Welcome to the Molina K-9 Training blog! My name is Pamela Molina, and I am the founder, owner and operator of Molina K-9 Training. Thank you for taking the time to visit our website, and for reading this introductory blog post.
Molina K-9 Training (MK9) serves dog owners in the San Antonio area. We offer behavior modification, service dog training, and we also help with puppy and/or breed selection. I’m truly passionate about utilizing science and psychology to enable owners to get the most out of their relationship with their dogs and improve their quality of life. As our company motto indicates – Confidence for Owners, Leadership for Dogs – we want to empower owners by giving them the confidence they require, whether that’s by rectifying behavioral problems with their pet dog, or working alongside them towards a fully-trained service dog.
In the coming months, we’ll be sharing lots of valuable information on our blog, covering behavioral topics, canine psychology, and more. I hope our blog will further our mission to inform, educate and empower dog owners in San Antonio and beyond.
In our first blog article, I wanted to take some time and explain how we got here. I suppose it’s a bit like dog training itself – context is everything! I felt it was important to talk about my early experiences with dogs, share some of the influences that shaped me into the dog trainer I am today, and outline our dog training philosophy here at Molina K-9 Training.
What motivated me to become a dog trainer in the first place?
Like many dog trainers, I’ve always had an affection for dogs. The earliest experience I can recall was playing with my first dog, named Princess. Princess was a Labrador Retriever mix we adopted in Florida when I was eight years old. My family always had dogs – we had mixed breeds, American Eskimos, German Shepherds and Miniature Pinschers. I think eight-year-old me would be very happy to know I became a professional dog trainer.
Naturally, life often isn’t a straight line from point A to point B. Eight-year-old me didn’t grow up into an adult and immediately discover my calling in the world of dog training. It was quite a journey to get here.
I joined the Marine Corps, and when I left, there was a lot of unseen trauma. This was made more difficult because my husband was still in the Marine Corps, and there were times when I was alone. My paranoia and anxiety would be really bad. My partner and I decided it would be a good idea to adopt a dog as a companion for me.
We adopted a German Shepherd mix called ‘Shandy’ from a nearby shelter. For the first few days, everything was great – but we quickly realized that Shandy had some issues lurking under the surface. Within three weeks of adopting her, she had bitten me three times. After more research, we found out that Shandy had a bite history, which unfortunately the shelter had not told us about.
After we spoke to the shelter, they said that if we returned Shandy, she would definitely be euthanized because she would have even more confirmed bites on record.
I was mortified.
So, I hired a dog trainer to help us. Unfortunately, that trainer made the behaviors worse. We contacted three more trainers, all of whom didn’t want to work with Shandy because of her bite history.
Shandy bit me multiple times, but I didn’t want to be her death sentence. Whilst I know now that I was anthropomorphizing her, I felt her issues were similar to my own. In a way, I felt like I could relate to her. This motivated me to become a dog trainer – primarily so I could help her. I embarked on educational dog training programs at Pacesetter K9 and Highland Canine which helped me to apply knowledge directly onto her, and it made a huge difference.
My dog training philosophy
I am a balanced dog trainer, which means I will use whatever training tools I need to in order to assist the dog and owner in front of me.
Sometimes, that means only using a flat collar, leash, and treats. Other times, it means employing the use of a Herm Sprenger prong collar or an e-collar. Prior to using prong collars or e-collars, I make sure the dog understands what I am asking of it. I also take the time to explain these training tools to the owner, as this helps them to understand the reasoning behind them and how they will contribute to the desired outcome.
There really is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to dog training. Whichever approach I choose to use with each team, it is based with the end goal of strengthening their relationship and reaching their overall goals.
Influences on my approach to dog training
I believe my training philosophy was heavily shaped by my attempts to gain more knowledge and understanding through education. This wasn’t an easy journey, and it’s one I don’t think I could replicate. Here are a few of the organizations who have played an important role in my outlook on dog training:
- Universal K9 – This was the first dog trainer school I went to. I chose to move from California to Texas for this school. It wasn’t a great experience – I was unknowingly conned out of my Post 911, as shortly after arriving at the school, the company was raided by the FBI. One certainly doesn’t expect to be held at gunpoint at 4am in the morning when all you wanted was to become a dog trainer. I was only there for two weeks and saw a lot of questionable things. I saw dogs getting helicoptered and constantly becoming sick. The only thing I learned was how to hold a leash to a questionable dog. After the business was raided, a Veteran who owned another dog trainer school reached out to the four students who were taken advantage of – myself being one of them.
Importantly, this place taught me exactly what I DIDN’T want to be as a dog trainer.
- Pacesetter K9 – Bradley Langham wanted to help his fellow Veterans and offered us the chance to go through his handler course. This course taught Canine Safety, Care and Basic First Aid, Legal Process and Legislative Updates, Obedience and Training Scenarios, Narcotics Detection, and Advanced Detection. It was my first time seeing REAL working dogs and all the work that goes into them. I learned how to effectively and confidently handle dogs, but I wanted to know how to train a dog from start to finish. I wanted to know significantly more – so I looked for a dog training school that would deliver that.
- Highland Canine – I learned the most during my time here. This environment pushed me – both as a person and as a dog trainer. I had to work through my own trauma, on top of trying to learn how to be a knowledgeable trainer. From Learning Theory to Search & Rescue training, I learned everything I needed to through the Master Dog Trainer program, which was a six-month course. By the end of it, I was a competent trainer, and my shelter dog was able to be handled by multiple people.
- Northwest Vista College – I pursued a formal education in psychology to further my understanding of learning theory, in addition to increasing my knowledge of how to work with people effectively – and with care.
What makes Molina K-9 Training different?
As a veteran and service dog handler myself, I feel that my own experiences help me to prepare dog owners for best and worst-case scenarios. The worst thing I can do to a new service dog team is to place them in a situation they were not prepared for, which ultimately leads to an erosion of confidence.
Through my own experiences in handling a service dog, I can roleplay with my team and give them prompts, so they feel in control of an uncomfortable situation. A service dog is a great medical tool, but it also makes the invisible very visible. For the teams I work with, I believe that reintegrating into society and living a fulfilled life is worth that visibility, so I am happy to provide that safe space to build confidence in my teams.
I believe my education, experience and care – for both dog and person – separates me from other dog trainers. I’ve learned that the most rewarding experience is seeing my teams achieve their goals, and when my clients can say, “Don’t worry Pam, I got this…”, that’s the biggest compliment I can get!
Our motto is Confidence for Owners, Leadership for Dogs. I’m a balanced trainer, but I try to be a balanced person as well. I am a gentle but firm teacher.
In terms of future aspirations, my long term goal for Molina K-9 Training is to partner with non-profits who align with my training philosophy, morals, ethics, and goals to help people/dogs reintegrate into society. I want my clients to be confident in their handling and training abilities, and I want the dogs I work with to live fulfilled lives with their owners.