Heeling arts

Cristina Losapio, owner and creator of Trail Dog Inc. in Croton-on-Hudson, didn’t grow up with dogs. She and her family had cats.

“Later, when I was in, probably, in sixth or seventh grade, we had a Brittany Spaniel, Patches. But growing up, my whole life, we had cats. So funny… I was always around animals, but later in life I had dogs.”

Luckily, going to her grandparents’ house allowed her to cultivate her love for felines and canines alike. Now, she has three dogs of her own — Paige, Windham (a certified therapy dog), and Phoebe, all beautiful Golden Retrievers.

“We normally start the day and/or end the day with a trail walk. Walking is so therapeutic. Being on the trails makes me feel grounded and alive.”

Her love for dogs, nature and exercise led her to create Trail Dog Inc.

“I started in April of 2006 with just pet-sitting for a family and after that it was just from one person to the next, and then… I started with Phoebe in this class in Stamford, Conn. called Bandilane Canine Center. We practiced good manners in puppy class and just got involved in all this fun stuff, like agility. And, after that, I got Windham and my next dog and I realized there was more to it.”

A keen observer of the world around her, Losapio — daughter of WAG adviser Bill Losapio and a Valhalla resident — noticed that dog owners tended to reward not just good behavior but a whole state of being.

“If your dog is in an excited state of mind, but you’re still (giving) them (treats), they’re going to think, ‘Oh, this is how I’m supposed to be.’ So I took the classes with Phoebe, which I absolutely loved, took the classes with Windham and Paige, but then I just wanted to know more.”

And knowing more meant observing humans and their dogs.

“I noticed that if the human was with a dog, and they saw another dog and they got nervous, then all of a sudden they’d wrap the leash like this,” Losapio says, tightening her grip, “and the dog would start to react more. I wanted to get into understanding how the humans were affecting the dog through nonverbal communication. So, I just started doing more research about how we as humans affect our dogs so much. Everything goes into it… They’re affected by your whole world.”

All of that knowledge, as well as the 300 hours she needed to become a certified professional dog trainer and her volunteer work with the SPCA of Westchester in Briarcliff Manor have informed Losapio’s successful dog business. Not only does she walk and train dogs, but she also babysits and boards them, helping the animals with any behavioral issues and the owners with a greater understanding of their relationships to their pets to create a harmonious household.

“When I work with families, it’s really important that I observe and see the dynamic of what’s going on, and make sure that we get everybody in agreement. Because if one family member is doing one thing and another’s doing another, and you have three or four kids, it’s not going to work if they don’t work together.”

Losapio can even be found taking pets to the vet when an owner can’t make it. But first, she observes her two-legged clients through the prism of her own dogs.

“I love meeting the owners, going on a walk with the owner and my dogs to see how they flow and then we’ll do that a couple of times, I’ll get the owner to know my dogs. I want the humans to feel comfortable, and whatever issues we have to work out, I work with the dog. It just takes a lot of patience.”

Patience that Losapio has in spades.

An average training consult is about $250, and for new “walking clients,” there is a $50 one-time consult fee. For more, including information on Trail Dog Inc.’s “Walk the Walk” class in Croton-on-Hudson and surrounding areas, email traildoginc@yahoo.com.

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