Pack Therapy/Healthy Play programme Information

Our Spirit Ridge K9 Crew

Spirit Ridge's  'Paws for Literacy®' Programme

Training videos and slideshows of our dogs

Spirit Ridge 'Brags'!

Client Testimonials and Newsprint Articles about Spirit Ridge 

Important Reading:

Articles of Interest to Dog 'Owners'!

Our Rescued Friends' Hall of Fame

In Memorium
Jesse girl

"Zorro" (1999-2014)

"KOUKLA" (1998-2011)

A Tribute to Koukla's life

"TEQUILA" (2005-2011)

( 1995- 2008)


  Spirit Ridge K9 Training  & Rescue

PO Box 70,
Hillsburgh, Ontario, N0B 1Z0   


"........ because sit happens"

Client Testimonials 

Below are copies of some of the letters/e-mails clients have sent in to us as testimonials of the work we have done with them.  They are reproduced with their explicit permission.  In addition, I have reproduced some of the articles that have appeared in the local media.  I hope you enjoy the testimonials.

Jim Tsitanidis
K9 Trainer & Behavioural Consultant

Testimonial from Heather C. of Guelph - March 7, 2013

I met Jim Tsitanidis almost three years ago. I had a “difficult dog”, and was willing to try anything to make things work. Jim came to our home and a working relationship and friendship began. Jim is very professional and knowledgeable. To say that he has a way with dogs is an understatement. I have seen him calm a snarling, fearfully aggressive dog in a few short minutes. I’ve watched him make use of his own dogs to help a shy submissive dog become more confident. I have witnessed his passion in adopting, rehabilitating and re-homing a rescue dog.

I’ve also come to know the Spirit Ridge pack as ambassadors. They are fabulous examples of happy, working dogs with multiple titles in traditional Obedience, Agility, Rally Obedience and Herding.

So, YES, I recommend Spirit Ridge. There, you will meet Suzanne Adams, Spirit Ridge’s Agility instructor. Suzanne will help you to become more confident and patient with your dog, and with yourself. Jim will treat your dog LIKE A DOG, and then teach you why this is SO very important. You will learn lots about your dog, his place in your pack, and your role as pack leader. You will have access to carefully planned and individualized training classes, and quick feedback on any questions you might have. And ... you WILL have fun! Spirit Ridge K9 Training and Rescue is truly a special place for dogs and their handlers.


Testimonial from Diane Hodgeterp of Oakville (formerly Rockwood) – August 26, 2012

In the fall of 2009 I met a man who helped save my relationship with my two beautiful golden retrievers (and dare I write, my husband). My name is Diane Hogeterp. Like many other dog owners, my husband and I had our "fur children" well before we had babies: “Samson” now 9 years old, and “Jackson” now 7 years old. They were the love of my life. Sam and Jack were always by my side. My husband and I love the outdoors and wherever we went “the boys” came along. But as the years progressed, I began noticing a difference in Samson's behaviour. As a puppy, he was super submissive, throwing himself onto his back whenever a dog would approach us. As he matured, we had an awful encounter with a unleashed pit bull. Much to our surprise, Samson did not lose the fight. But it was from that point on that as a dog owner, that I lost most – if not all – of my confidence as a handler. Samson gained the burden of my fear and needed to be the leader of our pack.

I spent the next few years literally walking in fear while Samson would fight off any dogs that would approach him. Our youngest dog Jackson was often the subject of these bouts of aggression. When I would seek advice from others, one person suggested we "reward the aggressor and punish the loser". Her thought was that Jackson would learn from Samson's bites and would stop getting in his personal space. No such luck for Jackson. For years I stewed over how to resolve this problem. I read books, spoke to my breeder, and watched programs geared to helping behavioural problems in dogs. I was at a complete loss. Julian (my husband) and I worked diligently with our dogs. I was always running – training for a half or full marathon. The dogs ran five to eight kilometres nearly every day with me and then walked another two to three kilometres at night. We often took them hiking and would go swimming in the lake. We were completely baffled as to why Samson behaved so poorly around other dogs.

Then I became pregnant and stop walking and running with the dogs completely. It became painfully obvious that I had very little control over my two dogs when facing oncoming dogs. Jackson was picking up on Samson's cues and was behaving poorly when faced with stressful situations. I turned a blind eye for a little while as Julian began taking over more responsibilities for them. However, when our daughter was born and life resumed to somewhat normal I found myself having more problems with the dogs. Now Jackson was ripping up his bed and eating chunks off of our walls and our furniture. Samson was scratching our door to bits whenever I was out of sight, and the aggressions shown towards oncoming dogs was reaching new heights. By this point our daughter was 15 months old and I was once again pregnant. Six months pregnant to be precise. Through a new veterinarian clinic I was given the name of a “trainer and dog behaviour specialist” as a possible solution to my problem. I was no longer willing to turn a blind eye and knew I had to face this problem “head on” as this could be seriously dangerous for all of us.

