If you’re an animal lover or you know one, you understand the passion of pet owners who want to dote on their fur babies. Afterall, who wouldn’t want to come home to wagging tails, prancing excitement and the type of unconditional love that never requires an apology or explanation. Besides, who wouldn’t want the added bonus of increasing their chances of living longer simply by owning and caring for a Fido?  

According to a story that appeared in USA Today referencing the peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association’s scholarly article Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, there is a direct correlation between mortality and dog ownership. 

The research examined studies published from 1950 to 2019 and included over three million participants. In doing so, scientists discovered the following: dog owners were likely to live longer than those who didn’t have dogs. Dog owners had a 24 percent risk reduction for death from any cause, according to the study. For people with heart problems, living with a dog had an even greater benefit.  

In an effort to discover what the actual cause of longevity to dog owners is, USA Today reported this on the study’s findings: “The potentially life-extending benefits of dog ownership could be traced in part to increased physical activity from walking the dog, authors speculated. The study found dog owners were less likely to die from heart disease compared with nonowners. [Additionally] Keith C. Ferdinand, professor at Tulane University School of Medicine, said having a family pet may assist a person with managing stress, increasing activity and decreasing isolation and loneliness.” 

With information like this, it’s no wonder that pet ownership in general (not just dogs) soared during the height of the COVID 19 Pandemic. Shuttered and isolated folks needed something, someone, to assist them in staving off loneliness and remaining sane. 

But what about the requirements needed for a high maintenance pet? Most of us don’t find an uncontrollable, misbehaving pet, or one who leaves so much fur around our homes that we’ve been reduced to wearing nothing but leather appealing. Not to mention, it’s responsible and healthy to groom, socialize and teach your pet boundaries. For folks who need more than a YouTube video and are truly willing to invest in a furry family member, there are certainly options. 

Tim and Mitchell Gold with a client named Troops. Photo by Barbara Proud

Have an unruly pooch? Looking for training that embraces a holistic approach? Tim Gold Dog Training in Conover (less than an hour from Charlotte) might be just what you’re looking for. Life partners Tim and Mitchell Gold are also partners in bringing the dreams of joyful pet ownership to fruition. It all started back in 2016. At that time, after experiencing a series of panic attacks, a doctor diagnosed Tim with anxiety disorder. 

The suggested course of action left two options for Tim, medication or a service dog. Not wanting to set himself up for a possible drug dependency and after discussing it with Mitchell, his husband, he decided a dog was the best route. Not long after, Tim and Mitchell ended up with Zola, a Doberman. After three weeks of service dog training, Zola joined the Gold family.

Though she had her basic commands down, Tim, an avid reader with an ongoing quest for knowledge, sought to learn more. While learning how to care for Zola, Tim was actually setting the foundation for what would become Tim Gold Dog Training. Tim’s success with Zola led to him offering his training assistance to friends and family, casual acquaintances and eventually, anyone who could make a call or do an internet search. 

His co-founder and husband told Qnotes, “Here’s the big thing, Tim [an anxiety sufferer] has really developed techniques that relieve the anxiety that a dog has and to train them with treats instead of shock collars. Many times, when you take a dog to a trainer, they want to keep the dog for two or three weeks and don’t want you to come visit. What we do, is only keep a dog for five days. It’s like a sports camp or a boot camp. We have three other trainers working from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The dogs are constantly being taught how to behave and how to respond to cues. We don’t call them commands because we’re cuing the dogs on how to behave properly.”  

Tim Gold working with another happy pooch. Photo: Facebook

So what sets Tim Gold Dog Training apart from others? Mitchell explains: “A big part of it is training people. We have a compact, faster program [that’s completed] within a few weeks. The dog is kept for one week. Mid-week the pet parents come for an hour or two to learn how their dog has been trained and what they have to do [to keep the desired behavior in place]. After, Tim and his team go to the dog’s home with the dogs to ensure that the parents can assist in keeping everything going while in their home environment.” 

