Enrique has always been a “dog” person. In the military, he had the opportunity to train and work with military working dogs but it wasn’t until he returned from Iraq that his journey started.
Several combat tours took a toll on him, both professionally and personally. He found himself in the ropes of depression and PTSD, with no way out. During those lowest points, his dog was right alongside him, always faithful. Seeing the devotion and love his dog gave him, he wanted to learn how to communicate with him, and help him overcome his own behavior problems. That idea turned into a goal, that goal turned into a passion, that passion turned into a lifestyle. A lifestyle of freedom, travel and great memories alongside his dog, where the only limit was his imagination, not his dog’s behavior or abilities. As he progressed in training, friends, neighbors and even people passing by walked up to him and shared the stories of their dog. In all those stories, he noticed not just the deep love they had for their dogs, but also the real struggles they had with them, and how it was stopping them from enjoying life to the fullest, even forcing them to give them up or make more grim choices.
Knowing first hand how life-changing it was to have his dog be part of his life, he wanted to find a way to help others and their dogs. By training dogs and teaching their people, he finally found a way to change lives, for the better.
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Enrique has always been a “dog” person. In the military, he had the opportunity to train and work with military working dogs, but it wasn’t until he returned from Iraq that his journey started. Several combat tours took a toll on him, both professionally and personally. He found himself in the ropes of depression and PTSD, with no way out. During the lowest points in life, his dog was right alongside him and always faithful. Knowing firsthand how life changing it was to have his dog be part of his life, Enrique wanted to find a way to help others and their dogs. By training dogs and teaching their people, he found a way to change lives for the better. Enrique has helped rehabilitate countless dogs from everyday struggles, like leash pulling, biting, and bratty behavior, to more severe dog behavioral challenges, like anxiety and aggression.
Hey, Enrique. Welcome to the show. Hey there. Yeah. I’m really excited to have you. You are with Dog Worx and you are located in Savannah, Georgia. Why don’t you start me off with a little bit of your background and history and how you made it into this world of dog training? I think that like most dog people since I was little, I’ve always had a connection with dogs. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. You just feel it. You know it like dog people, we just get it. And other people that like cats, for example, they get it. It’s pretty unique. The dog training, as a profession, didn’t really hit until way later in life. I was born in Mexico. When I came to America, when I was 20, the only way for me to get my citizenship was to join the military, so I did. And it wasn’t for that, I really liked serving the country. But during my time in the military, I went through a lot. Between deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and, you know, a lot of stuff that I, most people don’t want to see or shouldn’t see. I went through it. When I came back, everything fell apart. You know, I just like I came back and there was nothing for me. Um, I got in a really, really dark place. To the point where I was already selling my stuff. You know, planning on who’s gonna keep my dog. Because I was stuck, I was just planning the ending. For the lack of better words. But, you know, when I was getting almost to the final point, my dog wouldn’t leave my side. Like he has stood there. Oh, I’m getting emotional, sorry. That’s okay. It’s an emotional story. Yeah. You could just tell that he was desperate to get me back. Yeah. I never felt that good connection, you know.. I was like, Wow, this is like, really is man’s best friend. You know, it didn’t dawn on me like how deep that connection can be. And my dog was not the best behaved. And yet you still loved him the same. Totally, totally.
So I wanted to say, Okay. Well, you did this for me. Let me do something back for you. You know, like a stick. Return the favor. And as I started kind of learning about dog training, you know, I had some experience in the military, but I wanted to start learning. Okay. How can I apply military training to my dog, specifically? I started taking a deep dive into, like, the toxicology, the dog training aspect itself. And, you know, I found a lot of this stuff that was helping my dog, could help me too. Like all the same techniques, you know, some of the points that we’re gonna go through today. It was like, Wow, this is how I’m gonna bring myself back. And I could bring the dog back. Right. And since I was in that place, I know how it feels. And I know that is a tough place, and I know that it’s a hard job to get out of that hole. Right. So me being more than just the dog trainer is like I was there, you know? I don’t want you to be there anymore. Let me help you get out. You know, in those lessons that I’ve heard, um, I started just going to friends, do you want me to train your dog? You know, people that I knew, let me work with your dog, you know, initially for free. Hey, you know, you do what you have to do? Sure.
