Dog Days: Linda Ferraro and her Husband Joe Own Popular Dog Training School

May 10, 2011

-By Cary Shuman

Linda Ferraro is a senior administrative assistant at Massport Authority. She has worked at the airport for 30 years.

But Linda Ferraro is also one half of the ownership team of K9 Academy New England, one of the fastest-growing dog obedience schools in the region.

Ferraro and her husband, Joe Ferraro, operate K9 Academy New England. Linda is the office manager for the business while Joe is a certified canine trainer and certified animal behaviorist.

Joe Ferraro started training dogs when he was 23 years old. He worked for the state Department of Environmental Management as the head canine trainer for 20 years prior to retiring in 2003.

Ferraro works with three to seven dogs at a time in training courses at Pet Supplies Plus in Medford and Pet Express in Lynn.

Ferraro trains all breeds of dogs, from Great Danes to Chihuahuas, German Shepherds to Irish setters. He trains dogs in obedience, sport, personal protection, and search and rescue.

Ferraro encourages dog owners to reach out to him when their pets are three-and-half to four months old, the age when dogs start developing their attention spans.

Ferraro will first give the dog a one-hour behavioral evaluation and then suggest one of two courses.

“We have a five-week Level One basic obedience course that covers five commands: heel, sit, stay, come, and down. That’s a foundation of training.  Our Level Two course is for five months and the dog will be trained off leash. We use positive reinforcement training, nothing negative.”

If a young dog has a tendency to nip at its owner or other people, Ferraro says he can change that behavior.

“We teach dogs who may be trying to nip at their owners, I tell the dogs, ‘no’ and redirect them with food reinforcement,” said Ferraro. “So when they go to nip you, you say, ‘no,’ have the dog look at you, give them the treat, and praise them. I call it the power of working with food. You want to keep you dog engaged with you, because the dog wants something you have and that is food.”

Ferraro said that right after purchasing a dog, an owner should socialize his dog with 70 to 100 different dogs, people, and locations.

“It’s crucial that in the first 16 weeks of their lives the dogs should be socialized with people, places, and other dogs – then you’ll have a well-balanced dog,” said Ferraro.

The Ferraros own three dogs, a Maltese mix, a soft-coated Wheaten terrier, and an East German Shepherd.

“The Wheaton terrier is our trick dog,” said Linda Ferraro. “He’s as cute as can be and does spins, a silent bark, and other tricks.”

Joe Ferraro started his education in dog training at the Dog House training school in Salem under the tutelage of John LeBlanc. Ferraro has also received instruction from international dog trainers Mike Ellis, Terry Haskins, Scott Dunmore, and Brandon Hayes.

“My wife and I love dogs,” said Ferraro. “I had my first dog when I was five years old. I was always good with dogs as a teenager. My mother always used to say me that I should be a professional dog trainer someday.”

Today the Ferarros are helping dog owners improve their dogs’ behavior and their relationship with them.

“Every dog is an individual and it takes time and patience,” said Joe Ferraro.

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