STATEN ISLAND, NY – After being laid off from her job as a dog trainer at a national chain pet store during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, St. George resident Mary Ellen Smith wanted to use her time to help mutts learn to be polite.
“There was no need for a trainer if no “group” lessons could take place [during the pandemic]”, said Smith. “As the months off got longer, I realized more and more that the commercial part of the [national chain pet store] the experience was one that I didn’t want to re-enter, but the training was what I really loved. I decided not to return there at the end of my leave, but to continue my training on my own.
She waited until her non-compete agreement passed, then launched Mannerly Mutts NYC in the spring of 2021.
The lifelong dog lover spent more than 30 years as an international stock trader, but in 2009 she became “one of the victims of the housing bubble” on Wall Street. It was then that she approached the national pet store chain for a job and, after six months, became a dog trainer – a job she held for more than 10 years.
“I love working with dogs and their parents; help establish a good relationship between dog and humans and provide a happy home,” Smith said. “I’ve been an animal lover for years. I’ve had dogs all my life.
Mannerly Mutts NYC offers basic training with the goal of providing the “pet parent” with a “polite puppy,” she said.
“With puppies, I work on ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘come when called’, etc. pulling on the leash – just to name a few,” Smith said.
For dogs six months and older, she continues to work on the aforementioned behaviors, in addition to redirecting any negative behavior.
“We are continuing to work on pulling on the leash (walking on a loose leash) and introducing behaviors that may be more difficult to achieve (i.e. ‘hugging’, ‘waiting at the door’ , ‘waiting at the curb,'” Smith said.
Smith also offers training for puppies to become therapy dogs, and she is an End-of-Life Doule for Pet Services.
“End of life services help the pet owner deal with the myriad of issues that can arise with a terminally ill dog; help them develop strategies to give the dog the best possible life for the time it has left and help the pet owner through the grieving process,” she said.
Smith hopes to add pet birthday parties to her list of services soon.
“For years I had it in my mind to start a puppy birthday party business. So many people kept coming into the store asking if we had birthday cakes, hats or whatever. it’s for their pup’s birthdays – many said their kids wanted to do something for the pup’s birthday,” Smith said.
POSITIVE TRAINING TECHNIQUES
And it’s not easy to train a newborn puppy. That’s why Smith employs positive reinforcement and “fearless” training strategies.
“My belief is that there are no ‘bad’ dogs, just dogs that need to learn the rules,” she said. “We work by rewarding the behaviors we want, and as much as possible, we ignore the ones we don’t want. The theory is that by ignoring the negative behavior, the dog learns that there is no “reward” for continuing with those behaviors. On the other hand, by rewarding the behaviors we want, the dog learns that repeating those behaviors brings rewards, either in the form of a treat or lots of positive attention.
MANNERLY MUTTS NYC AT A GLANCE
Facebook: Mannerly Mutts NYC
New Businesses in Focus is a weekly column that chronicles the stories of new Staten Island business owners. If you have a new business in Staten Island, email [email protected].
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