ABC Dog Training Program Student of the Month – USA – April 2014
Dean Griffin has had many different jobs in his lifetime. He started out doing telecommunications right out of high school, then worked as a limousine chauffer for 17 years, where his clients included Madonna, Metallica, Billy Squire, Bette Midler, Donald Trump and Barbara Streisand, just to name a few. From there, Dean went on to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a truck driver; a career with long hours and lots of hard work, but one he loved nonetheless. Unfortunately, after being seriously injured on the job, Dean had to give up his truck driving career and is now self-employed as a remote-control technician, repairing and building remote control cars, trucks, boats and planes. Dog training had never really crossed Dean’s mind until he met his wife, who owned two pit bulls and fostered dogs for numerous rescues. Dean was inspired to pursue dog training as a career by his “stubborn, bratty and unruly” pit bull. He wanted to prove to himself—and everyone else—what hard work, dedication and positive-training methods could do. Dean is now in the final stage of the Dog Obedience Instructor Program, and has already been asked by his externship Mentor Trainer to stay on board with the San Francisco SPCA’s Pit Crew.
Where do you currently live and work?
I currently live in San Rafael, Calif., and I am working at the San Francisco SPCA as a pit bull trainer.
What was/is the biggest challenge you faced during your externship and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was finding the right mentor trainer match. The process took many months, and I went through a couple different trainers who were either too far or weren’t doing a whole lot of training at the time. I finally received a call from my Externship Coordinator that she found the right person for me. Since being at the SF SPCA and working with James, I have learned so much, and have actually become a member of the Pit Crew, where I train and educate people about pit bulls.
What has been your most rewarding moment during your externship?
There were several moments for me during my externship. One was finding my new career at the SF SPCA as a dog trainer, and getting the opportunity to educate people about this misunderstood breed. Another special moment was when one of the dogs was adopted. Brock was a young pit bull who had been continuously overlooked by potential adopters. We finally got him in foster care, where his foster mom got him into agility classes. He was like a new dog and was soon adopted. Brock’s new family, however, did not continue to get him the exercise he needed. He gained lots of weight and got bored, which led to some behavior issues, and ultimately he was brought back to the SPCA.
After he was returned to us, my mentor James Baybayan and I started addressing Brock’s behavior issues. We were able to fix them all in due time. Eventually, a man saw Brock on the SF SPCA’s adoption page and wanted to meet him. They hit it off and the gentleman ended up adopting Brock. Due to the man’s health issues, he typically stayed at home all day and avoided high-traffic public areas. But last week he came in to let us know that since adopting Brock, he now goes to the beach, parks and lots of other high-traffic public areas. Brock and this gentleman are now doing training and agility classes together. Hearing all this almost made me tear up and cry. I was taken aback and also so proud because I had spent so much time with Brock, making him the perfect pit bull that he has become.
How did you hear about the ABC program and what convinced you to become certified?
I was referred to ABC by a friend of mine, Martha McCay, who has a pit bull rescue in San Jose, Calif. Martha is a long-time ABC Mentor Trainer, along with every one of her trainers.
Which dog breed best describes you and why?
I would have to say the breed that describes me best is the pit bull: loyal, respectful, loving, protective, and most of all, misunderstood. People have been so quick to judge us both based on just looks alone. I have lots of tattoos, so people often see me as a mean thug; and my dogs are seen as being mean and vicious. I always say, “Don’t judge a pit bull, or me, until you have met us.”