Liz Cleaves Fulfilling Her Dream At Auntie Dog Training Studio
Business owner turns a passion into a career.
Let’s face it, almost everyone has a favorite Auntie.
The auntie who is there is there through thick and thin, ready to help you no matter what the circumstances. The auntie that you can turn to for help even when you feel like no one else is there.
For many local dogs and their families that Auntie is Liz Cleaves, owner of Auntie Dog Training Studio.
A longtime local resident, Cleaves had been operating her business in Derry, NH when, in September 2011, she decided it was time to come back home to Tewksbury.
“I am very glad to have the business back in Tewksbury,” Cleaves said. “I’ve always felt that if a town was good enough to live in, it was also good enough for your business.”
For Cleaves, the road to Auntie Dog has been a long one with plenty of twists and turns along the way.
“I’ve known that I wanted to work with dogs since I was around seven years old,” Cleaves recalled. “When I graduated from college, however, it just was not something that I could do.”
Cleaves went on to have a successful career in the print industry but, during that time, her heart remained in dog training.
For years Cleaves trained dogs part time and, finally, about five years ago, decided to begin her full-time career as a trainer.
“I was coming out of printing and advertising and I knew that I wanted to do something fun with my time,” she explained. “While most people I knew were thinking about retiring I decided, instead, to start a new business.”
In many ways Cleaves decision to open Auntie Dog was more about fulfilling her dreams and sharing her experience than actually running a business.
“I would tell anyone who is thinking about starting a second career that they need to choose one they love,” Cleaves mentioned. “I truly love my job. It’s just an added bonus that people pay me.”
Committed to the concept that the better trained a dog is the more fulfilling their relationship with their owner can be, Cleaves wants nothing more than to share her knowledge and help others.
“At Auntie Dog we are totally invested in our students. We make ourselves available by email, by text and by cell phone," she said.
Working alongside Cleaves is her assistant training director, Tammy Maglio. A longtime trainer who coordinates the school’s puppy program, Maglio adheres to the same set of training techniques and beliefs as Cleaves. Most important, however, is the fact that, like Cleaves, she loves what she does and is totally committed to her students and their families.
Of course even a dream job can come with a certain level of stress.
“Every dog presents a certain amount of challenge,” Cleaves reminds owners. “Each and every time you deal with behavioral issues that come with teeth there can be issues. We are not shy about telling people what they need to do and hope that they take it to heart. Sometimes I need to say what people need to hear not what they want to hear.”
Each situation that walks through the front door is different and Cleaves says her team at Auntie Dog takes pride in making sure that they adjust their programs to fit each and every dog’s specific needs. Every day, the team at Auntie Dog faces everything from the very basic fundamentals like walking on a leash and sit/stay to more complicated situations like separation anxiety
and bite history.
Auntie Dog is an all-breed training facility and features a climate controlled, rubber floor, AKC regulation size ring. They feature group classes, private classes, puppy classes and even drop in graduate classes. When the weather is cooperative they often take their training outside.
“You can’t train a dog in a room and expect it to get through life. You need to get out where the action is," Cleaves said.
In addition, Auntie Dog features a “Training Camp” program where the dog lives and trains with the staff for approximately one month. At the end of the camp owners can expect a comprehensive, family based homecoming lesson, a lengthy summary report to refer to and 15 additional follow-up lessons.
Each class and program comes with Cleaves' full commitment.
Cleaves describes as "incredible," the relationship she enjoys with her own two dogs. She has a German Shepherd named Jaeger von Olympia THD, RE, CDX, U-CDX and a Boston Terrier named Newman von Tude, CD.
"I truly want everyone who walks through the door to be able to enjoy the same type of relationship," she said.
For Cleaves, the most fulfilling part of her career is when a training camp is complete or a student graduates from a program.
“My favorite moments are when a training camp session is over or a dog graduates from class,” she explained. “To look over and see an owner well up with tears of joy is absolutely amazing.”
For more information about Auntie Dog visit them online.