Brian is a LtCol in the USMC & Author of Best Selling Book “Nubs, The True Story of a Mutt, A Marine & A Miracle”
I was first put in touch with Graham when I was deployed to Iraq in 2007-2008. I’m normally an F/A-18 Hornet pilot with the U.S. Marines, but found myself doing a ground tour in Iraq this time around. My job was to lead an 11-man team working border security and counter-insurgency operations along the Syrian border. During my deployment I befriended a small earless dog that I named Nubs. Over a period of a couple months, our team became very fond of him; he made us laugh and got us through some pretty tough times. He had suffered much abuse during his short life in the desert. Someone had cut his ears off as a puppy; he was stabbed him with a screwdriver or knife during our deployment. My team nursed him back to health and became quite fond of him. Our forward operating base (FOB) was over 70 miles away from where we met Nubs and his pack. After spending a few days with him when he was injured and executing our mission in the area we had to get back to our FOB. Two days later Nubs showed up on our doorstep. He had somehow tracked us and walked over 70 miles while injured to find us. The team decided this little warrior had earned a trip to the U.S. We started raising funds and made plans to get him home.
Nubs made it back to the U.S. almost three months before I did. Graham had heard about the story on the news and volunteered to help work with him to ease his transition to his new world. Obviously this would be quite a change for Nubs. Graham had already established a reputation as someone who had worked with some very troubled dogs, specifically from Iraq. Graham spent countless hours every week with Nubs for the better part of three months. What he was able to do was nothing short of miraculous. He took an abused, confused, terrified dog and eased him into the busy world of Southern California. Graham got him to the point where he could be around anyone and any dog. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without him. He did this all out of the goodness of his heart because he has a soft spot for these abused dogs of war.
After I came home the story of Nubs grew. I ended up writing a children’s book about his story called Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle. The book required some publicity and appearances with Nubs. Graham once again volunteered to help. Again, he worked tirelessly to help Nubs. He knew that Nubs would be put in some potentially stressful situations and didn’t want him to have a bad episode. He even volunteered his time to come on the road with Nubs and me to New York. The trip went off without a hitch as Nubs made appearances on Ellen, the Today Show, and the Tonight Show to name a few. Graham’s involvement was crucial in helping with Nubs and also acting as a partner in dealing with the media. He took interviews and answered questions on the spot flawlessly.
Graham and I enjoyed working together so much we decided to partner in an online pet retail business called Dog Training Warehouse. The business continues to grow under Graham’s leadership and expertise in the industry. We both share a common vision to grow the business and our visibility in the industry so we can do more good for the animals. We both share a love and passion for dogs that need homes, especially those who were victims of abuse. In addition to the book and online store, the Nubs story is now moving into production to become a major motion picture.
I can say with candid sincerity that Graham is the purest, kindest, and most talented soul I’ve met in the industry. His greatest asset is that he truly loves the animals and his motives are pure. Make no mistake; he is also a talented businessman as well. But when you watch Graham working with a dog, only then will you really understand. He has a rare gift and it is a joy to watch. Personally, it is hard to believe that he doesn’t already have a show or even a movie about him yet. I think this is mainly because he is not a shameless self-promoter as are many people who end up in the spotlight. His mindset is to do the right thing, walk the right path, and the good things will come in time. I am proud to call Graham my partner and even prouder to call him my friend. I am available at anytime to answer questions about what he has done for Nubs and me. He has my highest possible recommendation for any endeavor involving dog training, the pet industry in general, and anything involved with media or television.
