Tom Mancuso’s five-year-old female Belgian Shepherd Malinois, Fia, knows how to sit on her owner’s back.
She can also sit poised on top of a fire hydrant for at least several minutes.
Fia knows a lot of things, and that’s likely because her human daddy is a dog trainer by trade.
“Once you get a dog’s attention, you can teach it to do anything,” Mancuso said. “The problem most people have is they can’t their dog’s attention.”
Mancuso, 44, said it is an issue of distraction that most dogs have when their masters are giving orders.
The Raymore resident once worked in the mortgage industry, but opened “Sit Means Sit” dog training services in the Kansas City metropolitan area seven years ago.
“We’re the largest U.S.-based dog training company,” Mancuso said.
Mancuso’s belief in his services are personal. “I had a couple unruly dogs,” he said.
He was looking for some tips on dog training and came across several videos on the Internet produced by Sit Means Sit.
Mancuso found hope in the services for his own dogs, as well as a possible career for himself.
“They encouraged me to go through their school and open up a franchise,” Mancuso said.
He drove out to the company’s dog training school in Denver, Colo., where he attended a three-week training session.
During the training, future dog trainers go to a large rescue shelter and the instructor directs the students to a dog that start training from scratch.
The Sit Means Sit training relies on a small remote control and a harmless collar that sets off a slight tingling feeling to the dog.
“All (the collar) does is teaches the dog to pay attention,” Mancuso said. “It’s an innovative way to train, but it doesn’t hurt, harm or punish the dog.”
Using the device, trainers can teach dogs to do a variety of commands, including “come when called,” “wait at the door,” “no more bolting to the door,” “no more pulling on the leash,” “play biting,” “excessive licking,” “nuisance barking” and “quiet on command.’
Mancuso or one of his three dog trainers can even potty train dogs.
He says the waterproof collar works like a chiropractic TENS unit or a muscle stimulator. “We let everybody feel it so they know exactly what the dog is going to feel,” he said.
The product has been featured on Animal Planet, CNN, ESPN and several other national television networks.
By the time Mancuso finished the corporate dog training school, he came back home to Cass County with leads from people inquiring about the service.
The very first thing Mancuso does when people contact him for dog training is to go out to their house and provide a free evaluation of their dog.
“We bring a dog with us that we’ve already trained so they can see the level of obedience that they can expect to see out of their own dog,” he said.
Mancuso then goes over the dog owner’s training goals and his eight different dog training programs. “We can customize a program that fits their needs,” he said.
Mancuso trains his clients’ dogs inside their home. “I go to their home to train the dog so they can watch me train the dog,” Mancuso said. “I show them how to train the dog and then I watch them do it so I know they can do it correctly. We don’t raise our voice and yell at the dogs.”
While some collars are designed to blow fire out the dog’s tail, Mancuso said, the Sit Means Sit collar doesn’t.
“Our definition of dog obedience is that we like happy, off-leash dogs that are under control even around severe distraction,” he said.
In addition to offering private dog training lessons, the Mancuso also offers unlimited group lessons to owners for the life of the dog. There are four group classes per week, located in Belton, Lee’s Summit and Leawood, Kan.
Mancuso said his work is satisfying. “We save a lot dogs’ lives,” he said. “A dog is part of the family, and an obedient dog is a joy to own because then you can go out and do things with your dog and have fun.”
Some of his clients also go on to be trained for search-and-rescue and win awards in agility, obedience or confirmation contests.
Mancuso also stays active in the community with local pups.
For the past seven years, Mancuso has helped organize the dog show at Raymore Festival in the Park. “It’s a fun show,” he said.
Prizes are awarded for best dressed, best trick, best kisser, ugliest dog and owner look-a-like.
This year’s show will be 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 at Raymore Memorial Park in the Lions Shelter.