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Meet Staci Lemke of Manners for Mutts Dog Training in Irvine

Today we’d like to introduce you to Staci Lemke.

Staci, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I guess it goes without saying that I’ve been an animal lover all my life. I’ve had pets all my life, I raised project animals in high school with Future Farmers of America (FFA), I’ve worked on several horse ranches. I remember once when I was about 5 it was a rainy day. You know how when it rains the snails come out? Well, I was worried they would drown so I started picking them up and putting them in the mailbox to “save” them. Didn’t go over so well when My mom went to get the mail!!

But, what really got me started in dog training was working in a Veterinary Clinic. Along with being a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), I am a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT). I was seeing all these dogs coming in with behavior problems – fearful, aggressive, unable to be handled for examination or treatment. Owners too, complained about the same behavior problems over and over – going potty in the house, puppy play biting, barking, jumping, stealing food off the counters among others. You could hear the frustration in their voices.

We also had dogs that were brought to the hospital to be euthanized because of behavior problems. They would guard objects and bite anyone that tried to take them away, or were so destructive when left alone they were hurting themselves and costing the owners thousands of dollars. One dog was brought in to be euthanized because the owners just had a baby the dog was acting now aggressive towards the owners. It’s a sad situation when a dog owner is so frustrated with their dog’s behavior that they are considering putting the dog to sleep.

I knew many of the behaviors I was seeing could be prevented, or improved, if the owners just had some help and guidance, and dogs just had some training. I decide to start teaching training classes at the clinic. I started with puppy classes that concentrated on preventing behavior problems. The classes were incredibly popular, so much so that after a short while we had a waiting list for people to get in! It sort of took on a life of its own and kept growing. I added more and more classes and finally started doing private in-home training. That’s when I started Manners for Mutts. That was in 2003. I ran it as a part-time business until January of 2016 when I retired from veterinary medicine and decide to go full time into the dog training.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The biggest struggle I have is promoting myself. It’s really hard for me to go into a business and say “Hey, have you met me!” When I first started running the business full time, I put together informational packets and drove around town passing them out to dog related businesses and vet’s offices. It felt very awkward at first but once I forced myself out of my comfort zone it really paid off. I have wonderful relationships with many of the vets, groomers and dog walkers near me and have formed a great working relationship with a local Dog Daycare facility where I teach my group classes.

Manners for Mutts Dog Training – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Manners for Mutts offers a wide variety of training services. Whether you have a puppy, an adolescent, or an adult dog, I offer basic training through private in-home training plans or group class. I help people experiencing more difficult problems such as destructiveness, fearfulness, or excessive barking, to improve their dog’s behavior.

Besides the basics of dog training, Manners for mutts also offer some unique services. For instance, I offer training specifically for families with children and dogs. I work with the whole family – parents, kids and dogs to teach everyone how to interact. Kids learn to respect the family dog and how to take an active part in training him. Dogs learn not to chase, jump on, or use the kids as chew toys. Parents learn how to teach the dog skills like sit, down, and come when called, that every dog should know. Families love it and it’s fun to work with the kids and their dogs!

Another unique service I offer is for families expecting a baby or have a new baby in the home. It’s such a huge change in a family’s life when a baby comes along and people often forget that the family dog is often the first “baby”. Can you even imagine what that change is going to be like for your dog?? So I help families prepare for life with a baby and a dog. It’s really sad that many dogs are relinquished to shelters because of a new baby in the house.

Also, in my never-ending quest to help all people better understand dogs, I offer educational staff training seminars for pet related businesses, like vets and groomers. Topics like reading dog body language and safe animal handling. Also, for pet owners, I offer seminars on potty training, dog park safety, and socialization for puppies. I do all these for free as a way to connect with my community and get my name out there.

I think what sets me apart from other dog trainers is my ability to educate the dog’s owners. Training dogs is largely about teaching people. You can’t train a dog if you can’t connect with the owner! You have to be able break things down into steps that people can understand so they can communicate effectively with their dogs.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
For me, success is about providing a service that enhances relationships – the relationship between dogs and owners. I want dogs to be a part of the family, to be able to participate fully in family activities. After all, companionship is the primary reason people own dogs. On the flip side, behavior problems are the number 1 reason dogs are relinquished to shelters.

When I can help someone improve their dog’s behavior, I can help make the relationship better, and ultimately, the dog stays in the home. Happy owner, happy dog, happily ever after – Now that’s success!

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Pam and Darrell Conrad Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Tasha

    September 5, 2017 at 16:19

    Staci is a colleague of mine, and I love her and her dogs to pieces! Great interview, great trainer, great. 🙂

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