La Jolla, CA – Retired Lt. Col USMC & Author of NY Times Best Seller “From Baghdad with Love”
There are dog trainers, and there are dog trainers…then there’s Graham Bloem. Graham is the founder and head trainer for West Coast K9 in San Diego. I brought my dog, Lava, to the United States from Iraq April of 2005 when he was six months old, and needless to say, he had issues. Lava had lived through the battle of Fallujah; spent time on a Marine base outside the city, and ultimately ended up in the Red Zone in Baghdad before he made the exhaustive 20-hour flight to Chicago. That would be enough to put anyone on edge, much less a frightened puppy. Through Graham’s intuitive approach to understanding and training dogs, he’s coaxed from Lava that inner canine and turned him from a nervous, at times aggressive dog, with a lack of confidence into an obedient, focused, fun-loving, confident and loving companion. Lava’s temperament, thanks to Graham’s combination of nurturing and goal-oriented training, has gone from nervous aggression to a healthy playfulness mixed with a sense of loyalty to my wife, Pam, my stepson and me. Where Lava was once ready and willing to snarl and bite at anyone he felt was a threat –real or imagined – he now displays a calm confidence evident in dogs trained in protection. He is a fun, playful and obedient dog, all as a result of Graham’s patience, love of animals and ability to bring forth from any dog – even one who’s endured what Lava has – the qualities we all desire in man’s best friend. Thanks, Graham, for making Lava the best friend our family could hope to have.
San Diego, CA
I have a two-year old American bulldog mix, Cash, who I rescued about 5 months ago and he is incredibly stubborn, but sweet. After he got out of our house and ran down the street, I knew it was time to take him to experts for training. I had taken another dog to a different place for training years ago and hadn’t been pleased, so I searched for more highly qualified trainers this time.
From the first meeting we had with Braelyn, she understood Cash and knew exactly what to do to help him break old habits and learn to respect and obey me. After each session, we would practice what we had learned for about five minutes each day and now he is listening to my commands. Now, he walks perfectly on his leash, heels, ignores distractions and comes when he is called. I am so confident in his behavior now that I brought him to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving and told him to lay in his bed while we prepared the meal. He stayed there despite other dogs running around and was the best behaved dog there. I highly recommend Braelyn and Specialty Dog Training; they truly care about the animals in their care and taught me how to be a better dog owner.
We have 2 rescue dogs, now ages 2 (Ecko) & 4 (Raven). About a year ago, Raven started to attack Ecko. We had seen some aggressive behavior and lack of socialization in Raven, before we brought Ecko home, but we never thought she would act out on it.
Raven had lost her best friend / “sister” to cancer about 6 months prior to us adopting Ecko. We thought she was anti social because she was missing her friend. We also thought that adopting another dog would help ease that sorrow and bring back her playful spirit.
The first attack happened at home. The girls were playing in the house and then Raven snapped over a toy and bit Ecko. They usually rough house a bit so at first I didn’t think anything of it but once I heard Ecko yelping I ran over and separated them. Raven had broken skin. My husband and I started to work with the girls, getting them out more, to exercise and working one on one with each dog. We didn’t know what Raven needed but thought some solo attention would help.
About a month later Raven attacked Ecko again. This time it was worse. She bit her on the face, barely missing her eye. I broke down and told my husband we were not going to live like this. It wasn’t fair to Ecko as she was becoming a very timid dog and she didn’t deserve to live in fear. We either needed help or we would need to give Ecko up for adoption, as Raven would be harder to re-home.
I asked friends about dog trainers and was recommended a few, but Specialty Dog Training was recommended by a few people and based on reviews seemed like the best choice. We contacted SDT and decided to purchase some in home training sessions, as most of our issues stemmed within the home.
The training with our girls went back to basics; teaching them they were not the alpha and in charge, but that we were. We worked on basic commands (sit, stay, down … etc) and built upon that base each week. While our girls knew these commands, we were enforcing them more constantly, giving them a more structured environment.
After the first 2 lessons we were already seeing results. THat’s not to say that Raven was better or we didn’t worry about more attacks, but we could see that the training was working and they were respecting us more, thus creating a better home environment.
The training progressed, the girls learned to stay for long periods of time, to ignore distractions, to ‘leave it’ when a dog passed or barked at them, and they learned to play like “sisters” again. It was a huge change for us as we were no longer walking on egg shells, waiting for the next attack.
We learned a lot about how to properly train our dogs, to make them respect us and not be push overs when they act cute (that was mainly my learning curve!!), and how to introduce new dogs to a home environment that already has a dog. Everything we learned was hands on and something we can apply to future adoptions as well as something we can continue to practice at home.
