Professional dog trainer Nate Schoemer established Hira’s Legacy Foundation and Hira’s Legacy Dog Training as a tribute to his Malinois, Hira, who lost her life in 2015. “She changed my life and made me the trainer I am today, and in honor of her and the life she lived, Hira’s Legacy was born,” says Nate.
At Hira’s Legacy Dog Training, the relationship of mutual love and trust between humans and dogs is fundamental to their approach to training. “By helping people understand their dogs and how to train them,” Nate says, “we strengthen an ancient bond and make it more enjoyable for both human and dog.” Hira’s Legacy Foundation is committed to “improving the quality of life for dogs and their owners by providing free educational resources, rescuing dogs from shelters, helping the disabled, and creating a new generation of dog trainers.”
Through his foundation web site, Nate explains:
“The purpose of dog training is to enhance relationships between dogs and their owners. Implementation of training principles is designed to put you and your dog on the same page together. Dogs, especially, are animals that are loyal to their owners, with a desire to please. This is why a dog may live in confusion as she notices how her owners are unhappy—but the poor pup doesn’t understand why. Because communication is lacking, the situation never improves—the owner becomes frustrated, and the dog remains confused.
“Sadly, this pattern can deteriorate the relationship and—in the worst-case scenarios— prompt an owner to give the dog away to a shelter (where it is eventually put down). At Hira’s Legacy, we believe it’s very important to stop this cycle by improving the lives of dogs and their owners—and thus saving the lives of dogs in the process.
“Dog training is the process of helping your dog understand your expectations. As they are not capable of the cognitive reasoning we bi-pedal mammals practice, we must instead use systems of conditioning, pattern recognition, and positive habit-forming to create our desired results and help the dog comprehend our own thoughts and feelings.”
By training the trainers, Nate’s goal is to help dogs and their owners forge an unbreakable bond. “Together,” he says, “we can help all dogs enjoy a brighter future.”
We spoke to Nate about working with the veterans and rescue dogs at Cammies & Canines.
How long does it take to train a rescue dog to be a service dog?
When you have a service dog, the training often continues throughout the dog’s life. On average, a service dog in training can take anywhere from 9 months to 2 years, depending on the complexity of the exercises. Environmental conditioning and generalization to the training can often take a long time, as well.
What do you look for when you’re rescuing a dog from the shelter?
There are four basic things I look for when rescuing a dog for service work: First, is the dog interested in people? Second, is the dog toy and food motivated? Third, is the dog good with other dogs? Lastly, does the dog seem confident and eager to work, with high levels of perseverance? This doesn’t guarantee the dog will be successful, but it increases the dog’s likelihood of completing the training.
How does training a dog transform a veteran who is suffering?
It depends on the veteran and the disability they are suffering from. However, all veterans—regardless of their injuries, whether internal or external—receive a level of healing through the dog’s companionship. They can see themselves in the dogs, because these are dogs who had once been discarded, and homeless veterans often feel as if they have been discarded in some way by society. And when they see how much the dogs do for them, they start to realize the value that they themselves add to the community and it gives them a sense of purpose. Service dogs also provide support on countless other levels, in both emotional and practical ways.
You can catch Nate on Rescue Dog to Super Dog on the Animal Planet network.