I had the pleasure of meeting Jared and his APBT Thai in 2016 at an ADBA event in Massachusetts. While we didn’t have much time to chat, I remember immediately noticing the bond Jared and Thai had. Six years later and Jared is now co-owner of Wolfpack Canine in Salem, NH, winning national titles in PSA and training with UFC mega star Jon Jones. Jared is proof that when you love what you do and stay determined, good things happen.
Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with us. Can you tell us about your background, when you got your first dog and what got you into dog training?
Thanks for having me Andy, I have been a huge fan of Canine Athletes for a long time. I got my first dog when I was 14 years old. He was more of a family dog but he was a scatter bred APBT named Mookie. He was a great dog and just a fun companion. That was the dog that made me fall in love with these animals. I taught him a hand full and tricks and he use to pull me around on my roller blades back in the day! Haha.
I just love dogs and I’ve always wanted to work with them. Before the competitions, Instagram videos, training and all that I just wanted to be around dogs. I’m grateful for these animals and I don’t know where I would be with out them.
What inspired you to pursue the world of entrepreneurship and open up Wolf Pack Canine? What have been the challenges and successes you experienced so far?
It was the right time to move forward in my career with dogs. I am a 50/50 owner with my cousin Bill Fagan and I honestly couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I want to shout out our amazing staff they just keep getting better and we truly are a Wolf Pack!
The team at Wolfpack Canine located in Salem, NH.
Tell us about your experience in protection work?
I am a Certified PSA Decoy/Helper but have also trained Personal Protection dogs and I have also worked with Police K-9 dogs and handlers.
Tell us about your personal dogs. Do you compete with them?
You talked about Thai at the start of the interview who was a scatter bred APBT. He may have had some bully also, I don’t know for sure. We earned our PDC together and he really got me ready for the next level with my current dog. Thai tragically died in a fire 3 years ago being boarded with a friend and it’s still hard to even talk about to this day with out the tears showing up. I miss him very much but he lives on through Akuma and I and everything we have achieved so far.
Akuma is my Belgian Malinois and after what had happened with Thai I am very l lucky to own and compete with this amazing animal. He is a very intense dog but also has the off switch to take him everywhere with me. He is very special.
Akuma and his winnings
Who has had the most influence on you as a trainer?
Josh Knowlton was a big influence on me and helped me a lot with Thai and just watching him with his Dutchie Kano gave me a lot of inspiration. I do believe you can see a lot of Josh and Kano when you watch Akuma and I.
Alyssa Normandie is also a big influence on me. Alyssa and I have been training together since the day I walked into my first kennel. She owns my dogs littermate and we were neck and neck last season during PSA1 trials. We are very competitive which I believe makes us both better so I’m grateful to have her.
Steve Roberts who I worked under for years was a big influence. Steve is the youngest handler to earn a PSA3 with his dog Fosco; so to see them train as I was just getting into PSA was pretty amazing. Fosco is also the first dog I took a bite from in the suit.
Joseph Cinnante has been a big influence on me this past year. We have been able to train a hand full of times and I’ve taken something away from it every time. He trains French Ring but all these sports have a lot of similarities and you can take things away from high level trainers from any of them.
I'm going to list a few more trainers/decoys that have influenced me a lot.
How were you able to ascend so quickly as a handler?
I believe the good, the bad and the ugly days with Thai in the training room helped me a lot. I made a lot of mistakes with him because we were learning together but with Akuma I definitely had more of a game plan in place. I knew what I wanted things to look like before I started shaping them. I also need to credit the amazing club I’m part of (Nomad Working Dogs); we all keep helping each other get better every week.
What advice do you have for aspiring handlers?
Take your time and have fun!
Do you use food for training your personal dogs in obedience?
Yes, 100%! Akuma worked for all his meals as a puppy while shaping his heeling and I still use food to this day along with a toy reward.
Can you tell us the main differences between PSA & IPO? You compete and train PSA, correct? What do you prefer about PSA over IPO?
IGP/IPO has tracking and PSA does not.
There’s a lot of similarities in the obedience routines besides the fact that in the upper levels of PSA there are decoys/helpers present during the obedience routine. This requires a dog that is very under control. So I think that is the more difficult thing regarding obedience when you compare the two bite sports. Judges in PSA definitely take this into consideration and things like handler help are not scored as strict in PSA because of this (in my opinion). I do believe the obedience is judged tougher in IPO/IGP because without the presence of the helper/decoy during the routine you can put on a much cleaner performance because all you need to focus on is you and your dog without distractions. This is just a observation. I am NOT a judge in either sport.
I think this is pretty widely known at this point that protection in PSA tests the nerve of the dog more than IPO does. IPO/IGP is a sleeve sport vs PSA being a suit sport. I would say IGP/IPO is the more clean cut of the two and PSA is more controlled chaos. It’s pretty obvious I’m going to be biased towards PSA. I like it better but I also love watching IPO/IGP training and competition as well as French Ring, KNPV. I was exposed to PSA so this is my sport!
