Deborah Rosen can quiet a room full of running and jumping puppies with the wave of a hand, eye contact and a touch of Zen.
She kneels, looks the jumpy dog in the eye and moves her hand up to her nose. And then she makes a noise that sounds like a beep.
The dog stares into her eyes and settles down.
“What I found is that dogs behave best when they are focused,” said Rosen, who has been a trainer for 16 years. “And when they are focused, they are able to hear what you say to them and they have a much better chance of following through.”
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At her Fife business, Good CitiZEN Dog, Rosen, 58, teaches owners and their animals how to live together peacefully.
She works with dogs on obedience, leash training and tricks. The idea is to challenge the animal to learn rather than forcing him to obey, Rosen said.
To mold the kind of dog a family wants, training owners is as important as training their dogs, Rosen said.
“There are a lot of dog trainers and most of them want to work with dogs and not people,” Rosen said.
One of Rosen’s clients, Alison Tracy Hale, has worked with Good CitiZEN Dog for nine years.
Hale said she brings her dogs — 10-year-old Petey and 3-year-old Karma — to Rosen for training because she shows results quickly and has a connection with her pets.
“She is so good with the dogs, it’s just extraordinary,” Hale said. “She’s very empowering to dog owners; she gives us the tools and they start working right away.”
Rosen helped rescue Petey nine years ago and help connect him with Hale, who has been returning to Rosen ever since.
Rosen began her company in 1999 after working in a human resources job. When the company had to lay off some workers, she volunteered to quit.
After working with a life coach, she knew what she wanted to do.
When Rosen was younger, she had a dog that ran into the street and was hit by a car. She never wanted that to happen to anyone and that passion led her to create Good CitiZEN Dog.
After studying the techniques of other trainers, Rosen developed her own insights, theories and approach.
She found that dogs often are under-stimulated and not given enough to do. Bored dogs find other, usually more destructive, activities to do, she said.
“I found that teaching owners and their dogs the Zen techniques calms everyone down,” Rosen said. “You’re developing their relationships, too, which is meaningful to the dogs.”
Rosen said most dogs enjoy being focused and stimulated, and it makes them want to learn. Older dogs and rescue dogs who have had a bad social history are more likely to have a harder time with the technique. However, Rosen said her success rate far exceeds her failures.
To show how to turn a rowdy dog into a focused dog, Rosen brought in Oliver.
Like a wave of energy, the puppy came running. Rosen kneeled and, while touching her own nose, made a “boop” sound. (Some dogs, Rosen has found, respond better to a “beep,” others to a “boop.”)
Oliver froze and Rosen had his attention. From there, Oliver sat, stood and lay down on command.
For Oliver’s final trick, Rosen had him lie down and put his paws out. While keeping eye contact, Rosen put treats along Oliver’s paws and he was still until she told him to take them.
“Good dog, good dog,” Rosen said. “There you go.”
Rose is franchising Good CitiZEN Dog across the country. She has one outlet in Florida and is working with Lindsay Behen, a certified dog trainer, to open another in St. Louis.
Rosen has been teaching her Zen techniques to Behen for months.
“It’s really nice,” Behen said, “because a lot of places use negative reinforcement and this is positive that the dogs can learn in, and they want to.”
Rosen’s goal is to make everyone’s day easier and better with his or her dog.
“They just want to learn,” Rosen said. “It’s good to see it happen right in front of you.”