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A Dog Trainers View of Marley and Me


Wow I just finished watching Marley and Me.  I believe the message of unconditional love that our dogs gives us is something to always remember.  The heart is always a place to come from in any situation.

As a dog trainer there are many things I did not agree with that the owner did, however, the most important thing in any relationship with humans and dogs is to come from the heart.  We never know everything and may or may not always know the best choices to make.   If you come from the heart there is no wrong.

I believe it was ironic how the owners loved Marley so much and the trainer they took their dog did not come from a place of love at all.  As a trainer, I believe it is important to come from a place of compassion and understanding.  A good trainer acknowledges the owner and listens.

Just a few things from the movie I would like to clarify:

First and foremost research your dog breed and research dog training BEFORE you get your dog.

When you get a puppy make sure you puppy proof the house.  Whatever a puppy gets in the habit of chewing on carries into adulthood.


Never go to your puppy if he whines at night.  If you return to your whining puppy, you are rewarding the whining and encouraging him to do it more.  It is best to crate your puppy and have him stay in the crate during the night.  Also keep him in the crate when you cannot supervise him.

Do not use choke chains.  Head collars and front hook harnesses are more humane and more effective to train leash walking.

Never chase after you dog/puppy when he has a forbidden object.  Show your dog a treat and allow him to drop the object instead.  Now he will come to you in these instances rather than run away.

If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms read this great book The Big Bang by Claudeen E Mc Auliffe, M.Ed.

Saying “no” to your dog doesn’t train him what to do instead.  He may stop what he is doing and then he will do it again in the future.  Training an alternate behavior is so much more effective.

Teach your dog to walk on a loose leash when he is puppy.  He learns so much faster at this age!

Also if your dog jumps on you turn your back and ignore him.  Then pet him when he sits.  Kneeing him could injure your dog or cause your dog to become fearful/aggressive.

If you want to hire a pet sitter please have the pet sitter come BEFORE the day you are leaving.  A good pet sitter does an evaluation with you and your dog in advance.

Teach your children how to play appropriately with your dog.  Chase teaches dogs to interact with children as if they are dogs (jump and bite them).

The main message in Marley and Me  is beautiful.  When you get a dog LOVE him always.  Know that you are his companion for life and he is your responsibility.

Remember your dog doesn’t hate you and isn’t anger when he misbehaves.  He just isn’t trained what is wanted from him.  Train your dog from the beginning and you will avoid much hassle later on!

I love training puppies!!!!  I have an awesome Puppy Kindergarten Group Course.  Create a great dog by starting training as young as 9 weeks with Four Legged Scholars.

Happy Training and May You Feel the Love Message From This Amazing and Heart Felt Movie!