What I loved most about Specialty Dog Training is how easy they were to work with, how accommodating they were AND how passionate they are about what they do. I could tell right away that our trainer, Braelyn, was not here to make a buck, but she was genuinely interested in helping us keep our pups together and making our home a peaceful place once again. She still sends us messages, to check in and anytime i have questions she is readily available.
I would (& have) recommend Specialty Dog Training to anyone seeking advice, training, boot camp for their dogs. They will evaluate the situation before offering services so they know they are actually addressing your issues in the environment in which makes the most sense.
Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Braelyn with Specialty Dog Training is absolutely awesome!!! She is not only an extremely gifted dog trainer, she’s and incredible person! Like so many dog owners out there, I was searching for the perfect fit, style and environment for my puppy, Walle! I knew he needed training but the idea of choosing a trainer was overwhelming, not to mention costly. After reading endless reviews and speaking over the phone with Graham I finally picked a trainer. My puppy, Walle was 9 months old when I brought him to Braelyn. He had already developed a whole list of bad behaviors that I was not handling correctly. Walle spent 4 weeks with Braelyn, yes I know that sounds like a long time to be away from your baby and it was not easy. However, Walle came home a completely different dog. Still super loving, playful, and attached to the family, but he was now more relaxed, less anxious, extremely easy to correct, and an absolute joy to be around. We can now take him anywhere….restaurants, horse shows, BBQ’s, running, hiking, etc. With one command he is back to being focused and ready to listen. The complete success of your dogs training is dependent on you the owner learning and consistently using the techniques that Braelyn uses. She was also so incredibly patient as she helped our family and me learn and understand how to maintain, understand, and utilize all of your dogs new skills! Braelyn is the BEST!
San Diego, CA
I heard there was a Bull Terrier at San Diego Animal Control and could not bear to leave him there. So, I went to meet him, he was so wound up and tense. Even so, he charmed me by showing his sweetness and his goofiness. I named him Isaac and after bringing my other dog Maxine to meet him, brought him home knowing the challenge BT’s can be. I’d had a BT named Buster that had passed away a couple of year before.
However, this guy was about 4 years old, he had not been neutered until a couple of weeks before, he had been adopted once and returned to the shelter, he had no socialization, he was pushy/bossy and had no house manners at all and is completely deaf.
After 2 weeks of basically standing up all the time, or being plowed over by him, I called Specialty Dog Training. I spoke with Graham and he set me up with Braelyn Chapman. She specializes in aggressive, hard to handle dogs.
At first I signed up for in home lessons and that went well until Isaac decided to attack my other dog Maxine one day. It was over a chew bone that I was just taking and putting away when Maxine walked out, he saw her and I guess associated my taking the bone with her, and attacked her. I grabbed his collar and he immediately let go of her but the damage was done. Although she is 15 years old and pretty frail, she recovered with a vet visit and some TLC.
Now I had to figure out what to do about Isaac. I had already fallen in love with him too but was so worried about Maxine and him getting along. I called Braelyn. She came and saw that he was still wanting to be aggressive with her. So, I sent him with her thinking to find him a new home. However, I couldn’t let him go. So, we started a 6 week boot camp program for him.
Braelyn is WONDERFUL. She kept in touch every day or two to keep me posted on how Isaac was doing. He was a pretty big challenge with his history and being deaf but, she was able to work through his behavioral issues and teach him how to basically, be a dog, with manners. He is a sweet, calm wonderful boy now that Braelyn had him for 6 weeks. I owe her a debt of gratitude I will never be able to repay. We had some lessons at home after boot camp and Braelyn was so patient teaching me how to work with Isaac. She is such a good teacher and Isaac adores her!
She is firm and loving, patient and the best thing that could have happened for Isaac and I. Thank you so very much, Braelyn!
We came across Specialty Dog Training in a frantic search to find someone to train our one year old male Mastiff (Ronin) who was becoming a little aggressive with unfamiliar strangers. We had no idea how to properly handle the situation and we were getting to the point where we just wanted to give up. Luckily, we stumbled upon Specialty Dog Training and were able to get in touch with Graham and Braelyn right away. They are simply amazing!! They kept us updated often with pictures and his progress during his 4-week boot camp. Ronin came back a completely different dog, in the best way possible! He knows his commands, he respects us as handlers, and is all-around a more balanced, well-behaved pup! We will forever be grateful for the patience and love that Graham and Braelyn had for Ronin to make him the way he is today. Thank you SDT!
