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Southampton dog trainer to share expertise on National Geographic show – South Jersey Local News

By Monica Hollenbeck
For The Central Record

SUBMITTED PHOTO Local dog trainer and owner of "Philly Unleashed," Nicole Larocco-Skeehan, works with an Australian cattle dog during filming of the pilot episode for a new show called "What Breed Am I," airing next spring on National Geographic channel.

For years, Nicole Larocco-Skeehan has been making a name for herself as a positive reinforcement dog trainer and now she’s caught the eye of producers at National Geographic channel and will be featured in the pilot episode of a new show titled “What Breed Am I.”

Larocco-Skeehan owns Philly Unleashed, a dog training company she began four-and-a-half years ago, which was named Philadelphia Magazine’s Best Dog Trainer for 2015. Philly Unleashed trainers only use positive reinforcement training. She says it is a very dog- and family-friendly way to train and never inflicts any pain, harm or stress on the dog.

“I think we have something unique.”

Larocco-Skeehan and her husband recently moved from their small home in Yardley, Pa., to an eight-acre farm in Southampton, where she gives her city clients’ dogs a taste of country life. They share the farm with two mini donkeys, four goats, a flock of chickens and, of course, two dogs, Uluru and Porterhouse.

Larocco-Skeehan says South Jersey seems to have a lot of adverse style training that uses items such as shock collars, choke chains and military-style training.

“Electronic collars are punishing,” she says. Also known as shock collars, they are used with electric fences. She said people try to rationalize that it is a low-level stimulation, but that’s not true.

“They work because they inflict pain. We prefer to reward appropriate behaviors,” says Larocco-Skeehan, noting that her technique is to teach owners to ignore behavior they don’t like and reinforce good behavior. She uses no physical correction.

Having grown up around horses and been active in equestrian, Larocco-Skeehan always loved animals but her parents told her there was no future in that field so she studied marketing in college. Upon graduation, she got a job in ad sales but after three weeks, she knew it wasn’t right for her and pursued her passion for working with dogs.

“I never looked back,” said Larocco-Skeehan, who learned her craft at an upscale boarding and training facility. She left the training facility to work in a Pittsburgh animal shelter, where she was part of the behavior team teaching classes. In 2008, she was recruited by the executive director of the Pennsylvania SPCA to build a behavior program for them in Philadelphia. She said during her years there, she helped to rehab a lot of fighting dogs, including pit bulls.

She left shelter work in 2011, saying she was burnt out and started Philly Unleashed that same year. She offers private lessons in clients’ homes and has six trainers who work for her. Most of her clients are still in Philly, but she is building a local client base as well and looks forward to not having to travel into the city daily. Continued...

Larocco-Skeehan lectures nationally and caught the eye of producers at National Geographic channel and they asked her if she’d like to appear in the pilot episode of “What Breed Am I,” which is scheduled to air in April. In the show, couples who have just adopted a mixed-breed dog will be interviewed and videotaped interacting with their new pet. A panel of experts will watch the video and examine play patterns, physical attributes and behavioral patterns to determine what breeds the dog is.

Larocco-Skeehan says the show is meant to be fun while educating people about the attributes of dog breeds that they may have in their own dog. A segment of the show will also deal with purebred and show-quality dogs. Her portion will focus on Australian cattle dogs.

Her own two dogs were adopted from shelters and she says they may or may not be purebred. Uluru is an Australian cattle dog who is retired from competition but earned titles in American Kennel Club (AKC) and Companion Dog Excellent (CDX). He was a therapy dogs for homeless youth, doing tricks to entertain the kids in shelters. Her other dog, Porterhouse, is a border collie mix who currently competes in agility in Canine Performance Events (CPE).

Larocco-Skeehan says any dog is work ,but there are many benefits to adopting a shelter dog. About a quarter are purebred, and people can find almost any breed they want in a shelter. She describes most dogs in shelters as not being aggressive but having behavior problems, such as jumping or they are not housebroken, and just need training.

To find out more about check out www.phillyunleashed.com.

For years, Nicole Larocco-Skeehan has been making a name for herself as a positive reinforcement dog trainer and now she’s caught the eye of producers at National Geographic channel and will be featured in the pilot episode of a new show titled “What Breed Am I.”

Larocco-Skeehan owns Philly Unleashed, a dog training company she began four-and-a-half years ago, which was named Philadelphia Magazine’s Best Dog Trainer for 2015. Philly Unleashed trainers only use positive reinforcement training. She says it is a very dog- and family-friendly way to train and never inflicts any pain, harm or stress on the dog.

“I think we have something unique.”

Larocco-Skeehan and her husband recently moved from their small home in Yardley, Pa., to an eight-acre farm in Southampton, where she gives her city clients’ dogs a taste of country life. They share the farm with two mini donkeys, four goats, a flock of chickens and, of course, two dogs, Uluru and Porterhouse.

Larocco-Skeehan says South Jersey seems to have a lot of adverse style training that uses items such as shock collars, choke chains and military-style training.

“Electronic collars are punishing,” she says. Also known as shock collars, they are used with electric fences. She said people try to rationalize that it is a low-level stimulation, but that’s not true.

“They work because they inflict pain. We prefer to reward appropriate behaviors,” says Larocco-Skeehan, noting that her technique is to teach owners to ignore behavior they don’t like and reinforce good behavior. She uses no physical correction.

Having grown up around horses and been active in equestrian, Larocco-Skeehan always loved animals but her parents told her there was no future in that field so she studied marketing in college. Upon graduation, she got a job in ad sales but after three weeks, she knew it wasn’t right for her and pursued her passion for working with dogs.

“I never looked back,” said Larocco-Skeehan, who learned her craft at an upscale boarding and training facility. She left the training facility to work in a Pittsburgh animal shelter, where she was part of the behavior team teaching classes. In 2008, she was recruited by the executive director of the Pennsylvania SPCA to build a behavior program for them in Philadelphia. She said during her years there, she helped to rehab a lot of fighting dogs, including pit bulls.

She left shelter work in 2011, saying she was burnt out and started Philly Unleashed that same year. She offers private lessons in clients’ homes and has six trainers who work for her. Most of her clients are still in Philly, but she is building a local client base as well and looks forward to not having to travel into the city daily.

Larocco-Skeehan lectures nationally and caught the eye of producers at National Geographic channel and they asked her if she’d like to appear in the pilot episode of “What Breed Am I,” which is scheduled to air in April. In the show, couples who have just adopted a mixed-breed dog will be interviewed and videotaped interacting with their new pet. A panel of experts will watch the video and examine play patterns, physical attributes and behavioral patterns to determine what breeds the dog is.

Larocco-Skeehan says the show is meant to be fun while educating people about the attributes of dog breeds that they may have in their own dog. A segment of the show will also deal with purebred and show-quality dogs. Her portion will focus on Australian cattle dogs.

Her own two dogs were adopted from shelters and she says they may or may not be purebred. Uluru is an Australian cattle dog who is retired from competition but earned titles in American Kennel Club (AKC) and Companion Dog Excellent (CDX). He was a therapy dogs for homeless youth, doing tricks to entertain the kids in shelters. Her other dog, Porterhouse, is a border collie mix who currently competes in agility in Canine Performance Events (CPE).

Larocco-Skeehan says any dog is work ,but there are many benefits to adopting a shelter dog. About a quarter are purebred, and people can find almost any breed they want in a shelter. She describes most dogs in shelters as not being aggressive but having behavior problems, such as jumping or they are not housebroken, and just need training.

To find out more about check out www.phillyunleashed.com.

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