Greg DiFranza, owner of Kamp K-9 Jax Bch, teaches dog owners on their turf not only how to talk to but how to listen to their pets as well.
DiFranza, 66, taught police and military groups how to train dogs for tactical operations and enforcement training for 30 years.
He started his business, his one-man operation, in 2013.
DiFranza travels throughout the Southeast as far as Washington, D.C., to see clients in their homes. He helps people and their dogs live happier lives.
“What I do is canine behavioral training. So a lot of this is understanding the instinctual side of the dog and using dog psychology, not human psychology,” he said.
“I also teach people how to better communicate with their dog.”
Dogs are pack animals. There are leaders, those in the middle that are followers and those in the rear that are timid.
DiFranza wants to create a situation where the person is the leader and the dog is a follower.
If the dog is timid, DiFranza addresses what sort of behavior causes the condition.
The pack is also measured in energy levels of high, medium and low. Owners want to have a dog that lives primarily in the medium zone, DiFranza said.
“Being happy, sad, depressed or angry, that doesn’t drive their day. Energy drives their day.”
DiFranza teaches owners to walk the dog several times a day to relax the animal. They are curious creatures. They want to explore. He encourages clients to take dogs on adventures outside the neighborhood.
But before leaving the house, the dog should be in a calm state. If the energy level is too high, the walk will become a wrestling match with the dog trying to lead the way.
“When I see somebody walking their dog and the dog is way out in front, pulling them ahead I can see everything is out of order. There is no real structure,” he said.
DiFranza works with owners more than the dogs. Their posture and disciplinary tactics are usually what must be changed. Loud, angry commands confuse a dog, especially if the word “no” means stop doing any assortment of unwanted behaviors.
“No can mean a variety of things like jumping, chewing, barking, counter surfing. People have to actually give a boundary and that is not just the word no,” DiFranza said.
“We use emotion. We use intellect. We use spirituality. We don’t use instinct quite as much and these guys are 100% about instinct,” DiFranza said.
Dog ownership is similar to parenting. Undisciplined children make for tense situations for everyone involved.
“If I have a child and I am not creating boundaries then they are not going to know when to stop themselves. That becomes micromanaging every step that they take and that’s not fun for anyone. That’s a horrible way to live,” he said.
Remembering the pack concept is key to DiFranza’s method. He once dog-sat for friends who said their dogs didn’t like the ocean.
When DiFranza took his two Rhodesian Ridgebacks to the beach the pair of visitors joined them. When his dogs started wading in the water, the other two followed.
DiFranza takes the pack concept to the extreme when he invites local clients to bring their dogs for a walk on the beach. He has had as many as 34 dogs walking with their owners in a group. The key is to let the dogs reach a calm space and understand what the day’s adventure is all about.
“The pack’s energy overall is calm and directed. Let’s get some structure here. We’re just going to walk calmly and then the whole pack walks like that,” he explained.
Walking also should not just be a time to allow your dog to relieve itself. Regular walks several times a day put a dog in a calmer space.
“Walking is not supposed to be Chuck E. Cheese time. It is supposed to be more like the church or library,” DiFranza said.
Kamp K-9 generates revenue up to about $50,000 a year.
DiFranza charges $200 and up for a session depending on the behavior the owners want to instill. His services usually only take one visit to the owner and the pet.
He discusses how to train the dog to behave and makes sure that the owners can instill that message to the dog by having them perform the task in front of it.
DiFranza is available for follow-up calls, texts and emails.
He wrote a book, “Dog Stories,” available on Amazon.com, that draws upon teaching sessions and how the dogs’ behaviors were modified.
“It has a realistic aspect. It’s not a technical book. It’s here was the problem and here’s what we did together.”