I’ve been very impressed with Graham and his team at Specialty Dog Training, and all the wonderful training assistance he’s provided for our dog, Gracie. Last year, my husband and I got an 8-wk. old German shepherd puppy at a local rescue and set about training her. Having had shepherds before, we felt confident that we would be able to manage her training. But the combination of her being on the larger size, and our desire for her to be well-trained enough that we could relaxedly take her to the park and feel confident she would come when called, AND be on leash and not react to other dogs, led us to explore investing in professional training.
When she was 8-months old, we sent Gracie to the boot camp that SDT offers – initially for 4 weeks, but ultimately kept her there for a total of 6 weeks. Graham and Christina did a great job keeping us apprised of her progress and sending us pics and videos. The results have been nothing short of amazing – Gracie has gone from a very sweet but unruly and independent-minded puppy, to a consistently obedient and reliable dog. She not only knows all of the basic commands, but is now a joy to take to the park and on walks, and is very predictable with people or dogs she meets. What was once so stressful for us, has completely turned around.
Graham is an amazing “dog whisperer’, and is a passionate promoter of how to live well with your canine companion. He truly cares about the dogs he brings into his SDT family, and has gone the “extra mile” to make sure that Gracie’s transition back to her family life from boot camp has gone well. This was a big decision for us – but it has turned out to be a great decision for us and for Gracie. She continues to amaze us, and we have Graham, Christina, and the rest of SDT to thank for her incredible progress! I highly recommend Graham and his team – they will exceed your expectations.
Del Mar, CA
In 2013 I decided to join Therapy Dogs International with my chocolate lab , Cody. This was the beginning of journey that not only helped and cheered others, but had unexpected benefits for my dog and me.
Cody and I began working with trainer Graham Bloem to prepare for the intense certification exam we needed to pass in order to be a member of Therapy Dogs International. Graham’s insight, high standards and balanced approach were just what we needed to become a high level therapy team.
We spent a lot of time re-programming both Cody and me. For instance, my delivery of a command was soft and gentle (you could almost hear a “please” after the command). Cody’s response was “Whatever! I’ll get back to you when I’m done sniffing here.” When I became a stronger leader, Cody got inspired. This was possible thanks to Graham.
Now we both feel a sense of doing something that matters. It’s magical to watch a small child overcome her fear of dogs and interact with my “chocolate moose” or see the stress of finals week melt away from a college student as Cody calmly rests his chin on their lap.
As a bonus, I now have a dog that has beautiful public manners. He waits at doorways until I give the IOK to enter, he sits by my side in the bank while I complete my transaction and he’ll lay down in the boutique and wait while I’m in the dressing room trying on clothes.
I would strongly recommend Graham Bloem’s training to anyone who’s interested in pet therapy.
Taking any test is nerve wracking but taking a test with your personal pet adds a whole new level of stress! Thanks to Graham Bloem of Specialty Dog Training I was able to put the anxiety to rest. He worked with my dog Bruno and I to prepare us (as a team) for the Therapy Dog International (TDI) certification. We practiced basic obedience with emphasis on repetition and homework assignments (daily training with Bruno). Once we were able to perform the basic obedience tasks at 90% we began dry-run tests in various environments with other dogs present. We practiced our tests as a group providing ample distraction; most certification tests are conducted with up to 15 dogs. Another thing I wasn’t expecting was the level of obedience from the 14 other dogs and their handlers. Most of the dogs could only sit for a fraction of a second and behaved more like family pets at a dog park. Having worked with Graham on my leadership and Bruno’s obedience allowed me to bond with my dog in a way I never expected. More importantly it gave me the ability to deal with any situation that may arise. I am happy to report that the quality of preparation Graham provided enabled Bruno and I to pass with flying colors. We are TDI certified members of the Shelter To Soldier Pet Therapy Team.
We had a great experience working with Braelyn Chapman training our 6 month old Pit mix Terrier Annie.
