When you have a difficult clogged drain, you call the best plumber in town. And you always want the best mechanic keeping your temperamental car in tune.
Now Newtowners, and folks throughout the region who have given up on the idea of ever training their untrainable dog can breathe a sigh of relief, because one of Newtown’s newest neighbors happens to be Israel’s own version of The Dog Whisperer.
Jeff Morgan, his wife, Yael, and their two children just relocated to the states, and they decided to settle right here in Newtown, where they could pursue their passion of helping people learn how to command and control even the most difficult pet pooch. The couple is also on the cusp of releasing their popular dog training guide, which was just translated into English for American consumers.
The book, Happy Dog 101 — 100 plus 1 Tips For Raising A Happy Dog, will soon be available. But that hasn’t prevented Mr Morgan from hitting the local speaking circuit, doing his first of several free talks at Your Healthy Pet. His next engagement will be March 16 at 2 pm.
Sitting down for a chat with The Newtown Bee, Mr Morgan recalled his own first dog.
“It was a rescue dog — a Dachshund/beagle mix, and it had all the horrible behavior problems I try to help people with today,” he confided. “I didn’t understand how to deal with him when I was 7, but I remember he would always scratch up the door wanting to come inside, and he would bolt out if the door was open. He would pull me down the street when I tried to walk him, and he always growled at other dogs.”
Flash forward to his early 20s, when Mr Morgan decided to split his native California to discover the world, which brought him to Israel.
“I was raised Jewish, but my desire to go to Israel was more out of soul searching than a drive to return to the Jewish homeland,” he said. “I felt accepted there, even though I didn’t know anyone. And I learned the language in six months.”
His desire to explore various jobs took Mr Morgan from managing desert Mango fields to becoming a hip-hop dance instructor, a happy turn of events because it was in one of those lessons where he met a lovely local dog sitter who would soon become his best friend and eventually, his wife.
Heading To ‘Howlywood’
He joined her helping to run a home-based boarding business in a bedroom community outside Tel Aviv that was “very similar to Newtown.”
“We had about 20 clients a week, and they would come from all over Israel because of our reputation,” Mr Morgan said. “But when the demand for our services outgrew our home we established a [commercial] boarding center called Howlywood.”
Howlywood was decidedly different than most boarding facilities, however, because the Morgans did not believe in kennels.
“That forced us to learn about how dogs get along. Regardless of gender, breed, upbringing or disposition, we had to help all these dogs get along — and in some cases rehabilitated,” he recalled. That is how many of the “stars” in Howlywood came to be so well behaved.
“We had 13 dogs of our own as well as the ones we were boarding,” he said. “If we found out there was a dog that was going to be put down because of behavior issues, we’d figure out a way to get that dog into our home for some help. It was like a summer camp, except for dogs instead of kids.”
The Morgans may have learned more from their dogs than they taught, strictly by observing them as they interacted with others at the facility. And after a few years, they put many of the best tips and observations into what became one of the most popular dog training manuals in Israel.
The Morgans were also being courted for their own TV program by the country’s top two state-owned networks, but it required a level of funding to complete production that the couple could not provide.
So last year, the family decided to put their business into the hands of a trusted friend. And earlier this year, the family pulled up stakes, packed up two of their dogs, and headed to the states.
Now that he is settled in Newtown, Mr Morgan is anxious to get back to what he does best — whether it is training dogs or training their humans is the question.
Training Dogs, Or Humans?
“How does a person learn to change their own behavior when all they want to do is change the way their dog is behaving?” he asks rhetorically. “First, you need to forget every single thing you think you know about dog training.”
Helping dog owners focus on their own behavior, Mr Morgan finds, is almost always the uniform path to success for both the dog and its owner.
“Dogs do what they do because of your behavior,” he said. “People are always shocked when I tell them they can have a well-balanced, obedient dog that has never learned an obedience command. At the same time, you can spend a fortune and endless hours on training, and still have yourself a badly behaved dog.”
That’s why he arrives at every new client’s home with no expectations and no judgment.
“It infuriates some trainers, by my technique is no technique,” he added. “I take what I’ve learned and apply what I think is best to each new case.”
He espouses a system that utilizes simple “no,” “yes” and “no” commands — along with helping owners understand and subtly manipulate their dog’s personal boundaries, as well as their own.
“I say ‘no,’ you can’t have what I have — a leash, food, a toy, affection — unless you exhibit good behavior and remain calm,” he explained. “Then I invite you in with a ‘yes.’ Then when I want to remove you from my space, that’s the ‘no.’ If you can develop that relationship with your dog you can accomplish almost anything you need.”
Mr Morgan said that an owner who is not in control of his dog’s resources becomes one of his dog’s resources. “An unknowing dog owner is viewed as a being who does things for the dog,” he said.
Those who acquire his book will learn advice such as pursuing training like you are a camp counselor, not a drill sergeant.
“Remember, you’re not preparing your dog for war,” Mr Morgan concluded with a smile. “If you can be decisive, clear, confident, and patient, you have all that it takes to enjoy a long and successful partnership with any dog, no matter how difficult you or that dog is coming into the training.”
For more information, or to arrange a consultation, contact Mr Morgan at 203-807-6080, visit him at Your Healthy Pet on March 16, or go to happydog101.com. Call Your Healthy Pet for reservations at 203-270-7387.