Retired police dog handler, search-and-rescue team member starts dog-training business – Union Democrat

Longtime police dog handler Joe Riva has started a new business, filling a local gap for dog trainers.

The Tuolumne County resident officially started Canine Training and Consultation July 18 and is taking appointments to help people train their dogs and help fix behavior problems.

Riva, 51, has more than 30 years experience training dogs and was a police dog handler for many years in the Bay Area. He retired to Tuolumne County eight years ago.

Riva’s love for dogs can be seen not only in his approach to animals, but also in his tattoos — he has one of each dog he’s ever had.

“Faithful and loyal. It’s basically how I feel about dogs and myself,” Riva said.

Riva was a police officer for 20 years and was also a search-and-rescue team member. His SAR team trained in Yosemite, and one day he took a trip to Sonora and fell in love with the area. He said he was always fascinated by police dogs and became a handler as soon as he could. He’s trained many dogs over the years to become police dogs (and Search and Rescue dogs, protection dogs, American Kennel Club obedience dogs, etc.) and his charges have gone on to win numerous competitions. He has experience in teaching dogs obedience, agility, personal protection, drug and bomb detection, tracking, trailing, search and rescue, and more. He uses a “positive based training and rewards” method of food, toys or affection.

When Riva moved to the Mother Lode he got to know the local dog people, including members of the Sierra-Tuolumne Kennel Club and Humane Society of Tuolumne County. He volunteers his time to talk about dogs to local youth on probation.

From 2013 to 2015, Riva worked as a dog trainer for PetSmart in Sonora. He trained puppy, beginner, intermediate and advanced classes and offered private training classes. He is an American Kennel Club evaluator for Star Puppy, Canine Good Citizen and Community Canine awards.

Riva said he trains dogs of all breeds, ages and sizes.

Riva said he’s started his own business because so many people have asked him to train their dogs since the county lost two trainers in the past few years.

He charges an affordable rate and conducts the trainings at dog owner’s homes. Riva is insured.

His training and consultations are tailored to each dog and family’s specific needs.

Some dogs just need basic obedience training, while others may need help for food aggression or reactivity to other dogs, he said.

Some dog’s habits take longer than others to fix, but “anything’s fixable if you have the time and patience,” Riva said.

Many of Riva’s clients hire him to help with a rescue dog’s fear of people.

Last week he passed out 3,000 flyers for his business.

“Anybody who tells you they know everything about dogs, beware. I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned over 30 years,” Riva said.

Riva can be reached at (209) 559-8556 or at dogtrainer@frontier.com .

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