The dog whisperer: Caldwell County dog trainer knows her stuff
By Jody Marmel
Special to the LPR
Sarah Bartley is a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant in Caldwell county. By being able to train dogs and translate their behavior into confident actions, Bartley shares this confidence with the dog’s owners.
Bartley came a long way to Luling, and her journey here is part of what makes her so unique. She was born in Reading, England and grew up and went to school in Leeds, England.
Bartley said, “Growing up, we had dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, mice and horses. Between my sister, myself and my mom, we’ve rescued all kinds of animals.”
In 1997, Bartley said that she decided to conquer her fear of heights and raise money for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) by making a skydive. “This ended up changing my life and my family’s life in ways I could never have imagined.”
After she earned her skydiving license and a got a few 100 jumps under her belt, she decided to quit her career at the bank, sold everything and set off to travel to the United States.
While living in Arizona, Bartley said, “Dogs always seem to find me. I found a four week old puppy. I brought her home and my mom reminded me that I just took on a potential 15 year commitment. Peggy Sue has been the center of my life ever since. I had no idea back then how to raise a puppy. I just loved her and assumed that was enough. It brings tears to my eyes knowing just how much I didn’t know and how I messed her up.”
Barley left Arizona in 2007 and went to Idaho and then Ohio. She was traveling from drop zone to drop zone, working and jumping. She decided to head back to Arizona and was passing through Texas. She was offered a job in Fentress at Skydive Spaceland in 2008 and has been living in Fentress ever since then.
Bartley bought a house in Fentress on 14 acres in 2012 so that Peggy Sue would have space to run and play. “I had a dream of rescue too but the reality of that is far away.”
In 2013, Bartley had a terrible experience and she saw what dogs were capable of doing and this scared her. So she found a trainer in Austin and began to learn what was going on with Peggy Sue. “I found out what she missed out on and how I actually made it much worse and how I could try to change it.”
Bartley’s trainer suggested that she go back to school and become a dog trainer which led her to studying the learning theory on how dog’s brains work and everything in between.
In October 2014, Bartley started Confident K9 LLC. She said, “I wanted to help pet parents like myself. Most people choose a puppy or dog based on its looks without fully understanding the breed and what the individual dog needs to be happy.”
Her mission is to educate everyone on how to raise a puppy thus avoiding most of the issues pet parents call her about as well as understanding a dog’s body language. “Dogs do not speak English or any other language, but they do communicate with us. I see dogs constantly trying to communicate with people only to be ignored.”
If humans understood canine body language better, there would be less dog bites, less dog fights, happier dogs, and happier pet parents, she said. Bartley also offers a body language presentation for law enforcement since they encounter dogs as part of their daily routine. This class is to avoid a dog shooting.
In terms of training a puppy or dog, Barley teaches behavior modification and learning solutions.
“Every person’s situation and life is slightly different, so I help them understand their dog and show them how to get through life together. It’s a relationship and it shouldn’t be a battle between you and your dog.”
Pet CPR and First Aid Workshops are also offered. “It’s not until something terrible happens that you realize how unprepared you are. You can save your dog’s life with some of these skills.”
Recently, Bartley started to offer online consultations and she has a body language class that she is in the process of putting on the zoom platform. Private consults and training are offered via Facetime or Skype.
While the pandemic has slowed business, it has started to grow again especially since people are fostering and adopting more so than they were before.
Confident K9 services Luling, Lockhart, and San Marcos. Occasionally, Bartley drives to Kyle, Austin, and San Antonio.
Bartley sanitizes after each session and tries to stick to the 6 foot rule with the pet parents. The 6 foot rule does not apply to dogs though. “Doggy hugs and kisses are gladly accepted.”