But as I got really more into it, people were like, wow, you know, coming up to me, people are calling me are like, Hey, I heard you trained dogs. Can you help me? And it got to the point where I was like, Wow, this is, this can be a full-time job. So I just took the dive. You know, I quit my job, and I started the dog training, and I have not looked back since. I think that’s amazing, Enrique. One your story, right? Starting later in life, moving to a completely brand new country. Going through what you went through. At your lowest point, you happen to look over and see this misbehaved dog, your best friend. And you knew at that moment that something had to change. And I love that he was there for you. And I love that you were there for him. There is something really, really special about that bond. And I love, again, just the support to continue your journey and then to see where you are today. It’s a big turnaround, for sure. Yeah, I’m I’m really proud of you for that. Thank you. I don’t even have the right words, right? Other than to say, I’m just really proud of everything that you’ve gone through and to see where you are today.
Let’s fast forward a little bit. So you saw the need. You have the passion and the drive to not just help the dogs, but the people in your community and surrounding areas. And so you started Dog Worx. So talk to me a little bit about what Dog Worx is and maybe a little bit about your training philosophy. We deal with the worst of the worst. Dogs that have really intense anxiety. Dogs that have bitten other people, family members, other trainers. You know, I get a lot of people that reach out to me saying, Look, all the other trainers told me to put my dog down. You know, I actually remember a story that happened a year or so ago. A family called me like, in the car, on the way to the vet to put the dog down and somebody told him about me. And they’re just, they’re like, Please help us. Is there anything you can do? I’m like, Sure. Bring your dog down. Let’s see. Let’s see what you got. In reality, the dog was not unsavable. Sure. You need a lot of work for sure. But I get, going back to what I went through. It was just one of those things where you just have to put the learning into a way that the dog understood. And that really is what I really love about my job.
You know, a therapist can talk to you and you can feel better. Or if you are having a bad day, you could just pop in Netflix or a beer. Dogs don’t have that option. You know, dogs don’t have that, and they cannot communicate. You have to find a way to do it. And every dog is different, you know? So really, really gets me going because it feels like my mind is like, What can I do? What can I do? And once the light bulb goes off, I was like F Yeah! Let’s do it. Dealing with those dogs, there’s not many trainers that do it. A lot of them are unwilling. A lot of them either just don’t know what it takes or I guess somebody told me, You know, they just don’t have the crazy in them. Like for me, even if a dog bites me, I’m like, Okay, cool. A little stitch. Life will go on. Because I understand that the dog doesn’t want to bite me out of anger. The dog bites me out of fear. They just don’t know. They don’t know what else to do. That’s the only response. You have to teach them something else, and that’s where we come in.
The dog basically stays with us for, it depends on the time, you know. On average, about six weeks. During that time, we literally go from scratch to finish. We first address the problem, teaching better choices and then work on the obedience, of course, but then start increasing the challenge. So we work through the problems to the point where when the dog goes home, the owner, the only thing they have to do is keep up the work. Which makes it a lot easier because the owner is already stressed and is already overwhelmed. If you throw A) you have to do this technique, you know there’s a little move, etcetera, etcetera. It’s just gonna be too much for them, you know, especially if they’re dealing with a dog that’s already out of control. So, I really learned that by doing the bulk of the work and giving the owners a blueprint of what to do next, it’s worked really, really good for all our clients. And I have people from all over the country sending their dogs to me, and I’m really thankful for that just because there’s not a lot of help and I’m able to give that to people.
This is definitely a different method, where you’re taking their animal in, and so I have, as you can imagine, a lot of questions. But what made you go down that path, Enrique to say, I think this is the way that I would work best, and this is the best way that I can help you know, the animals and their owners vs you know, the traditional path of classes and working with the owners and the animals together. What took you down this specific path? So I think my analogy here would be if you have, for example, if you have a knee sprain, you can go to the doctor, they’ll tell you what to do, and you can just do it at home. But if you already have a broken knee, like a really, really bad injury, the only person that can help is a surgeon. You can’t do it yourself. The surgeon knows what to do. Once the surgeon does his job, you can go and get physical therapy to get better. But without the surgeon, you wouldn’t get anywhere. The surgeon has the, you know, knowledge, training and experience to get to the point where you can take over. And I think that philosophy has really helped with that. Yeah. Very, very interesting.