Braelyn took the time that Annie, myself and my spouse Kendall needed during our training sessions.
Braelyn was able to train Annie and the both of us. She pointed out and corrected us of bad habits that we had developed with other dogs.
We now have the tools that we need to continue training Annie on our own.
We know Braelyn will be available for us if we need refresher sessions or will answer a quick question when needed.
I strongly endorse Braelyn and Specialty Dog Training.
Dog training isn’t only about the dog, more importantly it’s the training of dogs owners that is the hardest part.
La Mesa, CA
I am a Medically Retired U.S. Navy Veteran. I suffer from several conditions that are related to a “service connected” brain injury I suffered while deployed. The VA had suggested I look into service dogs and the potential help they could give me. Unfortunately, the VA has suspended all service dog funding so I started doing some research. I was very disappointed to realize that service dogs cost a tremendous amount of money for the training, housing, food, etc. and as a disabled Veteran, I had no way of paying the 20-35 thousand dollars required for a service animal.
What is NOT on Specialty Dog Trainings’ Google+ is that Specialty Dog Training also has a nonprofit 501C3 called Shelter to Soldier! Shelter to Soldier rescues dogs in area shelters that have uncertain futures and then spends about a year training those dogs AS SERVICE DOGS FOR VETERANS! How awesome! And there isn’t any cost to the Veteran! I know this is a review on Specialty Dog Training, but if they are running a nonprofit whereby they are giving dogs and Veterans a second chance on life, that sort of conviction and responsibility translates amazingly well into the daily operation of Specialty Dog Training and their commitment to the people they serve (whether customers or Veterans).
I was fortunate to be selected to receive a Shelter to Soldier service dog (Kira) and I my life has changed so much! Kira has allowed me to have the confidence to be a part of my children’s life and experience so much with them. I am so grateful and truly appreciate all Shelter to Soldier, Graham Bloem and Specialty Dog Training for all they are doing!
I wasn’t asked to write this and in doing so, hope I can convey the community responsibility Specialty Dog Training has taken on and how much they are constantly giving back to the community and to Veterans and their families. Forever Grateful! If you go to their website, you can find information about Shelter to Soldier.
San Diego, CA
If you are in need of a dog trainer I highly recommend Graham Bloem. He has a presence that the animals immediately clue in on and can reach even the most stubborn dogs (I know because my dog, Shadow, is as stubborn as they come). I am surprised that he does not have his own show, as he is more than a dog whisperer he is a dog guru! If you have any doubts Google his name and you will see articles on the work he has done with dogs that have been brought over from Iraq by our military men and women. If he can turn these hardened war dogs into happy, well-adjusted animals just think what he can do for your pampered purebred or mutt. Do yourself and your dog a favor by taking him/her to work with Graham Bloem.
Ruby was a rescued 5 month old, 30 lb mixed breed puppy. She was literally flat on the ground, shaking – not quivering, from head to tall for 10 minutes when we met her. Two weeks later we met Graham Bloem. Having never been puppy owners, let alone a rescued pup with fear aggression, Graham was most helpful outlining her behaviors, how to build her confidence and what to expect as she became more confident. I am always impressed with Graham’s patience in tone, manner, body language and expression even when Ruby is uncooperative. His style is always sensitive to the dog, yet always in control. He doesn’t force. We have had 4 sessions with Graham in about 6 weeks. The change is incredible – not only in Ruby, but in my confidence in training her. After all, he is training us too! The most valuable thing I learned from Graham was the importance of building up Ruby’s confidence utilizing basic obedience. Graham Bloem has a gift for training dogs, lucky us!
Ocean Beach, CA
We are writing to let you know how very much it meant to us that you came over to the house to help us with Skylar. It has been a very sad and very difficult decision this week, and your genuine concern, expertise, honesty, wonderful way with animals and personal interest have made a huge impact on our lives. Graham Bloem provided an invaluable service to the local animal shelter and the community (the world!) and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We have cried many tears about giving up sweet Skylar and are so grateful that you will be the one who will be working with her through her rehabilitation and re-adoption because you are so genuinely invested, caring and highly trained (and Skylar likes you)….Thank you so much for taking wonderful care of our sweet Skylar so that she can have a safe, happy and love filled life in another home. You are a blessing!