I had placed a call to Jim Tsitanidis of Spirit Ridge and he was shortly on his way to meet us. I had prepared two full pages worth of notes on all the issues I wanted to discuss with him on each dog. I was ready to lay all the cards on the table and air our dirty laundry. Yes, prior to having children my dogs slept on our bed. Yes, we fed them people food. Yes, they had full freedom in our home. Yes, they were treated like our real babies! I knew we had made our share of mistakes, but we exercised with them to no avail! Didn't that count?

Jim warned us that he would walk into our house and not speak to either Julian or myself until he had assessed the dogs. For a short man he exudes grandeur in all his gestures! As Jim's walking stick hit the wooden floor in the kitchen Samson's tail snuck between his legs and stood still while Jackson ran away to the other end of the house standing sideways looking conflicted. I was in heaven! This was the intervention that I had been longing for. As I pulled out my extensive behavioural dog list I quickly realized that Jim had no intention going through all of them as he had fixed it by just walking in our door. He was in control of his body, emotions and our dogs.

Much has happened since our initial visit with Jim. We worked on setting clear and consistent boundaries for our dogs and learned that they needed to have their minds exercised. Physically they were in tip top shape, but they were mentally bored. That night after Jim's first visit we found Samson and Jackson laying in one dog bed together. They slept that way from dinner time to the next morning without moving. To this day they still share a bed. We have continued to work daily with both dogs while focusing on exercising their minds. We enrolled both dogs in obedience classes with Jim. Julian mostly attended with Jackson initially. Then one day I spoke to Jim about bringing in Samson. I gathered my courage and plucked myself into his training facility with other dogs in close proximity. Samson was great and worked attentively without being distracted or bothered by his classmates. However, I realized that I'm the source of most of the problems we were having with our dogs. My nervousness sets Samson off. There were moments where I fought hard with concealing my feelings for fear that Samson would hurt another dog. Having Jim's confidence in me and Samson is what kept me from falling apart.

Life with our dogs is far from being perfect. We have had our share of awful incidents. One year ago after just one month of moving to our second home Samson and Jackson “escaped” the backyard through a temporary fence. While it was just a few seconds before I realized they were missing, those seconds proved just long enough to cause another dog great pain. I cried for days over this incident. I had been so diligent with the dogs since Jim had come to us. How could the dogs react this way after all of this work? I was ready to throw in the towel. I felt overwhelmed by this turn of events. In a world where my dogs lived in a bubble, they were great, “best dogs in the world”! Yet in reality I felt I had once again let both the dogs and myself down, and scared our new neighbor and his poor dog. I questioned wether it was right having the dogs at all still with us. It broke our hearts at the thought of giving up on them, but my children's safety and the neighboring dogs were at risks.

After much soul searching we asked Jim to visit us once more. Jim was once again by our side helping us “re-find” our way with the dogs. We discovered the wonders of walking with a walking stick. The walking stick is essentially an extension of ourselves and acts as our sceptre. It is not there to beat our dogs but to help distract other dogs from approaching us.  Since his last visit in June of 2011 we have successfully walked in our new neighborhood fending off several oncoming unleashed dogs. There have definitely been huge ups and downs throughout the process, but it has continued  to be an incredibly empowering journey revealing many of the wonders of the relationship between humans and “man’s best friend”. Today, our daughter (4 years old) has taken to working on behavioural training with Jackson. She helps reinforce positive behaviours with rewards and treats. She has visited the Spirit Ridge training facility and has already displayed tremendous confidence in supervised handling with our dogs. As our dogs age, we remain vigilant around our children mindful of the potential hazards. I also notice they are beginning to show signs of slowing down in their senior years. We love our dogs – they have been tremendous friends, confidants, and companions. I am truly grateful for having met Jim. He has helped restore this wonderful relationship and brought back the enjoyment of sharing time with our dogs, for as long as we are able to.

Many thanks to my friend Jim and Spirit Ridge.


Testimonial from Brenda Z. of Orangeville – October 25, 2010

To Jim and Suzanne:
Jim, who would have thought when I answered your ad in the Orangeville Banner in 2008 that Ripley  and I would be embarking on a life changing course. I did not even know what Rally O was all about when I made that call -- all I knew is that Ripley did not want to do competitive retrieving anymore. Ripley had signaled this to me loud and clear the day I sent her out to retrieve a bird at a trial and she proceeded to pick it up, turn around to face me, spit it out and roll on it!  This is the retriever equivalent of giving me the proverbial “finger”!  All the trial judge could say was ‘that’s a Chesapeake Bay Retriever for you’. It was clear that I needed to find another outlet for her and me. 