And so remind me again, how long have you had Dog Worx? How long have you been doing this? Um, Dog Worx, five years, but training dogs 15. Okay. Geez, I’m old!. Really? You just dated yourself, Enrique. Just a little. It’s all right. That is okay because it is about the journey, right? You’re taking some of the most difficult dogs and saying to them and their owners, I’m not giving up on you. There is light at the end of this tunnel. Um, and I can help you get there. And I appreciate that. Thank you. I mean, at the end of the day, there’s no better feeling in the world for me to see the owner, for example, walk their dog off-leash, in public. When six weeks before that person, that dog, that saved a dog, you couldn’t even get close to him, and he was stuck in the kennel indoors. You know, you give their people their life back. I really, really think that that’s the best part of my job. Yeah.
So before we get into some other things, I’m curious, and I’m sure some of our listeners are as well. How does that work? So you spend six weeks, on average, with these animals, and then you’re saying, Okay, owner, right, here’s your dog back. How does that transition work? Because that dog is used to working with you and your commands and your body language, and now you’re handing them back to the owner, who hasn’t been involved in any of that training. How does that transition work and what are the pros and cons to that for you guys? Oh, I like that question! You know, I really think, I would say more of urban myths that dogs listen to the dog trainer, not to the owner. Okay. But again, you know, if we’re gonna take a deep dive, I think that started with the “Why”. We’re gonna talk about that is why do the dogs do that? Well, in my opinion, just through my experience, dogs listen to the dog trainer because from day one, we established a relationship. Just like you would have a different relationship with your boss than your friends. Now imagine one of your friends turns into your boss one day. Do you see how that would be a little odd and difficult? Definitely. Yeah. But if I come in, from day one, the dog knows, OK, he’s the bus. Cool. Get to it. So that makes life a lot easier for me as far as getting that.
But when it comes home, I go step by step on how the process went because I spent so much time with the dog. And I’m literally, from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, we’re at it. So I get to learn the dog’s nuances, their personalities, what makes them tick. So the dog goes home, I tell the owner, OK, when the dog does this, you got to do this. When the dog does that, this is what it needs. I help the family understand their dog better. Once they understand them better, they know what to do. As opposed to trying, you know, 1,000,000 things they see on YouTube. I give them literally exactly what they need. And also, you know, I give them the hard talk. You know, I tell them their relationship needs to, you guys need to press the reset button on that relationship, and this is how to do it.
So I give an example of what we do for really difficult dogs, especially dogs with aggression. We have something called a 30-day protocol. So for a month, there’s no petting. There’s no kissing. There are no treats. There’s no sleeping on the bed. None of that. The dog is sitting in his bed. He’s doing something or he’s in the kennel. That’s it. Now it’s not a way to live. What this does is the owner basically starting from scratch, just like I did, with the dog. And little by little, they see how the dog reacts. They see how the dog starts listening to them, and that builds their confidence. So that means they’re going to start doing more stuff. Because at first, I mean, especially dogs that were just crazy, that were never taught and wanted to take them outdoors. But now that they see, they believe and they’re able to take more steps, which means with more confidence from the owner, the dog sees that confidence and they feel more. They feel better about being the follower, as opposed to the leader. If that makes sense? And also the last little bit is little by little, I tell them to increase their freedoms. So, for example, day one, all right, come onto the couch for a couple of minutes. Day two, 10 minutes. Day 3, 15 minutes. Let’s say of those 15 minutes you started seeing one of those behaviors kind of regress a little. Well super easy. Just go back to 10 minutes and work on it until you feel that you want to take it again. That helps the owner to really nail down what went wrong? As opposed to, the dog goes home. You resume what you’ve been doing. The dog resumes back, you know, back to the old behaviors and we don’t even know what happened. So I just make it so easy for the owner that they can do it themselves.