What advice would you give someone who is brand new to PSA?
Find a PSA club!
Talk to us about the term ‘pressure’.
This could be about obedience as in putting pressure on your dog to perform behaviors you were looking for them to do. I’m more of a motivational obedience trainer, although pressure is important in certain moments.
The other aspects of this term is from a decoy/helper perspective when teaching the dog to work through “pressure”. Of course the dog always wins in the training room. PSA has a ton of pressure during a trial so the dogs need to be ready for these battles.
Jared Wolf and his Belgian Malinois Akuma
How important is effective communication between a decoy/helper an a hander?
I think it’s very important but when you have an experienced decoy/helper they can build a dog without as much help from an inexperienced handler. So in that instance as far as building the dog in protection the decoy/helper is more important.
What advice would you give to handlers to improve the results with helpers?
Find one that has experience building dogs that have been titled etc.
What are the most frustrating aspects of being a handler?
I think any handler out there has been upset by a score they have received from a judge or a decoy jamming or pulling on their dog… but things like that are part of the game!
What are some of the most common handler errors you see? Have you ever had to disqualify a handler? If so, why?
Handler help. Meaning the handler is helping the dog with their body language too much in trial. It’s similar to not fading a lure but a lot of handlers do a lot of it. This can effect your score!
I pulled Thai twice at the start cone. LOL he thought the judge was the decoy so we drove 6 hours to compete for nothing both times.
What traits make a good helper/decoy?
Giving the dog what it needs in that particular moment whether it’s a win or more pressure, etc. This takes years of experience.
Do you see mediocre dogs winning competitions due to good training?
I wouldn’t say winning but I’ve seen dogs that others may have been washed doing well in trial because of training methods that worked for those pups.
How important is breed when looking for an PSA dog?
It’s pretty obvious the Malinois runs the sport of PSA. Next are the Dutch Shepherds. PSA3 National Champ this past season, but for someone who started with a “off-breed” (Thai the Pit Bull) I would say as long as your having fun that’s all that matters. There’s a lot of high level competitors in this sport that started with an “off-breed” (meaning not a pointed eared dog)!
Have you found traits that are indicators that the dog has the potential to become a great sport dog?
Strong nerve / Drive / Engaging
What percentage of protection work dogs do you feel treat bite work as a ‘game’?
That’s a tough question; I would say most of them… Most handlers in the sport world don’t want their dog biting people in a personal protection way. There’s also a bunch of people that brag about how real their dog. It's not something I’m concerned with. In some instances it depends on what you are showing your dog training wise and how the dog was bred.
Do you think there are any benefits and/or negatives to a sport dog living inside the house with the family versus being kenneled?
I think that is really a dog by dog question and also how the dog is raised. A lot of the old school trainers will kennel their dog a lot and only bring them out to train. When my mal is home he is out of his kennel and doesn’t even sleep in a kennel anymore and we still compete at a high level. I have a very clear headed dog and not all working dogs are like that. I can only speak for myself answering this question.
Do you have a favorite breed to work with?
Malinois • APBT • Dutchie
What suggestions would you give a handler who has capable dogs but they themselves are holding back their dogs progress? How prevalent is this?
I think one thing I do see still in dog sports are training methods that are outdated and handlers that are too hard on their dogs. This will definitely hold you back and screw up your bond with your dog. A handler that tries to crush drive is super obvious.
Is there a difference between PSA/Schutzhund/IPO and actual real-world protection work? Meaning, are the majority of titled PSA/Schutzhund/IPO dogs capable of handling real-world personal protection, police, military functions?
I’m sure there’s capable dogs in both sports that could’ve been raised for police or military work. This has a lot to do with the training pictures shown to these dogs over and over again growing up. That’ why the dogs excel in the sports they compete in. If they were exposed to police and military training with those strong nerves yes they 100% could do those jobs. Taking a sport dog and putting it in a real life situation would take some training and exposure to what a police or military dog encounters while doing it’s job. I do know people who do personal protection training with their sports dogs.
Jared Wolf and Akuma putting in reps.
How important is physical conditioning and diet for dogs in sport work?
It’s very important. I definitely treat my dog like an athlete. They need the right diet, the right exercise, and also the right amount of rest.
I’d like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. Is there anything else you would like to say before we wrap this up?
It was an honor to come on here, I know you live and breath the dog life! Look out for me and Akuma showing for the first time at level PSA2 at the Zuko Memorial Trial. This competition was dedicated Akuma’s grandfather so it’s pretty cool to show there. We are a month away!
Rest In Power Thai! Thank you for everything
He won’t be my last APBT….
"It is my firm conviction that no one should own [an American Pit Bull Terrier] who does not at least understand their desire to fight and ability to do so, and be willing to take the consequences for it: a little extra caution and care. If they are not willing and accepting, let them obtain another breed." - Richard Stratton