Russ Dillon has always been passionate about working with and training dogs. In 1997, Dillon became a Certified Military Working Dog Handler through an 11-week program at Lackland, Air Force Base. Since that time, Dillon has been training pet, therapy, and service dogs. Upon returning to Omaha, he started working with family dogs in the area as well as Doggie Day Cares. I appreciate his taking time to answer questions about Dillon’s Dog Training.
ALLISON: You have trained dogs as part of the Air Force, Military Working dog teams, and Las Vegas Police Department’s K9 units. Share some highlights from those experiences.
RUSS: I set up dog training scenarios for the Las Vegas teams but I didn’t train them. I know it’s a fine line but as far as the Vegas teams go they were trained, I just set up the explosive problems for their dogs and they set up the narcotic problems for our dogs.
The highlight was when I would be working for the secret service and they’d notice how much better my dog was compared to all the other teams. I was my dog’s first handler and I wanted to make sure he was the best Explosive Detector dog any one had ever seen. While attack work was fun and we did practice it 80 percent of the time I worked on detection with him and it showed. It was pretty cool when the head Secret Service agent pulls you aside and asks “Where did you guys come from?” I didn’t know what he meant. He explained that my dog did three times the amount of work of the other teams did and wanted to know why he was so much better. So that is when I knew all the hard work paid off.
ALLISON: In what ways is this type of training different from training rescued dogs to be service dogs?
RUSS: Military training was very intense. Most of the trainers in the military are used to training with very confident dogs that love to be challenged. When you are working with a dog that lacks confidence or has some issues that intense training can scare them. I had to change my intensity level after getting out of the military to be able to work with every type of dog and be successful.
ALLISON: In what ways is this type of training similar to training rescued dogs to be service dogs?
RUSS: The basic part of the training is very different from Military dogs, but how it is similar is training to do tasks. We had our MWD’s trained to do so many advanced tasks training a service dog to do simple things is easy.
ALLISON: You have developed several programs, each designed to achieve specific results. How do you ensure that each is unique to the needs of the people and the dogs being matched?
RUSS: The dog’s reaction to the training tells me which direction I need to go in. The input I get from the family is crucial to making sure we are on the right track.
ALLISON: Describe a typical training session.
RUSS:In all the sessions I show the family how to work with their dogs. So just like in the military we set up scenarios where we show the dog the appropriate behavior in a given situation. The family practices that for a week then we work on something new.
ALLISON: Why do you use shelter and rescue dogs?
RUSS: Rescue and shelter dogs are perfect for what I need. If we need a dog for balance or carrying oxygen I would have to wait for that dog to hit 2 years old to make sure the hips are set. With a rescue dog I don’t have to wait. I look for a 2-year-old dog, get their hips checked, and we start training. Because the training usually takes 2-4 months we didn’t have to spend 2 years waiting on a puppy to grow up. Usually they are potty trained and any issues the previous owner had are easily fixed.
ALLISON: What other info would you like readers to know?
RUSS: Most dogs are fixable with the right training. If you become their pack leader (protector) your dog can have a healthy and relaxed life. Most dogs stress comes from them not feeling protected in their current situation.