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Meet Stephanie Smith

owner and Pro Dog Trainer

    Spoiler Alert! My name is not Mary, but Stephanie. Born and raised in Dallas, TX, I've been a San Diego resident for over 10 years. Living in the country, I was fortunate enough to have raised many types of animals including dogs. Though I admit I fell into outdated training methods when it came to my own dogs growing up. So no judgment if you are in similar shoes. Thank goodness we get to learn better ways!


     Though I always had a love for animals, my first career choice was dance. In 2008 I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Modern Dance Performance from the University of North Texas. I danced professionally on east and west coasts. I even had a performing company here in San Diego. In addition to a professional performing career, I have taught dance for years to all styles and all ages.  


     What does this have to do with dog training? Instructing dance has given me a great amount of compentence in communicating how to build new skills both physically and mentally to my students. Being able to clearly break down an exercise for each individual's learning style(s) to help them be the most successful is exciting to me. Plus I love to make it FUN! I've never had to shout at my 3 year old dancers to "be quiet", instead we play a the "bubble game" where everyone holds a bubble in their mouth, but if you speak out of turn you loose it. Impulse control, ettique, prioritizing learning and limiting distractions for other learners...all made into a fun game.


     This is what attracted me to games and play to teach concepts in dog training. Playing these games with our dogs allows them to practice the skill or concept they need to build and strengthening the desire to have a relationship with you. As a dancer, you practice exercises to strengthen your body to perform certain moves. Those connect to create a routine. After much rehearsal you are then ready for the live performance. This is just as your dog will practice how to hold a stand or sit position, then not jump up when greeting people and finally will be prepared for family coming to visit during the holidays. Join the training revolution with me as we are done with throwing our dogs into the deep end of the pool before making sure they can swim and being upset when they splash us looking for help. 

     In 2020 during lockdown I discovered Absolute Dogs and their lead trainers Tom and Lauren. I knew I found something special and had to be part of the magic. In 2021, after finding success with my own dogs consistently, I took the leap and became a Pro Dog Trainer through their program. Mary Puppins Dog Training was born shortly after and I hope you'll join me making history!


Juniper's Legacy

     I adopted Juniper in December 2019.  I had always wanted a second dog for Domino to cuddle when I would be gone at work.  She was not that. While she eventually found her zen, at the beginning she was a terror. Juniper quickly showed that her past, while a mystery, was probably unpleasant. She was very reactive to multiple stimuli in the environment. Everything from children, bikes, cars, cats, birds, anything "strange looking" or odd noises would set her off. Juiper would bark and lunge and even scream for 30 minutes straight just ast the sight of a squirrel 50ft away.  The girl had no chill and was contstantly scanning for trouble. Juniper was my original Sweet but Psycho. I sought help from other trainers and was not given any helpful feedback. In fact we were kicked out of training class, told she would only get worse, always be this way and there was no hope. What do you do with that? Some trainers promised results with using shock collars, prong collars, head harnesses and other aversive methods, yet nothing phased her. She continued to lunge, cause a scene and react. Positive reinforcement methods helped her learn tricks, but never solved the underlying issues causing her outbursts. It felt like the universe and enironment were always out to get us. 

     Scrolling through Facebook I saw an advertisement for a dog training program called the Sexier Than a Squirrel Challenge. I thought why not. We completed the challenge in a month and while I wasn't sexier than a squirrel, we became addicted to games based learning because it worked. After a year I can say I became sexier than many of her "triggers" and even saw a reduction in her reactiveness to those pesky squirrels. I was able to trust her off leash by the woods, around children and at the beach. She could recall instantly and consistently, loved to cuddle, would happily walk at my side with a loosse leash and was able to make dog friends. She truly became the best version of herself. Learning if how to address her struggles and actually see real life results, finally brought peace to our home. We had made amazing progress and I was excited for her future to be an ambassador for rescue dogs. 

     Running was one of her passions. We started training in canicross where you run (or bike) with your dog and they are encourage to pull you though she usually just ran right next to me loosely. Our goal was to complete 5 miles solid. On one of our runs she collapsed. Originally I thought she tripped, so we walked it off back to the car. Her breathing was very labored and we went to the vet. After testing we found that she was born with a damaged heart and at just 4 years old was already in heart failure. There would not be any surgery or long term treatment options. Medication to support her heart had other side effects that caused her discomfort. I did not want her to loose her light that it seemed we just found. It was incredibly hard as I pictured our life going so differently. I made a bucket list to give her the best summer ever. Who knows, maybe the medication would stop making her miserable and she would be able to get strong enough to continue her activities that she loved. When her heart continued to fail, I made the decision to let her cross the rainbow bridge. So she could still know what joy felt like and not be suffering. I promised that her story would make a difference to the world. I vowed to help other dogs and owners that had been told they have no hope. Mary Puppins is Juinper's legacy and she is the inspiration behind our logo. 

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