Saving a dog from the shelter can be a rewarding experience, but also a challenging one. Rhiannon Vieceli turned her experience of adopting a troubled dog into an inspiration to help others with her new dog training business in Socorro, Canis Fidelis.

The first day she brought a handsome rottweiler, Klaus, home, she found out that he wasn’t house trained. Then she learned that he had severe separation anxiety and managed to break out of her apartment and even busted through her car window. If she tried to take him for a walk and he saw another dog, he became reactive, barking and pulling on his leash.

The situation became stressful.

“I cried almost every day that whole first month,” said Vieceli. “He led me to do a lot of research on dog behavior and training.”

She watched countless hours of “The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milian” and continued to study other methods of dog training. Vieceli even hired a dog trainer from Albuquerque to see how they did it. She was disappointed in his methods and felt his dog training was overly aggressive.

“I left thinking, I don’t like how he does this, I think I could do this better,” said Vieceli.

And she did. It wasn’t long after implementing her methods that Klaus became calm, house trained and relaxed around other dogs. About a year after adopting Klaus, a woman was telling her about the struggles she was having with her dog. Vieceli offered her help and found it rewarding to share what she learned.
“I sat on it for a few months and thought maybe I can help other people too,” said Vieceli.

Since she started her dog training business in August of last year, she has helped about ten dogs in the greater Socorro area.

Vieceli believes in using positive reinforcement and the least invasive and minimally aversive techniques, using treats, praise and toys as motivators for good behavior.

“Dogs see things a game, so if you make it fun and interesting and they get rewarded for what you want them to do they pick up pretty fast,” Vieceli said.

Her focus is on fundamentals. She has helped dogs with separation anxiety, boundaries, house training, aggression, leash pulling, recall and socialization.

“My goal is for people to not need me forever, reduce stress in their relationship with their dog, keep dogs out of the shelter, keep dogs from hurting others and do it in a positive way that’s backed up by research and science,” Vieceli said.

Vieceli never uses any shock or a prong collar and will implement crate training and the use of muzzles temporarily if it’s necessary and appropriate.

“Everything I do is with the dog in mind, I make it safe for them and effective for the training,” Vieceli said. “You have to set those boundaries and you have to know how to do it in a healthy and effective way, it’s like any other relationship, it’s give and take.”

Her goal with her dog training is to reduce stress for the dog and owner, reduce destruction of property and reduce dog attacks. She hopes that by helping owners have a confident bond with their dogs, local shelters will be less overrun and fewer dogs will need to be euthanized.

“Some people have shown worry that if I help them train their dog that the dog will only listen to me and that’s just not true. My goal is to help people have the tools and the knowledge to carry it on. I want to help them get to 70% but ultimately, they have to work with their dog, or it won’t stick. It’s a little bit of a learning curve for like a week and then it becomes secondhand,” Vieceli said.

Vieceli offers personalized dog training services to people in the Socorro area. In February she’ll have a four-week boot camp and in March will hold a free seminar at the Socorro convention center.

Jessica Carranza Pino, Editor