LITTLE FERRY, N.J. — Kristen Tedesco of Little Ferry has trained sea lions in Long Island and dolphins in Hawaii.
She’s worked with renowned aquarium officials and even swam with sea creatures that captured hearts around the world on the silver screen.
But for Tedesco, who one year ago brought the first Unleashed Potential K9 Academy to the United States from Canada, there’s nothing like working with dogs.
“I want to help people communicate with their dogs,” said Tedesco, who runs the first of Duke Fergeson’s U.S. facilities in Allendale with business partner Michael Lynch.
“I don’t want to see dogs put down.”
Unleashed Potential K9 Academy offers basic dog training, but is expanding the facility and offering additional classes such as tricks and protection training.
Tedesco, who opened the center in December 2015, had been working at a car dealership since she was 15, but was always hoped she’d be able to branch off and join a franchise one day.
She thought she’d found “the one” in 2013, but days before she was getting ready to sign the paperwork, Tedesco found herself on a Skype interview with Ferguson discussing ideas for bringing Unleashed to the United States.
“I knew that there was potential but told him he’d need to up his game if he wanted to make this work,” said Tedesco, “especially in the New York-New Jersey area.”
There are three other Unleashed owners in the U.S., but Tedesco remains the only one in the country with a training facility.
UPK recently trained three dogs as part of a marketing campaign for Buddy Valastro's new "Cake Boss" dog biscuits sold in Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Trainers shape all behaviors with the dogs kibble, then layer electronic collars to ensure reliable off-leash training.
The e-collar gives a "tingly sensation" to the dog's neck— not a shock — to help intercept undesirable behavior and guide the dog to an alternate behavior one which is more reinforcing for the dog, she said.
The e-collar is not harmful to the dog, as it works as a gentle muscle stimulus, and is an efficient training tool to tap into the dog’s different “working levels,” the trainer said.
"I'm speaking to them in a language I've never been able to before," she said. “I want to be able to educate families and teach them how to communicate with their dogs, too."
"My goal is to save as many dogs as we possibly can," she said.
Unleashed is located at 260 W. Crescent Ave., in Allendale.