It’s not a dog’s life, but dogs are James Quarterman’s life. The busy dog handler is finding ways every day to make the world better for dogs and their humans.
Many of his graduates are working dogs that help humans in need, such as those with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and children with special needs through Marion County Helping Hands for Autistic Children, a relatively new program.
“I’ve been showing dogs since I was 7, and after I began training dogs, I opened my own kennel,” Quarterman says. “I train the dogs for one hour for six weeks. We do one command every week, and when the dog shuts down, I talk with the owner about any new problems or if the owner thinks we can move on to the next command or if behavior modification is needed. The dog might give you two minutes, 20 minutes, or the whole hour, but you let the dog gauge it.”
Quarterman contends if there’s a problem between the dog and its owner, it’s generally the human who’s the problem. “Dogs are like kids; they’ll push the boundaries and get away with as much as they can. Owners call me in and ask me to fix it. It might take an hour or just a couple of sessions. I’ve never met a dog I couldn’t work with; it just takes longer for some than for others.”
His credentials include being a safe dog evaluator for the American Dog Breeders Association. This program has two levels of dog socialization and basic obedience training, helping the owner learn what’s involved in responsible dog ownerships. He also has a degree in canine nutrition and began doing specialized training in 2007.
“Each dog is different. On a service level, you have a specific disability that needs help. You may prefer a Rottweiler, but I have a German shepherd that would work better because of what he has stored in his memory bank,” Quarterman says. “A lot of people want to tell me the breed, color, male or female, and size of dog they want, but it’s my job to find a dog that meets the requirements of what you need it to do.”
His personal favorite breed is the American pit bull terrier, and one of the goals of the group American Preservation Dog Registry is to change the laws restricting breeds in rescue shelters and look beyond the stories they see in the news. He is certified in their S.M.A.R.T. Start dog evaluation program.
“You have to look at the bigger picture,” Quarterman says. “A boxer may look like a pit bull to an untrained animal control person. The 2013 Therapy Dog of the Year was Elle the pit bull.”