Johanna Teresi, Professional Owner and Trainer of Four Legged Scholars LLC

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Britnie Sorensen
Britnie Sorensen
18:11 06 Apr 24
This is our second round of training with Johanna! Our Bullmastiff Abbi is different from our previous dogs, and we knew Johanna would be able to help us. We reached out and were in excellent hands! Johanna was able to redirect our training efforts, majority of sessions were held virtually and supported with videos of us training Abbi. We will keep using Johanna no matter where life takes us. Her love and compassion for our puppy, and us, come through in every interaction. We are in a much better place and understanding of Abbi after working with Johanna!
Roberta Bonnell
Roberta Bonnell
01:37 24 Mar 24
My Australian Shepard had moderate separation anxiety and Johanna was able to help me get him to a point where I can see him being able to be home alone before the end of the year! Very grateful for all of her training expertise.
Karen Mara
Karen Mara
21:19 21 Jan 24
I recently met with Johanna for help with my rambunctious teenager, Roger. We worked on coming when called, leash walking, and staying calm around other dogs when on leash. After two sessions, Roger made huge improvements, and he continues to improve as we practice on our own. Johanna really understands dogs and is very good at communicating with people. She knows how to make dog training fun. I've worked with other trainers, and Johanna is by far the best.
Wendy Nighswonger
Wendy Nighswonger
18:47 08 Jul 23
I have known Johanna for 13 years. She has helped me with several dogs, but she recently helped me train my new black lab puppy, Raven. I have moved to another state so all of my training with Raven was done online via Zoom. I believe that the one-on-one training I received through Zoom was more personalized and thorough, especially with the way Johanna placed every ounce of training and recommendation on a board through an app that I can refer back when I need. Johanna is very intuitive and knew when stress was on overload for me, therefore tailoring my training for that day around making Raven feel good while simultaneously taking my stress load down. Johanna has years of experience and while her knowledge is a gold mine, it is her gentle patience and love for her clients that make this training so perfect. I would hire her again and again. She is a true canine whisperer. Thank you Four Legged Scholars and thank you Johanna!Wendy N. ~ Oregon
Christina Richards
Christina Richards
18:13 10 Feb 23
Johanna at Four Legged Scholars is great. She tailored my program to fit my needs and was easy to work with. My puppy responded very well to what she taught us together over Zoom. She's patient and understanding. We're still utilizing the things we learned and he's a well-behaved puppy. Thank you!
Karyl Bennion
Karyl Bennion
19:49 05 Feb 23
I adopted Frida as a companion that I could travel, walk and hike with. She loves to hike and walk but pulled on the leash and jumped at distractions. I learned how to be calm and talk in a non threatening way to her. She responds to this much better than yelling at her. The click and treat method that I learned works so well in getting her attention as well as the "target" training. Frida has improved greatly with these methods. I will continue the knowledge I have learned with her. I did the live on-line training and it was very successful. I am so happy we signed up.
Rachel Giddings
Rachel Giddings
02:57 12 Dec 22
My dog was abused in his previous home and has always been afraid of strangers. I wanted to train him and help him to be more confident, but I didn't know how to do that if he was afraid of his trainer.Doing online training with Joanna was perfect for both of us! Joanna helped me learn how to read my dog and understand his triggers. We then worked together on BAT training, which taught him self-soothing behaviors and showed him how to confidently and safely handle difficult situations. I never thought I would have fun doing homework with my dog, but he and I benefited from it tremendously. Working with Joanna via Zoom was perfect for my dog and me.
Shawn McMillen
Shawn McMillen
02:09 24 Oct 22
My 2 year old doodle was struggling with people walking by the house, barking incessantly, tugging on walks, improving recall when off leash and , for me, how to be a better more engaging human for my buddy. The personalized, online sessions exceeded all my expectations. The review of video homework sessions was awesome. We saw improvement in each of the priority areas and I developed real, tangible, lasting skills/tools to be a better pet person. Thanks Johanna!
Courtney Daniels
Courtney Daniels
19:59 12 Sep 22
12 years ago I got a puppy and quickly realized I was in over my head. I wanted to have a good, well trained dog, but I was overwhelmed by methods and my puppies behavior.I joined the four legged scholars puppy training with my little 4 month old puppy Bowie, and saw immediate understanding with the clicker work. It gave us this incredibly ability to communicate and she excelled.We went on to take several courses that established general obedience, helped me turn a STRONG leash puller into a loose leash master (I took that course twice because it was a huge issue for us and I NEEDED help and reassurance from Johanna that I could do it) as well as skill class, that helped solidify a beautiful relationship between us. Learning clicker shaping allowed me to confidently teach complex and unique commands on my own as well, like waving hello and closing kitchen cabinets.My Bowie has climbed to the top of mountains for me staying right by my side never pulling on her leash. I've targeted her off trails to protect her from startling a mama moose and her baby. She's loved on my kids without jumping on them and knocking them over. She's allowed the neighbor girl who has always had a fear of dogs to walk her without pulling at whatever pace she was comfortable with. She shows off with all her fun little tricks Johanna gave me the tools to train my dog into an amazing companion.I feel so lucky to have found your training program and to have the relationship I do with my Bowie girl. These courses have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of families and their pups, thank you for that gift.