We would like to commend Graham Bloem of West Coast K9 on the behavior modification and training he provided for us. We adopted Arrow from a local shelter; over a period of a few months we began to notice he was a dominant dog and was becoming aggressive. Our dog would growl at our children, growl at snap at neighbors and friends. He would not allow people into our home and took a very intimidating stance. He would have brief moments of displaying love and companionship though they were few. In January Arrow growled and lunged toward a child and we knew something had to be done. I was referred to Graham Bloem through the local adoption center and he patiently listened through my tearful explanation, that something had to be done or we would have to get rid of Arrow. When Graham arrived at our house for the first visit, Arrow attacked him! My husband and I feared that our only answer would be to remove Arrow from our home. We watched as Graham calmly took control of the situation, never flinching and always in control without any cruelty towards Arrow. Over the course of the training sessions we can gladly say that Arrow is here to stay as a part of our family! Graham trained Arrow but he also provided my husband and I with the proper training. While Graham would be working with Arrow he was also explaining techniques to reduce Arrow’s sense of dominance and recognizing Arrow’s need to protect and how to work with that to provide a safe environment for all of us. Arrow now sits away form the door, on command, while we let someone in the house. He lays down when people are over and there is no more intimidating! He is even lying on the floor with our daughters and playing with them! Arrow has grown from a dominant, out of control dog to a loyal, much loved member of our family. Thank you Graham Bloem for your patience, knowledge and determination!
Solana Beach, CA
We were referred to Graham Bloem by a friend who works at a local San Diego Animal shelter and house sits for us. Tracey said that Graham was the best dog trainer there was and she was sure he could help us with Bogart, our 1 ½ year old, 90 lb Bouvier des Flanders. Graham came to our house and explained the psychology of dogs. As he working with Bogart, he explained the techniques he was using and why they were important. Bogart proved to be a very challenging student as he is very intelligent, athletic and stubborn. Bogart actually broke the training leash, had Graham airborne for a couple of seconds and dislocated Graham’s finger! Graham prevailed and did so without intimidating Bogart or us. Graham has a wonderful, calm, playfulness about him that challenged Bogart to respond in a positive manner. We can now take Bogart with us, with or without a leash, and people are dazzled by how well behaved he is. Graham accomplished this in a very short time and we can not thank him enough for sharing his gift with us. We highly recommend Graham Bloem, he is incredible!
Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Our 8 year old shepherd mix, Daisy, had become increasingly more aggressive on her leashed walks. She intimidated every human and dog we encountered by yanking on the leash, growling and snarling. Our walks were no longer fun for us, Daisy or our neighbors. I called Graham Bloem hoping that he could help us get Daisy back in line. I had seen Graham work with some very difficult dogs at a local shelter with success. He immediately sized up our situation…We had, over time, allowed Daisy, who is an alpha female, to take the lead on our walks. She felt she had the job of protecting us from other people and dogs. He never bullied Daisy but was able to let her know through patient repetition of his commands, what he expected of her. He then retrained us on how to direct her attention into acceptable behavior on walks by letting her know we were in control and we didn’t need her to protect us. Now my husband and I are once again enjoying our walks with her.
Escondido, CA (Veterinarian in Carlsbad, CA)
Graham Bloem has always been one of my most reliable, talented and dedicated colleagues. His main interest truly lies with the animals. He always goes out of his way to see that the needs of behaviorally challenged animals are being met. I feel that Graham is an excellent communicator. He is confident in his trainer abilities and expresses this well as he speaks to staff member and clients. His manner is concise and straightforward. He follows his detailed training instructions with explanations on why these directions are important for that specific animal. Graham is patient with clients and receptive to questions and concerns that they may have. Overall, I believe that Graham is an excellent teacher of dogs and dog owners. I have learned a lot about behavior and training methods from him and this has improved my ability to work with my animal patients. I am a demanding customer and client and I personally trust Graham Bloem to work with my pets.
Regardless of your dog's breed, age, personality or history, we can create a customized dog training program that will fit your dog and lifestyle.