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Meet Jo Stanford of Trots Dogs in Long Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jo Stanford.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
After being fired from a management position at a movie theater which I thought would be my career, having my apartment robbed and dumped by my fiance all in the span of three months, I ended up watching a lot of tv while depressed on the couch.

This is when I saw The Dog Whisperer for the first time and I became obsessed. Cesar Millan talked about energy and being calm and assertive. He changed people’s dogs and changed their lives. I couldn’t get enough of this philosophy. Be calm, confident, act with intention and dogs will respond by following you. Provide for their needs of exercise, discipline and affection and they will respond with trust, respect, love and loyalty. Provide rules, boundaries, limitations and they will make better choices and you can take them anywhere. These are also rules for life and it made so much sense to me.

My ex helped by advising our neighbor to hire me as her dog walker. Otis was a one-year-old American Bulldog Boxer mix and he was super sweet. I tried all the techniques I had learned from the show and they were working. Otis was getting better on leash and I had to live in the moment with him to keep him that way. Walking Otis gave me a reason to get up in the morning, go outside and stay calm and present for him while we were together. It was an hour of the day that I couldn’t think about how crappy my life was, how sad and lost I felt, my broken heart, my ex or what I was going to do with my life. I just had to be calm and assertive for this dog.

Over a few weeks of this, I started to feel better. That one hour of practicing living in the moment with calm and assertive energy started to flow through to the rest of the day. I started to think that maybe I could walk dogs for a living. “People do that right?” I thought to myself. So, I researched the industry online, got books on dog behavior from the library, looked at the other dog businesses in the area, volunteered at the local shelter and signed up for every bit of Cesar Millan information I could get. I was on unemployment and living with my parents but I had inspiration and motivation on my side.

The rest is just the process of following the steps to get to a goal. I came up with a business name, registered with the city, got insurance, posted ads with my picture on Craigslist, got free business cards and shirts from vistaprint, told family and friends about what I was doing. Pretty soon, I was walking a bunch of dogs and was an official business owner. Trots Dog Walking was established in September of 2009.

In early 2013, I got a Cesar Millan newsletter that said they were doing classes at his ranch in Santa Clarita for $400 and a five days Fundamentals of Dog Behavior workshop for $6000. I had $400 so I signed up immediately. I took classes with Cesar’s Master Trainer, Colleen Steckloff and then took another after that. Colleen liked my style and told me I should do the workshop. The money held me back but eventually, with her encouragement, I put it on a credit card and took the five days course in December of that year. That workshop was life changing. It helped me grow as a dog walker, trainer as well as a dog parent and human. I met other people who were doing the same things I was and we bonded. We exchanged business advice and learned from each other. It was like I had not just met my idol and inspiration, but gained a whole new family.

Since that year, life and business has just gotten bigger and better. I have an awesome staff walking packs of dogs all over Long Beach. I do training sessions helping people with their relationships to their dogs, rehabilitate unhappy dogs and host popular free pack walks in the park. Most amazingly to me, I now work as a trainer for Cesar’s behavior workshops and travel with him as “Dog Manager” for many of his live shows around the country. Life went from awful to amazing over the last ten years and I couldn’t be happier. We plan to continue growing so we can help more people and dogs by opening a training facility and eventually more locations.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Like anything in life, change can be hard. Aside from the challenges of every day business like finding the right people, navigating business strategies that work best for us, paying overhead expenses, developing essential paperwork, legal boundaries and dealing with city and state regulations while trying to expand, overcoming personal issues like doubt, stress and confidence have been some of the greatest benefits. I’ve had to learn how to manage my own schedule and be self-sufficient without anyone telling me what to do or how to do it. Starting, running and expanding your own business is definitely not for the faint of heart.

I was confident in helping people to overcome their stress and anxiety about their dog’s behavior every day but when it came to getting my own dogs to behave, I had to let go of my fears and ego in order to get them on track. I would be embarrassed if my dogs misbehaved in public knowing that people were watching the dog trainer struggle. It wasn’t until I was able to let it all go, be in the moment and not be consumed with fear that I started getting my dogs to a place I could be proud of. They aren’t perfect, but nobody has perfect dogs. That was my biggest challenge.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Trots Dogs – what should we know?
When I first started Trots, I was a dog walker and set myself apart by roller skating with dogs. My logo had a skate wheel as the “O” and I became known as the dog skater. Over the years, as the company grew and I started walking packs of dogs all calm and following me, I became known for that. Now we are a company that specializes in dog psychology and we take dogs into our structured walking program who have been turned away or kicked out of other daycares and boarding facilities because we know how to handle behavior’s that others don’t. We are a training centered business and every service we provide, whether it be dog walking, training or boarding, we apply dog psychology and utilize our skills as pack leaders to fulfill the needs of dogs and provide leadership so our dogs can remain calm, agreeable and confident knowing that we have everything under control and they can trust in our guidance and we’ve got their back. Previously unsocial dogs can now walk calmly with other dogs and not feel the need to protect themselves. That’s what sets us apart from the competition.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
So much credit is due to so many people. Obviously Cesar Millan has been a big influence and inspiration for me and my staff. He’s taught me so much and continues to provide so much insight professionally and personally. Colleen Steckloff who serves as a mentor and friend, guiding me through the process of breaking through my walls of self-doubt and getting me on board with the Cesar team. The friends I’ve met through the Cesar’s Way workshops, Heather Mickelson of Balance and Harmony Dogs, Art Ortiz of Dogfit Dallas, Heather Beck of K9 Lifeline, Todd Langston of OC Packlife, Melina Snow of OC Canine Solutions, Steve DelSavio of Pack Leader Dogs and so many more. Other trainers I’ve learned valuable tools from are Marc Goldberg and Patrick Farrell of Chicago Dog, Cheri Lucas and Brian Agnew of Lucas Agnew Workshops. They’ve all taught me something, supported me and helped me grow. Lastly, my parents have provided the most support throughout my life but especially in those hard times. They let me move back home and helped me come up with my business name, among other things. I don’t know where I would be without their consistent love, support and guidance. They are so important to me.

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