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Covington County resident spends years training dogs after retiring from the Army

By: Donnamy Steele

Ken Lebowitz started his business, Heart of Dixie Dog Training LLC, after he retired from the Army in 2016. When Lebowitz first began searching for something to do after his retirement, he did not realize it would grow into his own business.

“I got started with dog training late in my active duty military career. I didn’t work dogs in the military, but when I began looking into what I wanted to do after I retired I started training,” Lebowitz said.

Lebowitz began his journey as a dog trainer when he was stationed in Arizona.

“I was stationed at Fort Huachuca in Southeast Arizona, which is where I was last stationed before I retired. It’s one of the things I looked into, so I had been at another business in Arizona and I was actually working part time teaching their group training classes. When I got back here, I decided to start an LLC with the state.”

Being able to spend time with dogs is one of many reasons why Lebowitz loves his job, but helping a dog stay in its home is the top reason.

“Every trained dog is a dog that has a better chance of remaining in their household. Probably 80 percent of why they surrender them to a rescue is due to behavioral problems, excessive jumping, play biting, excessive barking, and taking stuff off the counter. Owners become overwhelmed and don’t know what to do, and when they find someone like me who is able to help them fix those problems and pour that foundation of obedience, it helps. They learn to walk on a leash without pulling, how to sit in place, and it helps instead of letting them be another statistic of being put in the system, I guess you could say. That’s pretty much why I do it.”

Heart of Dixie offers various training programs to cater to each dog’s needs, but typically he works with each client once a week for five weeks, Lebowitz said.

“I primarily focus on one-on-one private lessons and training. I work with clients and their dogs once a week for about 5 weeks. We do something different each time and they work with their dogs during the week in between those lessons,” Lebowitz said. “I do offer boarding training, but I don’t do vacation boarding. At times I’ll take them and board them at my place for three or four weeks and do all of the training myself with the dog, and then I’ll do a transfer lesson for a couple lessons and the owners get to practice with them.”

Lebowitz also offers a behavioral modification training program that is helpful for pets that seem aggressive or lack confidence.

“I also do behavioral modification training where if you have a dog that is fearful or doesn’t have a lot of confidence or is aggressive, which is a by-product of fear, I will put it through a rehabilitation program,” Lebowitz said. “They will learn basic obedience, how to be more confident, and learn how to play because a lot of dogs don’t know how to play right. Building up their confidence changes their mindset and how they look at life, causing a less chance of being aggressive and will help them have a better life.”

Lebowitz plans to expand his business in the future, incorporating group training classes like he has done in the past.

“I used to teach group classes and I did that in Enterprise. I bounced around the idea of doing group classes in Andalusia in a park setting with 10 or so at a time and I might consider doing it in the future, but I haven’t made a decision yet,” Lebowitz said.

Heart of Dixie Dog Training LLC’s prices are a reflection of his experience and work,

Lebowitz said.

“I’ve worked off my property, so I don’t have a storefront. I have a minivan that I

usually travel in for the private lessons, but people can come to me as well. I typically go to people and charge $100 an hour, and lessons are usually 1 hour a week. If they come to me, I charge $25 less per lesson,” Lebowitz said. “My time is worth something. But I’m not necessarily charging as much as other areas. I try to keep it as affordable as I can so I can still keep my doors open.”

If someone is interested in training, they can visit the business website and fill out a form.

“They’ll contact me through that form and I’ll set up a quick phone call to set up a face to face evaluation. That way I can see what they need help with, because some dogs may already know some commands and I don’t want to waste time on things they don’t need,” Lebowitz said.

For more information, call Heart of Dixie Dog Training LLC at 334-625-WAGS or visit their website at http://www.heartofdixiedogtraining.com/. They are also on Facebook and Instagram @heartofdixiedogtraining .