Megan Pond-Maxwell
Megan Pond-Maxwell
16:02 18 May 22
I am so grateful to have found Johanna. She was with us every step of the way as we tackled separation anxiety training and reactivity training with Daisy, my Mini Australian Shepherd. As a first time dog owner, I felt at a loss about how to manage my very vocal, scared, stressed, yet loveable dog. She had all of the typical puppy behavior, such as jumping, nipping/biting, leash pulling, as well as barking. On top of that, she was also not able to be alone without feeling terrified, as well as vocally and behaviorally reactive to other dogs, adults, and kids. I felt completely overwhelmed and Johanna created programs that felt manageable and doable. Each training session, I felt understood and empowered working with Johanna. Over the course of our programs, I felt that we accomplished the steps of the training process, strengthened the dog-human relationship, and increased my own awareness of my dog's emotional cues so that I could better work with her. My dog can now be on her own feeling relaxed and playful, her problematic puppy behaviors have significantly improved, she can walk on her leash loosely, listen to commands, and she can better tolerate other adults, dogs, and children as compared to where we first started. Our online experience was very positive. I look forward to continually implementing the tools and skills we have learned along the way to move forward in a positive direction that strengthens our human-animal bond and reduces distressing behaviors and emotional stress and overwhelm. Thank you Four Legged Scholars! I highly, highly recommend working with Johanna.
Emily Harward
Emily Harward
03:36 24 Apr 22
Our rescue dog is sweet and playful with us, but her behavior around other dogs and people could be unpredictable. She would act aggressively around adults (lunging and barking), and would sometimes be aggressive toward other dogs. We chose to do online training with Johanna. I was skeptical that online training would work, but it ended up being very effective. Johanna taught me the skills I needed to train my dog, and provided resources that I could use throughout the week as I worked on the assigned tasks. I was also able to send her videos of me working with my dog, so she could provide feedback and help me improve. Johanna personalized the program and made changes as needed to ensure that I could meet my goals. Since working with Four Legged Scholars, neighbors have commented on how much better behaved my dog is, and I don't have to worry about her lunging and barking at people or other dogs when we are out for a walk anymore. We still have a lot of work to do with our dog, and I feel like doing the personalized online sessions with Johanna has given me the knowledge, and resources to continue training my dog.
Angel Lanoy
Angel Lanoy
15:22 16 Jun 21
We have a large family, including three big dogs. So when our biggest dog Obi, the Rottweiler, started showing aggression we panicked. The vet suggested we put him down after an experience in the office. He then said we could also try training and gave us Johanna's business card. Just a phone call with her made us feel like there was hope. We signed up to do the online sessions with FourLeggedScholars. The process from the first contact to the last was well oiled and very helpful. Obi gets to stay with our family now and we feel like meting with her has given us the guidance and knowledge we need to keep our family, friends and him safe. I was a tad worried about doing the training online, but it really worked out great and we were able to fit such a big task into our busy schedules. I feel like she set us up for success from the very beginning. Thank you.
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  1. Cam Williams

    Hi Sweet heart,

    Just taking a look at your blog for a minute. I was invited to your dog walking event. Be good to update this on your blog and use what your doing with the meet up as well as a posting. You do not always have to write a unique story (although you do very well) to add to your blog. Should just take you a few minutes to cut and paste and add key words and categories.

    Love you so,
    Marketing for Gurus

    • fourleggedscholars

      Hi Cam!

      Thank you for this insight. As I am doing many things I am finding it easier to balance everything. It is a learning process.

      I love this suggestion of posting my meetup events shortly and quickly. Thank you thank you!!

      I love you so much!!!!!!!!!

  2. Christy

    Sometimes what makes a good book or movie doesn’t make a good reality? Maybe there never would have been a book if John Grogan had actually gone to a good PR trainer when he got his puppy!

    You forgot that it’s never a good idea to give someone a puppy as a surprise gift! That’s a very bad plan!

    • fourleggedscholars

      Hey Girl!!

      Yes I believe if he had gotten a PR trainer the movie would have been different. They did the best they knew how. They were above average owners that felt lost. Most people would have gotten rid of him.

      Yea it isn’t a good idea to give a surprise puppy gift 🙂 Thanks for the reminder!

      Love You,