Oh my what a journey we have traveled together Jim -- and now with your support and Suzanne's I have gone from entering my dog in my first Rally Obedience trial in November 2008 to being certified a judge for the Canadian Association of Rally Obedience (CARO).   As I embarked on judging my first trial on October 17, 2010 and looked out at the sea of competitors’ faces waiting for me to impart some words of wisdom (with my knees shaking and my mind a blank), all I could think of was “@$@#@@ Jim what have you gotten me into”! Then I remembered your words of wisdom ‘ have fun’ and boy did I, ever!

Suzanne you too have played a special role in Ripley's and my journey. You have taught me to be more patience with myself as this is a definite requirement in order to 'win the prize' as I have struggled to learn the sport of agility. Without your help Ripley would still be 'glued' to my side and we would still be struggling to get successfully get her over the 'jump' in advanced Rally Obedience let alone manage to FINALLY get her Agility Dog of Canada title on October 24th! Thank you for your continued support and advice as Ripley and I continue to try to master the art of agility (a lesser person would have given up on us long ago so thanks for sticking in there with us).

I truly value and respect our friendship. When I am old and sitting in the rocking chair at the old folks’ home what stories I will tell of my journey, the friends I made along the way, the dogs I knew and loved and you two will figure prominently in those stories -- and like the 'fish that got away' the story will reach epic portions.

To our continued journey - my the people one meets when one let's a dog come into their life. To Spirit Ridge, its owners Jim and Suzanne and their very special dogs - thank you for opening my eyes to the possibilities. To Joan Richard and her fabulous collies: Indy, Macy, Ryder and Breeze thanks for being such a great partner and buddy and all the laughs along the way. And lastly – they always say to leave the best to last, Ripley my canine companion of 9 wonderful and rewarding years (so far, and hopefully many more to come) three simple but powerful words ‘I love you’.

Brenda & “Ripley”
I first met Jim Labour day weekend 2008 at the Orangeville Fall fair. Passing by his "Spirit Ridge" booth, I noticed the word "aggression". I thought just maybe here was someone who could help me with my 2 1/2 yr old Border Collie, Toby.

I had gotten Toby as a puppy from a dog rescue. The older he became the more aggressive he seemed to become, despite obedience lessons and two walks a day. Toby and I had started with  a group obedience/intro to agility class with another trainer and on to private lessons because of his behaviour. When private lessons did not seem to help, he was placed on medication for his anxiety and nervousness.

Prior to meeting Jim, walking Toby had been something I had to mentally prepare for, I hated it. He would react to every lawn ornament, bike, skateboard, person and dog. God forbid that he would even catch a glimpse of another dog!  He would rear up on his hind legs, shake his head and growl, somewhere in this process he always managed to bite me.  At home he was very sweet, affectionate and smart but always on high alert, never relaxing.  People often told me Toby was "not right in the head" and that I should consider euthanizing him.

 Jim was open to assessing Toby and within a few weeks my two teenage daughters, Toby and I  found ourselves crossing the threshold of the training facility at Spirit Ridge.

Toby was true to his form and as soon as Jim approached us completely ignoring Toby, our dog turned and started to snarl and bark, lips curled back and teeth barred.  He was worse than I had ever seen him with a person and frankly very scary.  For about what felt like an eternity, Jim stood calmly in front of Toby – not backing down – and Toby reciprocated by continuing his snarlng, barking and lip curling.

Jim calmly confirmed his aggression and also dominance while this was going on and explained that if he would back down at this point, it would only serve to fuel and reward Toby’s aggression.  By this time, both my daughters were crying and I was totally at a loss not certain what would come next.  Jim explained that if he made any move at this point and seeing that he had no protective tools with him, Toby would bite.  So he calmly explained that he had to wait Toby out.  About 10 minutes later, Toby started to settle and when he turned way, Jim took that opportunity to retreat and get his equipment.

