View story at telegram.com
By Monica Sager
Photo: Christine Peterson
WORCESTER — Open for just six months, Pawssibilities LLC provides pet and service dog training to help people go about their daily lives with a companion by their side.
Hilary Norcross and her animal scientist wife, Nicole Ludwig, worked for a large franchise prior to starting their own business with the goal of providing a more humanitarian approach to dog training.
The couple are e-caller trainers, veering away from typical shock therapy practices. The two, who house the dogs in their own home, provide a three-week service dog training as well as a two-week basic and obedience or off-leash training. With services also available in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Pawssibilities LLC also has a Perfect Pet Adoption program to help people determine their ideal dog.
“It’s a medical grade TENS unit stimulator, just as you see in physical therapy when we go for muscle pains,” said Ms. Norcross, who used to be a paramedic in Boston.
The unit stimulates an area on a dog’s neck, which is geared toward the itching receptors in the brain as opposed to the pain receptors.
“It’s a low level device,” Ms. Norcross said. “I did a lot of research. This is actually a backyard trainer, nothing like the hunting collars.”
The educator collars have a range of one-third of a mile. They float and can also be used in water, as they are not shock collars.
“They’re very humane devices,” Ms. Norcross noted. “We don’t lure our dogs. We make them critically think.”
By not using shock therapy or using treats, the trainers make the dogs learn commands and recall hand commands.
“The dogs that we’ve been producing are insane. They’re very quick to get into the working world,” said Ms. Norcross, who trains the company’s service dogs. “It’s really helping. We have schools in the Sudbury education systems. … We have sensory dogs for kids with autism.”
Ms. Norcross spoke to one of her clients on the spectrum with limited verbal abilities, and once she saw a video of Pawssibilities LLC’s dog Rosco, she said his name with clarity.
“The family was just so in awe,” Ms. Norcross said. “She can communicate more with the dog than a human, so we’re teaching Rosco hand signals. … She can be herself, independent with the dog.”
Another dog, Jack, was on a walk with his owner when he came back to the house with his leash in his mouth. Jack, because of Pawssibilities LLC’s training, knew to find the man’s wife, notify, and lead her to her husband who was dead at the end of the driveway.
Training videos of Pawssibilities LLC can be found on the company’s Facebook page and website: pawsma.com.
“We’re so personable because we’re big dog lovers,” Ms. Norcross said.