That’s all beginning basic commands and how to prevent behaviors, how to not encourage jumping from the beginning, how to prevent leash pulling from the beginning, house training if they need it, those kind of tips,” Rivera said of the puppy classes. “Most of the puppies is preventative before you’ve got any kind of big issues because anything the dog does is taught by the humans.”

For the dog classes, it’s about fixing bad manners like jumping, fixing leash pulling, teaching commands they never learned and showing them how to greet people.

The group classes can be done at the owners’ home or at her new facility.

The most common bad habit? Leash pulling, Rivera said.

“For people that have a dog that pulls a lot on the leash, that’s really stressful,” she said. “They know they need to take the dogs out, but just the thought of even starting that process is just super overwhelming and stressful. If people can do that, they are getting out more, their dogs are getting out more and that’s probably my favorite one just because I know that they are starting to get out more together.”

Rivera also offers boarding and training where the dog stays with her and she teaches it and then she teaches the owner. She does boarding without training, too.

Plus, Rivera is an American Kennel Club evaluator and can do the Canine Good Citizen test and Trick Dog program. She said a good citizen dog is one that is well-behaved and can go out in public and not be distracted by other dogs and people, while a trick dog is taught to do different types of tricks. Her dog, Simba, knows 32 tricks and commands and has won novice and intermediate titles, she said.

In terms of working with different breeds, Rivera said the most common is German Shepherds.

“They are the most frequent fliers, I call them,” she said, smiling. “I think a lot of people don’t do enough research, and they underestimate their energy levels. They are a working dog. They need to be exercised mentally and physically at least two hours a day, so with them, you get all of the excess energy, the jumping, the destructive chewing, the leash pulling.”

Labradors and retrievers are the easiest to train because they are very willing to work, while the bigger breeds, like mastiffs and danes, are more difficult because they are very lazy dogs, Rivera said.

“They are not super motivated to do much of anything,” she said, smiling. “We have a couple of them in my group class, and halfway through, the dogs are on their back laying upside down while everybody else is still working. It doesn’t take much to wear them out. They are not harder. It’s just they can only do so much before they quit on you.”

Of all of her training options, Rivera said her favorite part is when she sees the owner catch onto what she’s teaching and they are able to break their dog’s bad habit.

“When they come back and I ask how they did this week, I get the stories, ‘Oh my gosh! We actually did this and we’re actually able to do this with my dog,'” she said. “That’s probably the best part because the stress is gone from the crazy dogs.”

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What: Ribbon-cutting ceremony

When: 11 a.m. Friday

Where: Dog Training with Monica, 357 Tanger Blvd., Suite 204, Seymour at Shops at Seymour

Who: Public invited

Details: Lunch, drinks, giveaways (dog goody bags with treats and a toy), training coupons, training tip handouts and a prize for a free spot in a group class.

Information: 812-565-9311, dogtrainingwithmonica.com and facebook.com/dogtrainingwithmonica


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