By Maralisa Marra
Animal advocate and Certified Dog Trainer Stevie Hayes not only has a passion for positive reinforcement dog training, but she is also immensely passionate about the animal rescue world.
“I want to be an advocate for the dogs and the best interest of them,” Hayes said. “There is just a lack of regulation and education in the dog industry, so no matter what aspect it is–whether it is a shelter environment or a boarding and daycare–I want to be a voice for them and for us, as dog guardians to educate and learn the basics of dog body language so that we can better care for them and the community as a whole.”
Hayes is a graduate of the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior, as well as the owner of Evergreen Canine Training Academy. She is also a former staff member of the Humane Society of Harrison County where she found her passion in dog training and rescue advocacy.
About three and half years ago, Hayes began her journey at the Humane Society, and she worked there from February of 2019 to the fall of 2020, as well as a couple months in the fall of 2021. Then, she decided to pursue dog training.
“I fell in love working with animals here at the Humane Society. I’ve always had a passion for animals, but being here, being involved in the rescue world and seeing everything firsthand was such a great but heartbreaking experience,” Hayes said. “I wanted to continue my involvement in the rescue world but find a way to further help, so that was why I chose to pursue dog training.”
After becoming certified, Hayes set out to not only offer private in-home dog training lessons through her training academy, but she made it a point to return back to the Humane Society where her training passion began.
“Even [training] dogs that have never been in a shelter, to be able to be a part of that process and keep that dog in their home, so that they never end up in this [shelter] environment–I just want to make a difference in that way,” Hayes said.
She volunteers her time working with shelter dogs twice a week for at least a few hours. She said, “Right now, my focus is on the dog training and how I can help out here at the Humane Society.”
When working with the shelter dogs, Hayes said, “It isn’t just all about obedience. Yes, we get obedience in there, but we also like to work on enrichment activities, exercise, and mental stimulation because these dogs can be in their kennels for 23 hours a day.”
Lately, Hayes has been working closely with two surrendered dogs at the shelter: Judge and Rocco.
Judge is a boxer mix around 1 year and 10 months old who has been a long term shelter resident, and Hayes makes sure she works with him each time she volunteers at the Humane Society. He has been in and out of the shelter since Dec. 2021.
Rocco is a 10-month-old hound mix who has been returned three times to the shelter. Hayes said he was originally adopted out as a puppy. She said she is offering a highly discounted price through her training academy to do training with him for his next adopters so that way he stays in his home.
Both Judge and Rocco need homes that will provide them with a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.
Although Hayes is volunteering her time, she said she would like to be able to spend two full days at the Humane Society once they find a grant to pay her for her training services.
Hayes said, “The Humane Society has plans to apply for grants so that I can be paid for my time. Frankie Dennison, the director, has made many improvements during her time here and this is another huge step. I wouldn’t be here today as a business owner and certified dog trainer without her taking a risk hiring me as a kennel tech years ago.”
Hayes is an advocate for force free training methods and said she uses progressive training methods that are force free.
She said there are many aversive techniques out there such as prong collars, electric collars, choker collars, among others. However, Hayes’ training techniques do not consist of any aversive techniques.
There are very few shelters in the area with dog trainers, and Hayes said, “At this point, the state that the shelter and rescue world is in, I don’t think it’s a question of if there should be a trainer [at shelters]. I believe it needs to be the normal for any shelter no matter the size to have a trainer on staff.”
As Hayes continues her work in dog training and in the rescue world, she plans to grow her business and potentially have her own training facility.
“In order for me to be a good dog trainer, no matter what the situation is, I have to be able to be compassionate with the person, as well, because you don’t know until you know,” Hayes said. “I have to be able to relate to my client because it doesn’t matter if I’m good with the dog if I’m not good with you, my client, I’m there for you and to help you along the way.”
Hayes noted that dogs are sentient beings, and they have emotional and physical needs, “so we have to be supporting them and setting them up for success.”
She is now accepting clients through Evergreen Canine Training Academy. Visit Hayes’ website, https://evergreenk9ta.wixsite.com/2022, or the Evergreen Facebook page.
If interested in adopting a dog, visit the Humane Society of Harrison County’s website to fill out an application.
Overall, Hayes plans to continue bridging gaps for the rescue world and advocating for all dogs.