So I feel like your background with the military a little bit. It definitely comes into play here. But what I like is that you have that ongoing relationship with that family or with that owner. Do you continue those relationships with them as well? Do they have you as a, is there a support system in play, after the dog completes their training with you? Like, tell me a little bit about that relationship aspect of what you do? Yeah. Yeah. So, as I said, this is my passion, I just love seeing it. So I started coming up with ways to kind of keep up with it, you know, not only motivate them but also make sure that they never regress. So one of the things that I do is twice a month, I offer group classes, to all of the graduates. The cool thing about that is that we’ll get together. All the families went through the same training, so they know what to do. All the dogs went through the same training, so I can trust them to be together, and we just refresh some stuff. So, for example, last week we took an off-leash walk downtown Savannah, which is super crowded right now. And I told them, Don’t touch the leash. Don’t touch it. You know, unless you have to. And the persons that were kind of struggling, I just went around alongside them and I’m like, OK, do this. Do that. Once I saw that it was kind of picking up a little bit, I’m like all right. Next. Yes. By the end of the walk, everybody was pumped to do it again. All of them. So that’s something that we offer.
Every time people, clients have problems, they can reach out to me by phone, email. But a lot of them just call me and say, “Hey, I got this going on, you know, What can I do?” Most of the time I’m like, “When are you free? Let’s meet up”. It’s a lot easier for me to show them in person as opposed to giving them a step by step over the phone. So I take my time with it. Everything comes with the program, so I don’t charge him for it. Okay. Because at the end of the day, I want to make sure that they are able to continue. Yeah, and that is a little different right than traditional training as well. A lot of times when you take training classes, right, I’m kind of pulling from my, you know, when I had a dog, you go through these training classes and the obedience, and it’s easy to fall back into what you’re comfortable with. And there’s typically not a follow-up, right? Typically. Some offer it. But what I like about yours is that you guys, you’re actually offering a comprehensive package, right? Um, I don’t even want to call it a training package. I don’t even feel like it’s training. How do you refer to that? Maybe it is a package that you offer or is it really just called training? Well, I think it’s a mixture of both. I mean, going back to you know how the dog comes back home and behaves. I really think that the majority of the problems that dogs have, are created by the owners.
When I was, you know, when I was growing up in Mexico, there were tons of stray dogs. I’ve never met a stray one that was aggressive, fearful, attacking other dogs. A lot of them are just chilling on the corner. What is the difference? Having the owners, right, the human direction was not there. Yeah, I think it’s not just training the dog but helping the owner understand what the dog needs. It takes a while, so to me, it’s more like a coach. A life coach. For lack of better words. You have to kind of help them. Teach them that there’s better choices. I know that people mean well. For example, given examples that dogs are going through thunderstorm anxiety. Some of them will try to hold them, you know, pet them, give them treats and they mean well, they want the dog to get better, so I know that’s what they want to do. But if I tell them, okay, that may not be helping them. Let’s try this. They’ll do that. And they were like, wow, it’s working. Awesome. And they will continue to do it because they’re heart is there. So yeah, life coach will be more like it, you know, for dogs and people. Hey, I like it. It’s really inspiring to me to know that there are people out there who are dedicated to very aggressive or anxiety-driven dogs and know that there’s a better outcome, right? There’s a solution for that. So thank you for not being afraid and for taking a chance on dogs, who might not otherwise have a chance. Right, I guess. It is what I want to say. So just thank you for being brave enough to work with them and to see beyond their behavior. I think it’s incredible. Dogs are awesome, it is the least I can do. They are awesome, aren’t they? They are awesome.
So one of the things that I want to know, Enrique is tell me a little bit about this Dirty Cup training theory. I’m intrigued by this. Can you share a little bit more? Yeah. Okay. So going back to the training process. Now let’s go to the dirty cup. Imagine you have a cup and there is mud, dirt. Who knows what else is in there? If you add water, no matter how much water you add, that cup, that water is gonna be really dirty. You’re not gonna be able to drink it. You have to clean the cup first before you put in the water. That’s the only way you can go to drink it. Now, with dogs, a lot of people have dogs with behavior problems. They think the solution is, let’s teach a dog to sit. Let’s teach the dog to lay down. Let’s teach the dog to shake a paw. Do you see how they’re just putting water in that dirty cup? They’re not getting rid of the bad behaviors first. You have to get rid of the bad problems first. Basically remove the problem and replace it with good once and reinforce it to the point where they can do it themselves. So that process for me at first is get that cup, get that dirt out and make sure there’s no more dirt left. So when that cup starts getting filled with water, I know it’s gonna be good to go and the owners could drink it.
