Dog trainer (and whisperer) Brian Webb can often be spotted at the Coffee Depot with his two dogs John the Baptist and Coach Larry, along with one of his furry students in tow. The Warren resident has taken an unorthodox path to working with canines. Originally from the Peach State, Webb attended Georgia Tech for a year before pursuing music full time, from performing at subways and clubs to getting an agent and becoming a touring musician. After a debilitating case of Crohn’s disease put touring on pause, Webb returned to the classroom and graduated from URI with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and math, subsequently teaching mathematics at Blackstone Academy Charter School. What started out as helping someone with an unruly pet has evolved into working full time with dogs to help them know their boundaries; he credits his first dog Fidget with establishing all behavioral expectations.
BEST DAY EVER: My dad takes me to get a snail at the pet store. Somebody’s giving away two dogs. My dad looks at me. He’s like, “you want one of them?” My mom was out of town, six kids at the time back at the house. I was five years old. I’m like, “this is my greatest day ever.” We got Fidget, this little girl dog, brought her home. I had that dog till I was 18 years old.
FURREVER FRIEND: No one in our family was particularly gifted with dogs. Fidget was just amazing. I learned how to touch and hold the edges of her ears and nose and what it did to a dog’s body language. I brought that dog with me everywhere. I took her walking, sledding. She tolerated how much I made her hang out with me. In my mind, that is how a dog should act.
SUBWAY PUP: I went to Georgia Tech. I was pretty good at math, but I had just started playing music at 18 years old. After a year, I left school and played music for the next 12 years. When I moved to Boston, I got my second dog Derek, the one who would be with me in the subway when I played. This was a really key moment. I wanted him to be able to go off leash in the city, so I started working with Derek.
DOG DAYS: Dogs board with me and I can work with a dog for as little as five days. For a puppy, I’ll take them for four to five days, but I need the owner to return them to me when the dog is 15 months old because of the hormonal shifts that will take place in a dog or any holes in the training. I don’t want one of my dogs out there struggling.
SETTING LIMITS: Dogs are mostly driven by control, comfort, and power. The first thing I teach a dog is boundaries. I am the creator and the enforcer of this boundary, and you’re going to manage it and recognize it. Dogs get boundaries and feel thresholds naturally. Some dogs who are really sensitive have a hard time going through a doorway, so if you establish a boundary and get them to recognize it and then honor it, because you’re telling them to, something intimate happens right there. Then when I back off and make them manage that boundary while I step away – if they’re managing it and I come back in and give them calm, near-meditative, affection that they’re not allowed to initiate, something deep happens. Teaching Derek how to not go into the street is the beginning of that.
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