Masumi Hara: The PV Dog Whisperer

Good news: Your dog isn't the problem.

When neighbors started to complain about my two rambunctious dogs, Charlie the “terror”-ier and Madison the Sidekick Shepherd, I knew I had to take action. Just watching Cesar Millan Dog Whisperer wasn’t cutting it anymore; I had to get the real deal.

Meet Masumi Hara, a dog behavior specialist, and the Palos Verdes Dog Whisperer, I say.

Within five seconds of meeting both my dogs, Masumi had them in totally submissive states, obeying her every command. All it took was one walk down the block and they had stopped pulling as well as barking and lunging at other dogs. Also, dogs that used to bark as I passed remained silent as Masumi led our pack through the neighborhood.

The issue: Me. No amount of reading could turn me into the dominant leader I was supposed to be in order to keep my dogs calm and submissive. Since they sensed the lack of leadership from me, they took it upon themselves to take charge of our pack. This is where the aggressive behavior began.

Once Masumi instructed me on how to become a dominant leader, I was able to drop the leash that was once pulled taut on every walk and still have my pups obediently following me. Assuming my dominance didn’t just improve the walking situation, it extended over all their problem behavior areas.

“Once they know you’re in charge, they don’t have to worry anymore and they can relax," Masumi said. "You will notice that your dogs will be calm and happy dogs.”

Although the major work was done, Masumi continued to train me on the subtle signs of a disobedient dog. If their tail is up and the neck is strained forward on a walk, that means they are hunting and searching, i.e., not listening to you. 

Most owners think this is just a sign of excitement from the dogs, but this is a sign of dominance over the owner. When your dog’s ears are back and his or her tail is relaxed, this is submission. In this state, they will listen to your every command and calmly walk beside you.

Total time to train my dog: five seconds.

Total time to train me: 30 minutes.

Since my dog was rehabilitated in no time, I had a chance to learn more about Masumi. Masumi was born in Japan and moved to America 13 years ago. After living in Hollywood for seven years, she decided to move once she adopted her dogs, Max and Leo.

“Hollywood Boulevard is not a dog walking place,” Masumi said. For her, Palos Verdes was not only a great home for her dogs; it also provided her with a strong Japanese community.

Masumi began her work with dogs as a trainer, working out of a local Petco. She found her passion for rescue dogs after working with a boxer rescue organization.

“I really wanted to work on their behavior, because that was the reason they were in the shelter in the first place,” she said.

In addition to her work with Boxers, Masumi worked at a kennel in Culver City and trained dogs there for five years. She wanted to start her own dog adoption company, so she began Doggies 911 to rehabilitate dogs and then adopt them to new families.

“The [other] rescue group[s] will go to the shelter and they pull the dog with the problem and they try to find new people with a problem, so the dog is always coming back," Masumi said. "So I’m curious why don’t they fix the problem before they do the adoption? I think you have to fix the problem before you adopt the dog.”

Masumi is meticulous about every detail in her dog rescue. After working with so many different dogs, and people, she knows how to read them and is careful in selecting homes. She is also very thorough in her search for foster homes for the rehabilitated dogs. Masumi trains foster families so the dogs they are fostering remain well-behaved, calm candidates for adoption. 

None of the dogs she rescues go up for adoption until they are trained and ready for a new home. She even goes one step further to ensure that if people are having problems with the dog, she will take the dog back and re-train it. Masumi’s primary concern is the dog’s welfare and she will go to great lengths to find it the proper home, she said.

Take away tips from Masumi:  

  1. Don’t let dogs meet each other face-to-face. This can be construed as an attack.
  2. Know the difference between a dominant and submissive. This is the key to proper training.

For Kids:

  1. Always ask permission from the owner before you touch a dog.
  2. Don’t make eye contact with the dog when you first meet him or her.
  3. When you pet the dog, reach your hand palm down towards him so he can sniff you, and then pet under his chin. Never pet from over the head. The dog might think you are trying to hurt him and get scared.