Spirit Ridge K9 Training & Rescue
PO Box 70,
because sit happens"
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.
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.
Testimonial from Diane Hodgeterp of Oakville (formerly Rockwood) – August 26, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
thanks to my friend Jim and Spirit Ridge.
Testimonial from Brenda Z. of Orangeville – October 25, 2010
To Jim and Suzanne:
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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!
8 months after I had crossed the Spirit Ridge threshold, I was now passed over
to “Mrs. Spirit Ridge” and Agility Instructor Suzanne.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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!
O., Orangeville, Ontario
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
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!!!!
it were not for them, my dog would not be my dog”.[he would have been
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.