Monthly Spotlight! Ruff Life Dog Training Services
February 1, 2020
I first met Tessa Sternbach CPDT-KA last year at Hendersonville's Tails In Town festival, and then again a few months ago when I had the opportunity to tour her new training facility located at 95 Thompson St, Asheville, NC 28803.
Just recently, Tessa and I reconnected to have a gorgeous little chat about her training methodology, background, and reasons for getting into the dog training field (and to also play with all the puppies).
Below are some of the questions & answers from our fun meeting.
Q: How long have you lived in Asheville and how long has Ruff Life been around?
A: I've been in Asheville since 2012 after moving from New Jersey. I started Ruff Life out of my home in June 2018. I would also do 1:1 training in my clients' homes and hosted group classes prior to moving into this new location.
Q: What sparked your interest to get started in the dog training industry?
A: The first job I ever had was as a vet tech. I had always wanted to be a vet, but organic chemistry and I didn't get along! I then discovered a passion for personal training and was training people for a while with an idea of opening a pet-friendly gym (hold your breath...this might still happen!). With my passion for dogs and my passion for personal training, I eventually combined the two passions after a client introduced me to an opportunity to do some apprentice work with a dog trainer in Fairview, NC. I honestly couldn't see myself doing anything else!
Q: Is there a certain method or approach you use in your training sessions?
A: I consider myself a "Balanced" trainer meaning I don't use only positive reinforcement and I don't only use clickers, or remote collars. I consider myself right down the middle with positive and discipline. Not every dog responds the same way to training methods, which means I need to be able to adapt to each dog. Training methods will always depend on the dog and on the owners.
Q: What is a funny moment or a moment that stands out in your mind?
A: A recent funny moment involved a 6 month old lab, Violet, who is pretty short and stout - and not ultra athletic. We had one of our dog cots leaned up against the fencing and she got a case of the zoomies. As she was running circles around the room, she would bounce off the cot like a trampoline. It was doggy parkour! I'd have to say that I've probably experienced more moments of amazement than those lough out loud moments.
Q: If you could change anything about the dog training industry, what would it be and why?
A: I think there are a lot of people training dogs who think there is only one way to train. It's a very competitive industry, especially in Asheville now, and I'm more interested in continuing to educate myself. With so many dog training facilities popping up, I do wish the community were a bit more open to learning each other's techniques and sharing those with other trainers for the benefit of the dogs.
Q: What do you wish dog-parents would do more of, or knew more about, in order to help their dogs live happier, healthier lives?
A: The two biggest areas where I think dog-parents fail are setting expectations too high and not praising their dogs enough. If your dog does something good, regardless of how big or small, always reward that win. Another thing, not just for pet-parents, but people in general, is understanding that not every dog wants to be pet, not every dog is meant to go to a brewery, and not every dog is friendly. Dogs are out everywhere in society, however, dogs are animals and we can't know 100% what's processing in their minds. If I'm asked, "Does the dog bite?" I typically respond with, "It has teeth!" We have to remember that dogs have good and bad days just like people.
Q: What are some local pet care companies that you admire?
A: My favorite all natural pet store is Tailgate Market on Leicester Highway - love the store and the owners! Patton Avenue Pet Company is definitely worth mentioning. My favorite doggy daycare is in Hendersonville and is called A Dog's Day Out - I think they are very dog savvy and have a great facility!