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CJ's K-9 Retreat empowers dog owners

Craig Johnson is a certified dog trainer in New Richmond. Owner of CJ's K-9 Retreat, he specializes in extreme cases and is available for small group or private lessons. (Photo submitted)

Craig Johnson graduated from National K9 School of Dog Trainers in Columbus, Ohio with a certified dog trainer degree. He used that degree to build a business and build a name for himself as one of the best to contact for extreme behavioral issues in dogs.

"I've been doing this since 1993 and a lot of people locally still don't know I exist," he said.

Johnson said his goal at CJ's K-9 Retreat, based in New Richmond, is to educate the public about dog behavior and to create better relationships between dogs and their owners.

"I feel a real sense of responsibility to educate people," he said.

Johnson said he feels his own success with dogs stems from his experience.

"I was always super curious about dogs but I also had a real fear," he said.

It's that fear that helps him relate to his clients, he said.

It was also his experiences that taught him how to alter his body language to become the dominant one in the equation.

"Now I focus on fears, phobias and other aggression issues," he said.

There are two types of services Johnson focuses on:

• In-home lessons

• Small group settings

Johnson said the in-home lessons allow him to see the dogs on their own turf; however, the small group settings seem to be more successful because he can hand-select the group of dogs in the group and use their specific behavioral issues for the better of the group in a non-judgmental setting.

Johnson said a dog's behavioral issues are often not their fault.

"Dogs want leadership," he said. "They want security and without that they're going to mirror the behavior they see. If people don't have a good self-esteem or don't know how to react to their dog, the dog it going to reflect that. Educating people is a huge part of what I do."

Johnson said it's important for people to view the world through a dog's eyes.

For example, he said when most people call a dog to them, they make direct eye contact and call the dog's name in a forceful tone.

"We're sending mixed signals to our dogs," he said.

Johnson said standing tall over a dog and making direct eye contact is actually a signal that dogs should stay away. Instead, Johnson said, if you want a dog to approach, you should get down to their level, avoid eye contact and clap and speak in an excited manner.

"This is what I do," he said. "My mission is to help people better understand dogs and help dogs better understand people."

Johnson said while most people don't want to hear it, it's usually the behavior of the dog owner that needs to be adjusted, not the dog's.

"People don't realize they are the cause of a dog's unwanted behavior," he said. "That's where I come in."

Johnson said each dog, just like humans, should be viewed as an individual.

"Dogs are similar to wolves," he said. "They have a prey drive. Some have a stronger prey drive than others and instead of trying to suppress that drive, it should be brought out in a positive form. By suppressing that drive it causes other behavioral issues."

Johnson said he approaches every case with the same two goals -- create awareness and give the tools to change.

"You can create the awareness, but unless you give them the tools to change, it's doesn't do any good," he said.

For more information on CJ's K-9 Retreat, visit