ANA, Calif. — Cynthia Lopez fancies herself as a dog
behaviorist, though she sounds like a therapist when you
speak with her.
tries to help dogs get over their fears and solve
aggression, barking, jumping or biting.
working with dogs, I’ve learned more about
myself," said Lopez, who’s even visited some dogs
dying in hospice.
daily, Lopez, 28, and two trainers climb into the front
seat of her 1971 Volkswagen bus and travel everywhere
from Seal Beach and north Orange County, Calif., all the
way up to Palos Verdes, Calif., to personally pick up
Beach, Calif., is the company’s mainstay, however.
of the backseat couches of the VW bus has been removed,
and hooks were added to the passenger area to keep the
15 dogs from flying around or jumping up front.
of the dogs seem to know where to sit when the side door
is opened — just like children. Some of the smaller
ones sit way in the back, the larger ones up front.
gets together with her team members every day in the
morning to talk about the dogs that they’ll be picking
up, review notes and discuss what could be done to help
some behave better, or what good things they’re doing
to show improvement.
talk about the dogs and talk about potential behavioral
issues," she said. "It’s pretty interesting
how dogs learn. Some are stimulated and have trigger
issues. We need to work them through their
are Field Trip Days, the highlight of the week for the
dogs, according to Lopez.
when Lopez takes the dogs on a trip for a special
activity. They’ve been to the Hollywood sign, Runyon
Canyon in the Hollywood Hills and more recently Abalone
Cove Shoreline Park along the bluffs of Palos Verdes
Peninsula. There, she parks the VW bus along Palos
Verdes Drive and walks down a steep incline with the
dogs to the kelp beds far below.
have to factor in their needs and where is a good place
to trigger them," she said.
instance, she said, "Lots of dogs get territorial
at some parks. We’ll take them to the parks where they
see other dogs on leashes."
a follower of Grisha Stewart, a dog behaviorist who has
devised a way to rehabilitate dogs with head-case
issues, whatever they might be.
calls her textbook program Behavior Adjustment Training,
or BAT for short.
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PAWS AT A GLANCE
Cynthia Lopez, 28
$15 to $65
$20,000 a month
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TIPS ON RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS
Lopez, owner of Itchy Paws, started her dog business in
2008 in Pasadena but later moved to Long Beach because
she enjoyed the lifestyle.
tips to run a successful business include the following:
It’s important to get feedback from your team members.
If they feel validated, it’s a domino effect. They
feel part of something. In the recession, people felt
disposable. I’ve worked in the corporate world, and I
want to feel a purpose.
It’s important to be held accountable. I have a lot of
pride in what I do, and I always try to follow through.
It has helped us be successful.
assurance: I strive to provide an excellent product and
You have to have a genuine care for the clients. I
remember someone saying to me a few years ago that I
looked to be happy. Well, I am, because I love what I’m
doing. We try to get to know the clients.
involvement: Probably one of the biggest things that we
try to do is give back to the community. We participate
in beach cleanups. (Lopez also volunteers with Fix Long
Beach, which provides free spay and neuter surgeries to
low-income residents of Long Beach. Itchy Paws also
participates in community activist Justin Rudd’s Haute
Dog Howl’oween Parade, a beauty contest for dogs,
Santa Paws and other dog-related events.)