I think it’s an interesting theory. How do you, quickly like I don’t want to, I don’t want to get into too many details, but how do you go about doing that? How do you go about cleaning that cup when they come to you? Well, I know a lot of dogs are reactive, not really wanting to attack, for example. So with dogs that are people aggressive, let’s say quick example. When you approach the dog and the dog is aggressive, they bark to see where they’re like get all crazy. What most of us do, it’s like, OK, throw your hands up and back away, right? But from the dog’s perspective, it’s exactly what they want. They’re wanting a space that will feel comfortable with a person coming up to them. So they’re reverting to nature, attack and they’re saying, Okay, this is working. I want to do it again. And the more they do it, the bolder they get. And it becomes a habit, to the point where they just do it automatically without even thinking about it. So their stunts a way to fix that. But one of the things that I do is I put the dog in the crate, you know, to keep everybody in the fingers and toes, right? And I walk up to the dog. The dog is lunging and barking to no end. But I stay there. Still, not moving, not saying anything. Just standing there. After a couple of minutes, the dog is gonna go, Okay. This is not really working. In that moment, they’re just gonna pause. So right there and then, I do the little clicker. I throw food down and I walk away, and I repeat. So you see what I’m teaching them is like, Okay, you want space? Let me show you a better way to get that. This aggression thing is not the way to do it. Sure. And I, especially I am one, I get to back away, they get a yummy treat I like. Okay, who doesn’t want that? This is kind of cool. I’m gonna keep doing it. So it’s a repeat, repeat, repeat until I walk up to the kennel and they immediately sit and give me good eye contact. And I’m like, All right, buddy, now you understand. So then, I go on the outside, I use a leash. I keep myself safe, of course. I tie it to a backtie, we call it. So even if the dog lunges on me, they’re not going to get me. And I repeat the process. Once he gets good at it, I’m gonna have to take the leash off at some point. So, you know, I trust the training and I trust the dog and we go through it. So that’s kind of how you have to, you know, take the dirt on that cup.
I think it’s really incredible what you’ve been able to do and your journey, you know, along the way. Is there anything else that you want to share with listeners as we start to wrap things up? So one of the things that I really think, especially with training and rescue dogs. A lot of us get dogs out of a shelter. We want to give them a good life. But typically when I get dogs to come to me, the owners tell me, Well, the dog was abused. The dog had this bad life going on, etcetera, etcetera. So I’m like, OK, I understand. But part of the problem is that the owner is keeping that dog in the past. You have to let go of that past. If you always hold on to the dog had a fearful life. The dog had this going on. Give you my example. My personal life. I grew up very poor in Mexico. I had to work. I started working when I was 10. You know that gained out there just to get enough to survive. Sure. Um but now I have a master’s degree. I have three businesses and I can speak five languages. If I kept to my old story, where poor me, I had this rough, you know, childhood, etcetera. I would never be able to be where I am. I changed my story. I changed my story to, Yes, I had this difficulty. I know what it is to feel this way. Now I want to know what it feels on the other side.
So with dogs, you have to, Yes, the dog went through a tough time, but you rescued them, you rescued them physically. Now it’s time for you to rescue them emotionally. The past is gone. It’s time to build that future. And once you feel that, build a future, the dogs will never look back. I think that’s the most important part of people, especially when they’re adopting a dog, training. I got the chills a little bit because I feel like it’s something that’s very true. And I feel like we as humans can learn from that. And it’s important for those that we are rescuing, that we’re bringing into our home is to focus on the future and not dwell in the past. And if you don’t like something, you need to change it. And so I think it was very beautifully stated.
Really. Enrique, I just want to say thank you for sharing your journey. Thank you for starting Dog Worx and for all the help that you’re doing and giving and providing to those in your community and across the country. Well, of course. And for the people listening, there are answers. There’s hope. You just got to find it. If you ever need help, reach out. I can help you. Or at least find somebody who can. Yeah, great. Greatly stated. And Enrique, we’ll be sure to link to your website and we’ll be able to share all your information and your social media links as well. I encourage people to go check you guys out. Your videos are fantastic. There they’re short and easy to follow. Again, we’ll be sure to link to all of that on the podcast. Awesome. Thank you so much again.
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