AKRON, Ohio — For more than 30 years, Ken McCort has been considered an elite animal trainer — the trainer of last resort. He’s the man people turn to when other trainers have thrown in the towel and given up on an animal with problem behaviors.
Not only do local veterinarians refer their incorrigible clients to him, McCort has traveled the world dispensing his knowledge and training techniques. His work has taken him to Japan, one of his favorite countries, 14 times.
Recently, he spent several weeks at Wolf Park research center in Battle Ground, Ind., lecturing humans and training wolves.
Why? Because training is an essential part of the animal husbandry, keeping the wolves, coyotes, foxes and bison at the park healthy and necessary “for minor exams, inoculations — simple procedures,” McCort said.
He excels at the process.
McCort and his wife, veterinarian Dr. Marilyn McCort, live in Doylestown, Ohio, along with five dogs, seven cats, seven large birds, some finches, a lizard, “too many” horses and a donkey.
His reputation is built on his ability to read an animal’s body language, translate it into words and interpret it for the animal’s caretakers.
And it’s the humans that he is training, he said.
“It’s always training the people. If it was just a training problem with dogs, I’d go to the pound, get a bunch of dogs and sell well-trained dogs,” he said.
Owner of Four Paws animal behavior services, McCort recently started offering individualized training classes at All Creatures Veterinary Clinic and Lodge in Rittman, Ohio.
The move from his center to the clinic’s lodge, where boarding and day-care facilities are offered, was an easy transition, he said. He offers puppy training, classes for shy dogs, arousal (impulse control) classes and therapy dog classes.
“I still go to homes for cat and bird trainings,” he said. “Cats do very poorly outside their homes.”
McCort has taught classes at Columbus State University, Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and at the University of Akron’s Orrville branch where he instructs veterinary technicians and assistants. He was a guest lecturer at the Midwest Veterinary Conference and is a national committee member with Pet Partners.
It is the last position that he gained after helping establish the therapy and visiting Doggie Brigade at Akron Children’s Hospital in 1990. His black Labrador retriever, Bumper, was the first dog to earn a spot on the elite team.
He designed and implemented an inmate training program for stray dogs at the Mansfield Correctional Facility.
McCort said some of the worst cases he’s seen during his career are rescued dogs.
“People don’t get rid of dogs because they can’t feed them. It’s because they don’t like their behaviors,” he said.
In many cases, “I’m the third or fourth trainer they’ve seen,” he said.
More than 50 veterinarians in Northeast Ohio refer misbehaving patients to him.
Later this spring, he is due to help keepers train resident wolves and coyotes at the Akron Zoo’s Mike & Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge exhibit that will open in July.
Recently, McCort gave a demonstration of his training methods, using Diego, an adolescent male German shepherd, into a training room at the lodge. With more than a dozen dogs in the large “day care” room across the hall, Diego, a high-energy dog, had many reasons to lose focus.
“He’s more obnoxious than anything else,” McCort said. “In human terms, he is a 21-year-old male that is full of himself.”
McCort took Diego through a few exercises, using treats and a whistle to show the dog when he accomplished a desired behavior.
Making Diego use his brain to think about what McCort expected of him burns more energy than a brisk walk in the park, McCort said.
“The brain uses five times the energy than exercising them,” he continued. “When a behavior becomes habituated enough that they aren’t even thinking about it,” you will know you’ve succeeded.
For more information, or to contact McCort, visit his Website at www.kenmccort.com/ or call 330-658-3647.