He returned with a muzzle and a more corrective collar (up to that point, the previous trainer had suggested that a halti would be as much correction as we would have needed).  Jim gave a hearty laugh and explained that a halti would have been an exercise in futility and that up to that day, Toby had never had any boundaries or rules enforced and that that had to begin immediately.   He also comforted all of us by expressing his opinion that Toby would not only be rehabilitated but that it was his intention to eventually also get him off the drugs that he had been put on.  Toby, he felt, ruled in our house; I never thought he did until we started to say no to him.  We were to keep him off all furniture and to say he did not like that was an understatement!   Jim gave me the titles of two books he wanted me to read which I did within three weeks.  We had several exercises to do including two walks a day. Playing fetch type games with Toby were to stop, it was not physical exercise he needed but mental exercise he lacked.  The physical exercise was only exacerbating his “obsessive-compulsive” type of behaviour.  Jim suggested I muzzle Toby when I walked him so that I would feel calmer and the energy I exuded would become more confident.  My fear of his reactions to this point had been a big part of the problem and were fuelling his reactions as he was very much in tune with my weak and fearful energy.

I knew I had the right trainer for us when Jim called me the day after the assessment to see how we were coping.  He truly seemed to care about Toby.  I emailed Jim several times when I had a problem or a success and he always answered back within the day. Occasionally we had to change directions because things weren't working.   After a few weeks,  Jim came over to my house to assess Toby's progress.  Toby and I had improved but more work needed to be done. 

Within a few more weeks we were ready for the next phase of Toby’s rehabilitation which Jim said was an essential step in the process.  We were enrolled in a beginner group obedience class at Spirit Ridge.  To have Toby in a room with several other dogs would have previously been unthinkable.  This is when Toby had his biggest change ..... to “work”, that is what Toby needed. Twenty minutes of obedience practicing exhausted him more than a 2hr hike ever did. Walks were becoming much more enjoyable and Toby was increasingly more relaxed at home.

After successfully graduating from the Group Obedience class, Jim felt that it was time for the “end game”.  What I had always dreamed of and never expected Toby would even come close to, was entering an agility training class.  Jim felt that, since border collies have a natural aptitude for this dog sport, it would only make sense to focus him on learning the equipment and working in agility.  I was in seventh heaven! 

Nearly 8 months after I had crossed the Spirit Ridge threshold, I was now passed over to “Mrs. Spirit Ridge” and Agility Instructor Suzanne. 

Given Toby’s high intensity and drive as well as the high energy nature of agility, it has been a lot of work for Suzanne, Toby and me but it has also been a lot more fun than I had ever even dared to imagine. 

It has taken me a long time to start relaxing and becoming more confident in Toby's behaviour as well as my ability as a handler.  The biggest success for my dog and I occurred in May of this year (2010) when we entered our first AAC agility trial!  I would never have thought  I could have Toby at an event with so many other dogs around.

I cannot thank Jim and Suzanne enough for their dedication to Toby. The training methods at Spirit Ridge were always tailored to Toby's breed as a Border Collie, his personality and my personality because, as I have come to realize, I was the one that had the most to learn.  Their rehabilitation and training methods are not of the  "cookie cutter" variety. 

In writing this I cannot forget to also thank all the classmates Toby and I have been with at Spirit Ridge for being so tolerant and supportive to Toby's sometime less than exemplary behaviour.

Toby is a different dog from when we first met Jim and Suzanne.  Anti- anxiety medications were discontinued a long time ago.  He is a relaxed, happy and above all – as Jim would say – a “fulfilled” dog.  

Finally, as I write this testimonial, I must mention that two days after returning from a Transatlantic trip and totally jetlagged, Suzanne (who had insisted that she be entered as Toby’s handler) ran him in his second AAC agility trial this September (2010).  I was in shock at his focus on Suzanne and his total disregard for any other dog around.  Suzanne, being relaxed and confident in his abilities showed me, once again, that I was always the one “fueling” Toby.  They almost came in with a qualifying score but, regardless, Suzanne and Jim tell me it is just a matter of time.

Regardless, I am having fun with my dog and Toby is having the time of his life!  And to think that I was so close to having him euthanized!

Jane O., Orangeville, Ontario

(September 20, 2010)


As a student of Spirit Ridge - Mr. Jim Tsitanidis and Suzanne Adams, I believe they should be awarded a medal for every animal they save and for every human they train.  I am a student who has owned dogs my entire life and I could never really train my pets.  I met Jim and his wife at Spirit Ridge before my first session was over, my unruly Sheppard was lying down calmly between two of Jim's dogs.  I could not believe it!  He - Jim - was able to calmly talk and with no touch walk my Sheppard around two other dogs.  I was and I still am in awe.  Jim and his wife are so in tune with the way the animals think that they feel there is absolutely no reason for any "hands on" treatment.  These two people are what all dog or any other kind of animal "owner" should be. We should be so lucky to have an ounce of the nurturing, loving and respect for animals that Spirit Ridge (Jim and his partner) have.  We should be so lucky!!!!  If it were not for them, my dog would not be my dog”.[he would have been euthanized].   

