Menomonee Falls — A dog walking on its hind legs in the parking lot of O'Reily Auto Parts is not exactly what you would expect to see driving down Appleton Avenue on a Thursday afternoon.
That is exactly why Sit Means Sit dog trainer Tyler Stauske chose that spot to practice his training moves with his Belgian shepherd Ben.
It's hard to believe that in a former life, this friendly face was on doggy death row for being too aggressive with people. Stauske rescued Ben from a shelter in Canada where he was due to be put down in 2009, but he has long since abandoned his aggressive ways for a charmed life filled with training seminars and showstopping tricks.
It's a firsthand success story he and his brother and Sit Means Sit owner Jason Loomis are proud to call their own, in addition to countless others like it. Training programs vary in intensity from basic obedience and off-leash control to socialization and behavioral modification.
"A lot of people pay for something and hope it works, but we would rather show the product and let it speak for itself," said Loomis, who estimates that the training programs save at least one dog a month from being put down. "We personally instruct the dog and the family members on how to more effectively communicate with each other."
It only took one meeting with Jason for client Tracy Hays to be sold on the idea. Hays and her 10-year-old American Staffordshire terrier Kestrel met with Jason a year and a half ago to work on Kestrel's behavior when the pair are on the move.
"He was very much of the mind-set that 'I'm going to get you before you get me,'" Hays said of Kestrel, who became skiddish around other dogs after he was attacked by a neighbor's dog. When traditional methods of training did not work for Hays, she knew she needed help.
"We'd never spent time with (Jason) before, and when we did, Kestrel never took his eyes off him, regardless of what was happening around us," said Hays. "I signed up on the spot."
Since then, Kestrel has qualified and placed in two American Kennel Club trials. "She is so much more focused, especially on me and what I'm trying to do," Hays said. "The best part is they don't just teach the dogs, they teach the people how to work with their dogs and enjoy them more than they already do."
Located at W14447 Kaul Avenue, Sit Means Sit opened in 2012. Since then, Loomis has started also offering services in Oak Creek and Franklin. Pricing varies by the unique needs of each dog and their family.
"The best part for me is seeing the success stories evolve," Stauske said. "Watching the happy families who already loved their dogs find ways to enjoy their dogs even more is why I do what I do."
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