Recent Testimonials & Reviews
Although I've been an animal advocate (Founder of Tidewater Humane) since 1984, I've never encountered such a difficult dog as our recently adopted sweet Coda (who joined our family in November after being rescued by Chesapeake Animal Services from the Dismal Swamp). Totally shut down. fearful of the world, including my wonderful husband. When our beloved dog April died three weeks after we adopted Coda, we were not only consumed with grief, but also with a dog who went into shut-down mode. He adored April and we feared he would never come out of his fear. Five weeks ago, we began Shy Dog classes at Happy Paws with trainer Tim Molina, and miracle upon miracle has occurred with our sweet boy. I cannot recommend highly enough this facility and this trainer. We are OVER THE MOON! Thank you, Tim, Happy Paws, and the great collaboration between NSPCA, VBSPCA, and CHS. Well done!
A little over a year and a half ago, my husband and I fostered Sully, a dog turned into the Virginia Beach SPCA for being skittish and fearful. Tim Molina, then the behaviorist at the VBSPCA, worked with me to get Sully used to playing with other dogs. He also tried to help Sully with his fear of people. Tim wisely said, "Push his buttons a little." At the same time, he advised me not to cross Sully’s threshold of fright.
Since Tim’s initial coachings with Sully, my husband and I have adopted him and continue to boost his confidence. A glaring issue has been Sully's leash reactivity to all moving vehicles and other dogs on leashes. When Happy Paws opened, Tim began offering a reactive dog class, the first and only one of its kind in the Tidewater area, as far as I know. Sully ended up being probably being the best in the class, to both Tim's and my surprise. As Tim said, "Sully is a fascinating case."
All of this is to say that thanks to Tim for his guidance and for offering the class. Sully now jogs with my next-door neighbor. He lunges and barks at nothing while on walks or jogging. Of course, he'd like to break loose and chase some squirrels, but he knows that's not going to happen.
My greatest pleasure and Sully's biggest achievement was walking him the other day into the groomer's shop on a leash where he encountered another dog on a leash. I was ready for something to happen, but Sully simply walked over to the other dog and started licking the dog’s face! I am thrilled to say that he spent the day in day care interacting pleasantly with a variety of dogs!
Sully may remain a work in progress, but I now know that all I have to do is contact Tim for a consultation or bring Sully in for a little fine-tuning. Thank you, Tim Molina and Happy Paws, for helping me save Sully so we can offer him the good life!
--Sharon M. Haring (VBSPCA volunteer and happy doggie mom)
Tim Molina understands and communicates beautifully with dogs and their humans. His extensive experience working with all kinds of dogs helped him understand my very difficult Sammy, who was born and raised as a young pup in a feral dog pack. When Sammy was near Tim, he stopped whining and worrying, and became calm and content at his feet as Tim communicated calmly with him and me.
Tim's communication with my partner was important to help her understand more about Sammy. She had felt strongly that we should not keep him after he got into serious trouble with a neighbor's cat. Her conversation with Tim was part of what helped her reconsider and agree that we could keep him and continue working with him rather than return him to the shelter. Her relationship with the dog has grown in part because of her conversations with Tim.
Tim and the Happy Paws dog training team will be a great asset to Hampton Roads.
When we adopted our two-year-old Chihuahua mix, Chico, from the Virginia Beach SPCA, we knew he was a work in progress. In the “meet and greet” room, he would sit next to us and take treats but he wouldn't look directly at us. He was distracted and uncertain but you could tell there was something in him that wanted to try to trust us and that was enough for us to bring him home.
Meeting our two senior dogs and the subsequent transition into our household was easy, but getting him to open up with us took some time. He wanted to snuggle up and stay close, yet it took about three days for him to look me in the face. Even then, he would only do so for just a few seconds. It took him about two weeks to show interest and play with toys.
About three months later, he had acclimated pretty well to his life here but had turned into a territorial, bossy dog who clearly was unsure around visitors. It was so bad that if we had guests, I had to put him outside or in another room or he would turn into an “ankle biter.” Everything in his body language said that he was fear-biting, but I didn't know how to get him past that.
Taking him out in public was a completely different challenge. Away from home, he was shut-down and extremely fearful. I took him to an outdoor dog event thinking it would be a great experience, but he was so frightened. Our other dogs are friendly and outgoing, so I really didn't know how to help him in either scenario.
I contacted the VBSPCA and explained our situation. They gave me a few names of trainers who would come to your home and help with one-on-one training. We did a few sessions that were successful in basic obedience and one session out in public. But as with so many of us, life got in the way and several months passed before I looked into training again.
Luckily for us, it was about that time that Happy Paws opened. I contacted Tim Molina and we spoke at great length about Chico, his challenges, what we had been able to work on, and my goals were for him. I signed up for private lessons so we could focus on building Chico's confidence.
In the first session at the training center, Chico was so into it that he completely ignored my presence and happily followed Tim through some of the agility equipment. I was shocked! In the second session, Tim introduced his two dogs and Chico was still able to maintain confidence and follow directions.
We also did a few sessions at our house in which Tim taught me how to keep Chico at his “place” so I could answer the door and how to send him back should he approach a guest. After each session, I would shake my head. I just couldn't believe how well things were going. A few VBSPCA volunteers also helped out by act as strangers so I could practice the drill and so Chico could have positive experiences with other humans.
The other night we had seven people over for a cookout. To prepare for it, I brought Chico’s bed outside. As each guest arrived, I would engage him in place, stay and release, as well as sit and release to ease his anxiety and give him something to focus on while becoming accustomed to strangers milling around.
While Chico still initially barks when people come over, he responds positively to going to his place and staying until I release him. Out in public, he can still become overwhelmed with high-energy dogs, but that just gives us a chance to practice some of our drills and take his mind off of what is going on around him. However, we were at the park recently when a man and his daughter approached us and Chico wagged his tail at them! I was so happy for him!
We can't thank Tim, Happy Paws and the VBPSCA enough. Chico is the fourth dog we've adopted from that shelter and the first one we've had to work with in this way; however, with Tim’s guidance and direction, we are now able to show our guests what a great dog Chico really is and show him that not all strangers are scary!
My wish for all the dogs out there who are having difficulty fitting into their households would be that their owners discover Happy Paws. Learning training techniques and ways to manage situations and problem behaviors will keep dogs and loving owners together fur-ever! Keep up the good work and thank you for being a part of our dog community!!
--Melissa and Jim Keown
After having to put my service dog down in July, I called the Virginia Beach SPCA and talked to a young man named Tim. Tim called me a week later about a dog whom he had tested and thought would be a great match. I was more than surprised because he was right. Tim had been working with Samson for a while, testing him to make sure he had no behavioral issues.
On August 16, 2014, I brought Samson home. He is a gentle but strong teddy bear who loves to please. I asked Tim if he would help me train my dog so he could pass his service dog test. I depend on Tim to tell me what I’m doing wrong and what I’m doing right. Tim has gone out of his way to help me with this. I even recommended Tim to a friend who lost her service dog also. With the knowledge that Tim has, I knew that he would find just the right dog for her.
I’m just blown away that Tim is willing to take that extra step to make sure the dog and the new owner are a good match. He also makes sure the dog works out in the home, working both with the dog and the owner.