My name is Traci, I am a business owner, a wife and a mother.  I am also an animal rescuer.  I have affiliations with some of the largest animal rescue organizations in North America. I am certified in livestock rescue, human and animal swift water and low angle elevation rescue.  I am currently taking courses (which I travel too) from the University of Missouri for animal cruelty and investigation.  I am the founder and on the Board of Directors of an animal rescue non profit organization.  I have driven into the eyes of hurricanes to rescue animals.  I have been at the scene of puppy mill seizures, and seen the most horrible circumstances and conditions that any animal could possibly endure.

My dog Ratchet [120lb deaf Rottweiler] is dominance aggressive with a bite level of 5-6 (meaning 2 strikes, back to back, with pulling and head shaking to cause tearing).  Ratchet used to think he was the boss.  He used to attack (without warning) if things did not go his way. Ratchet now lives in my home, has not bitten in over 10 months, we now communicate with him thru hand signals and he is a valuable member of my family.  I adore him. The value that I saw in him that day, was there, he will never be adoptable, but he has found love and happiness in my home.  

None of Ratchet's accomplishments would have been possible without Jim at Spirit Ridge.  He spent hours with my family and Ratchet one Sunday afternoon, teaching us, hands on, how to manage Ratchet in a positive manner…  Jim is one of the best behaviorist/trainers I have met in North America.  I will continue to consult Jim with any other difficult dogs that I may come across and forward his information to any that may need his help.  He is one of the few trainer/behaviorist that truly takes on the most dangerous of dogs and makes a difference in the dog's life and the life of the dog's handlers.  He understands dogs and sees what very few trainers/behaviorists can see.  I have met and contacted many trainers/behaviorists and find Jim at Spirit Ridge to be the most knowledgeable, approachable and accessible person in his field.  I rely on his judgment and his professionalism.  He has worked miracles with animals that truly would have been euthanized without him.”

“I have personal experience with Jim Tsitanidis and his methods at Spirit Ridge as I just completed one of his courses.  Spirit Ridge was highly recommended to me by a customer at my place of employment.  I attended an open house in July ‘08 and was quite impressed with Jim and his training centre.  Since that time I have completed a six week obedience course at Spirit Ridge with my dog Emma. Jim is our local Caesar Milan (the dog whisperer).  I plan on attending other courses that Spirit Ridge offers and I have and would continue to recommend them to anyone.”

“I just completed a six week course of dog training with Jim and must say that both my husband and I were very pleased with the results that we achieved with our dog ‘Opee’.   I found Jim to be very informed about dog training and behavior.  He helped us to realize what kind of effect we had on our dog.  Before the classes I had read books and have previously had the good fortune of sharing my life with many furry friends, but it wasn't until we met Jim that it really "clicked" on how our behavior affected our dog.  Our Aussie is now a much calmer, relaxed male as a result of the change in how we handle him.  Opee looks to us now as the leader, and he can simply "relax" and be what he is best at...just being a dog.  If he feels confident that we are taking control then he doesn't have to act frantically, pulling and leading on the leash.  Instead we are in charge.  Jim, not only teaches training, but also teaches behavioural understanding from a dog's perspective.

I would highly recommend Jim to all of your friends who are having "issues" with their dogs.  As Jim say's "there are no bad dogs", just handlers who need some advice and direction.  I found Jim to be very caring about all the dogs in our class.  He has a big heart and we could tell that he really loves what he does, and the dogs have so much respect for him.  Our class all benefited greatly from the training, and I believe that we all were thrilled with the results.”    

“I was referred to Spirit Ridge by my Vet.  I have a 18 month old German Shepherd with some behaviour problems.  I spoke with Jim prior to my visiting, and after my lengthy conversation with Jim felt so confident that he was the right person to help me and this dog.  You see the dog was not the problem really, I was.  Jim was very gentle in pointing this out.

  Once we went to the facility, Jim took over in teaching myself and my son.  Our dogs, Ireland and Ned, immediately, had respect for Jim and he had not even spoken or come near them yet.  It was totally amazing.  Not to go into our whole training experience, Jim was very firm in his demeanour and in his voice, but not once did he suggest or even try anything that would harm the dog.  He even made suggestions on new collars as he felt the choke chain was not good for the dogs and could harm them. 

  It has been 6 months since I have been to Spirit Ridge, however, Jim keeps in contact with all clients through email.  I have just recently emailed Jim with a problem with on of my dogs and he was so wonderful to email me back right away, with great positive, constructive, safe information.  He made me feel that he truly cares about these animals nor did he ask me to pay for his ever helpful and spot on information.”

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