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A Little Falls native of Clear Lake, Tommy Martin loves to help people with their dog training needs. While training dogs since he was a teenager, Martin said he recently decided to turn his passion into a full-time business, Revive Canine.
Martin said one thing that sets his business apart from many other dog training companies is that he travels to clients for private lessons, regardless of where they live in Minnesota. He thinks it is important that the dog being trained is trained together with the owner. After all, it is the owner that the dog should ultimately listen to.
Working with clients and their dogs, Martin says, owners usually feel a lot more empowered to care for their dog afterwards.
“That’s my favorite part. Going into someone’s home and helping them make their life less stressful,” he said.
Martin said that sometimes people don’t realize the toll dealing with an unruly dog can take on individuals and families.
“You would be surprised at how much excitement a dog can create in a home. I’ve seen it hurt relationships and destroyed families,” he said.
An example, Martin said, is when a person got the dog and genuinely loves the dog despite their bad habits and behavior. However, his or her spouse may not feel the same about the dog and may even want to get rid of the dog.
“It can create a lot of tension in a family,” he said.
Martin said once a client requests in-home training, the first thing he does is visit the client’s home and sit with them for about an hour to really find out what issues they’re having with their dog. He then works with both the owner and the dog.
Martin said this hands-on method has worked very effectively in combating negative habits and behaviors for both owners and dogs. Since the method has yielded a positive result, Martin said he has had several clients who began to cry at the relief the change brought. It also gave them hope for the future with the animal, he said.
Martin’s love of dogs has been with him for many years. His own adventure of owning a dog began at the age of 15. At the time, he said, he was very fond of sports, especially hockey. His father, Gary, also coached him for a time.
“We did everything together,” he says.
All that changed, Martin said, when his father was deployed to Iraq – a reality that hit him very hard. Interest in any kind of sport has disappeared, as has the desire to really want to do everything, Martin said.
Hanging out with some friends after school, their passion for duck hunting eventually rubbed off on Martin.
“They were really into duck hunting and I remember going hunting with them. They also brought their dog, which they had professionally trained to hunt. For me, watching the dogs was the coolest thing about hunting,” he said.
He wanted his own dog to be trained to hunt, and all hope of doing so vanished after the family dog, Buck, died. Since his father was still in action, Martin said he fought for a while. However, his brother-in-law George Fortier, who hunted ducks and had a professionally trained dog, changed his mind when he gave him one of the puppies his dog had. The puppy, a purebred black Labrador, was named Molly, Martin said.
“While I was waiting for the pup to get old enough to leave its mother, I went to Scheels and bought every single dog training book, DVD and anything I could get my hands on that had anything to do with dog training. I was just kind of obsessed with it,” he said.
Martin said that while his family wasn’t poor, they didn’t have the money to spend thousands of dollars sending Molly away for education.
“I just knew I had to train them myself,” he said.
By coaching Molly himself, Martin said it strengthened their relationship. Looking back, it was a very rewarding feeling when he went hunting with the same friends a few years later and Molly proved to be a better gundog than his friends’ professionally trained dogs.
“I sort of put that down to training them myself. I really think the most important thing is the relationship you build with your dog,” he said.
Martin said that a good relationship with a dog is less about all the commands like sit, stay, lie down and more. Rather, it is about living with the animal and building a bond where the dog trusts its handler to protect it, be there for it, feed it, care for it and play with it.
“When I think about them compared to the other dogs, they were just very obedient, they knew the commands and the behavior and they did it and it worked. But there was a lot more with me and my dog Molly. She wanted to please me and everything we did, we did together,” he said.
Since then, Martin has helped several friends and clients train their dogs. At first it was just something he did during the winter months while he was off from his regular job on the construction site.
He also ended up training his then-girlfriend-now-wife, Chelsea’s dog Nova. She was a dog that Chelsea rescued, and while she was cute, she had a mind of her own that made life harder. Much harder, Martin said, until she was trained.
Martin said working with Nova inspired him to consider working with dogs full-time. Instead of going back to construction, Martin started working in a kennel and gave baths to dogs.
“I knew I just wanted to get a job involving dogs,” he said.
As he worked with the dogs, Martin said he learned more about their behavior and the different signals dogs use to communicate. Working in a kennel was also a humbling experience for him, Martin said. Especially since he was in his late 20s and his friends were already running their lives, earning well over $12 an hour.
Since the kennel owner knew that Martin was interested in becoming a trainer, Martin was able to accompany one of the trainers and take part in further training in professional dog training. Everything was going great until the pandemic closed those doors, he said.
After a while, Martin found a local mondioring (dog training) club where he could observe and learn more about dog training.
“Watching the sports competition lit a whole new fire for me. I was so overwhelmed. I had never seen anything like it. It was like watching police dogs in action. I was addicted,” he said.
Martin, a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, said that that first night at the club he was also given the opportunity to don a teething suit and be bitten by a dog.
“I really liked that adrenaline rush,” he said.
Martin recalled and said he had met and been mentored by many dog trainers over the years. Every coach is different. A strength and focus of Martin’s, he said, is being very kind and communicating well without making the client feel bad or “dumb” for falling into a certain pattern or not knowing it. He’s always there to help and it’s great to see the relationship between dog and owner strengthen.