WALLINGFORD — From Paul Newman to local police officers, Meriden resident Leonard Paquette has helped thousands of dog owners overcome the behavioral problems of their four-legged friends.
The canine behaviorist holds one-on-one lessons with owners and their dogs at Canine Cadre on Main Street (Route 150) in Yalesville, where he also trains his own dog Kato, a nine-year old German Shepherd.
Q: What are some of the main lessons you teach?
Paquette: We teach canine behavior modification and we teach people about the psyche of the animal. We’re troubleshooters, we teach pet manners, we teach problem dog cases. I fill their behavioral tool box and I keep giving them different options.
Q: How does that work exactly?
Paquette: So sometimes we use food, sometimes we use toys. We have a lot of fun, we do a lot of motivation with the dog.
Q: How did you get into this field?
Paquette: I was going to college, I wasn’t going to do this. I had been an Air Force patrol dog handler, trainer, supervisor and it was a great life and I had a great experience. The VA approached my mentor and he said, ‘dog trainers are a dime a dozen...you need to work with problem dogs.’
Q: How long have you been doing this?
Paquette: I’ve been doing this since 1977, but really since 1973, but in business since 1977.
Q: What kind of clients have you had in your career?
Paquette: I am training a Hartford police officer and her dog right now (for narcotics). We always start with marijuana because it’s the strongest odor then we go to heroin, cocaine and then we did oxycontin. (Paul Newman) he had a tough dog, he was a lot of fun...he loved his dogs. I’ve had NASCAR drivers come here, NBA Basketball players.
Q: What are some examples of finding the cause of a dog’s behavior?
Paquette: We did a bite case in Guilford. There was a young dog, this dog never had a problem and now suddenly it has a problem and it’s biting its owners. I said take him to your vet and I want the dog checked for Lyme Disease or tick-borne illness. And he had Lyme Disease. When they have that at times they bite.
Q: What kind of classes do you teach?
Paquette: I do one-on-one so that I can zero in on what people need and tailor an appropriate program based on what their dog is doing. Generally we have foundation programs that can be anywhere from 6 to 12 sessions and then we get them around other dogs and people and chaos. I call it the ring of fire, where the rubber meets the road. You can do all the training you want in a sterile environment, but come into my distraction class and see if you got what it takes.
Q: What would you say is the most difficult skill to teach?
Paquette: There are some tasks dependent upon the dog. People said ‘well you can never teach a husky to retrieve.’ I didn’t listen. I taught a husky to retrieve. It’s the old technique, a dog’s intelligence cannot be measured by the size of your newspaper.