Being the alpha dog is a lot harder than you think

By Diane Kortus

Helene Scott is one of those people who make a difference from the first day you meet her. The owner of Florida Dog Training School in Land O’ Lakes, Helene came into my life earlier this summer when I hired her to help me get my Airedale Terrier, Jonas, under control.
Walking Jonas was almost impossible from the day we adopted him. While sweet and very loveable, every walk had Jonas pulling me through my neighborhood from one exciting sniff to another.
After two years of arm jerking and getting twisted in Jonas’ leash, I was no longer amused by my neighbor’s cajoling of “who’s walking whom?” And I didn’t want to hear one more time that I should watch Cesar Millan on the “Dog Whisperer,” the phenomenally popular National Geographic TV show.
I admit that I did check out Cesar and even bought a couple of his books. But implementing his techniques never worked for Jonas and me. Being the alpha dog is a lot harder than Cesar would have you believe.
Which brings me back to Helene Scott. From the moment Jonas met Helene, he was a changed dog.  He didn’t bark at Helene, didn’t jump on her and sat when she told him to sit. And miraculously, he walked without yanking on his leash, at least as long as Helene did the walking.
I got that feeling you get when you take your car to your mechanic because of a strange noise that disappears as soon as you pull into the garage.
Helene thought Jonas was smart and his problems relatively minor. It wasn’t long before she had Jonas responding to me the way he did with her. Helene’s real challenge was training me to handle my dog; training Jonas was easy by comparison.
In just a few weeks I had become the alpha dog and Jonas was heeling and coming to a sitting position when I stopped. After years of dreading my daily walks with my dog, I now look forward to them. When a neighbor recently stopped and remarked at how impressed he was with my well–trained dog, I was as proud as when my children took their first steps.
Helene has been a dog person all her life.  “My mother says I have loved dogs since I could crawl. I’ve always felt a natural connection with animals,” she said.
Because she grew up in the city, Helene was not allowed to have a dog as a child. Instead, she satisfied her need by walking neighbors’ dogs for free.
Helene earned a communications degree from SUNY-Oswego College in New York, got married and worked for AT&T, MCI and other large companies before looking into her heart and deciding to do what she believed was her destiny.
“It was my husband Steven who encouraged me to go to dog training school,” said Helene. In 2002 she enrolled in the Academy of Canine Education in New York City, a program that emphasizes love, praise and positive reinforcements, and graduated at the top of her class.
“The Academy teaches you to be more of a behaviorist than other programs … you learn to understand how a dog thinks,” she said.
Helene and Steven moved to Florida shortly afterward and opened Florida Dog Training School. In the past eight years, Helene has trained hundreds of dogs and has helped families with pets that are anxious, aggressive, uncontrollable or just plain stubborn.
I’ve concluded that Jonas was more stubborn than anything else. But Helene taught me how to be more stubborn than my dog by insisting that he do what I ask. And when he refuses, I’ve learned not to give in.
If only I had met Helene 22 years ago when I first became a mother. Some of her techniques would have come in handy raising children.

Reach Diane Kortus at *protected email*. Questions for Helene Scott? Call (813) 951-4480 or visit


  1. Helene helped me with my very rambunctious siberian husky 4 years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. She truly has a way with dogs and it’s easy to see she loves what she does. A lot of what she did was confidence building & training for me, not my dog! All the issues I was having were solved when I worked on myself and made sure my dog got plenty of exercise. Her help was invaluable and I always mention her when people compliment me on my well behaved dogs!

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