Another factor that makes Tim Gold Dog Training different than many others is the atmosphere pets and pet owners enjoy while a fur baby is being housed and trained. Puppy Palace is the Gold’s eco-friendly lake-side house used for boarding and training. 

“Most dog training places are very institutional,” Mitchell explains. “Not ours. We wanted to train the dogs in a homelike environment. When people come here, they are blown away, because it’s so beautiful.”

Their facility is divided into four specific zones, a training area, a kitchen/bath station, kennel suites and a living area with chairs and sofas. 

Tim and Mitchell aren’t the only local gay male couple offering stellar pet services. While summer is on the horizon, Carolinian pet owners are excited about taking their canines on playful romps in the sun. Of course, those long days at the park and summer vacations are much more anticipated by those with well-mannered pooches. For those who are acquainted with the kind of help Black Crown Premier Pet Services provides, they’re certainly barking up the right tree. 

Dorian Graham and friend. Photo: Mario A. Turner/@Booklevi

While at home in East Charlotte, Black Crown Premier Pet Services owner Dorian Graham (accompanied by about 20 furry friends) took QNotes on a journey of his joys and experiences training dogs for everyone from area entrepreneurs to celebrities and notables like Gloria Mary James, mother to NBA player Lebron James. But before we go any further and you re-read that last sentence about ‘at home with 20 dogs,’ a little context.

 Graham is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, who relocated to Charlotte in July of 2020. Though he’s been in the business of training and working with animals for years, Black Crown Premier wasn’t officially launched until 2021.

For Graham, the move to Charlotte was an exceptionally gratifying experience. “A breath of fresh air,” he recalls. “From ripping and running all over the country training, [to] going from a busy lifestyle to spending the second half of [the COVID 19] quarantine in Charlotte.”  

The respite was rewarding and much of that slower pace was spent in a large, two-story 3,000 square foot home he shares with his partner, who is a breeder and groomer. The ample space allows them to [temporarily] board 20+ dogs at a time. 

In case you’re wondering, they’re not all teacup size designer pooches either. Seven huge, beautiful and obedient Black Russian Terriers personally belong to Graham. Even more impressive is the fact that a pin drop could have been heard during our interview, even with all those canines in the midst. 

Quite possibly, for Graham, that type of peaceful and respectful shared environment is about doing what he loves most. “It’s a mixture of rehabilitating the dogs and also educating people.” 

Graham’s experiences with dogs began at a young age. “I have actually been training dogs since I was five, when my mom got our first dog,” he recalls. “We had a lot going on and moved around a lot, so we only kept dogs for eight months to a year. When bad behavior would surface, we’d re-home them. As an introverted gay kid I spent plenty of time with the dogs – so [hopefully] my mom wouldn’t re-home them. That went on until high school.”  

Photo: Mario A. Turner/@Booklevi

While in college, he majored in Animal Studies and Primatology. “I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to make money training dogs and so I entertained being a vet. But after two hours of volunteering at a veterinary clinic in Cleveland and throwing up because I didn’t have the emotional tolerance for surgeries and poor conditions some of the dogs came in with – I dropped out of college in my sophomore year and made the decision to train dogs.”

Apparently, it was a good decision. When folks bring their dogs to Black Crown Premier Pet Services, they can expect for him to resolve 90 percent of their issues within the first 10 minutes. 

From aggressive or mild mannered to old or young, he’s worked with countless pets or varying ages, breeds and behaviors. He’s helped pet owners overcome some seemingly impossible obstacles and he doesn’t subscribe to the adage of not being able to teach an old dog new tricks. 

“No. Absolutely not. Where I think that came from is a certain point, just as it is with humans, that they are not eager to learn. It really depends on how comfortable they are in their ways, but rarely impossible.”  

At the end of the day, most dog trainers seem to agree, the behavior of pet lovers is just as important, if not more than, the behavior of their pets. To that end, Graham adamantly cautions well intentioned dog owners against treating furry family members like toddlers. 

“I’m all for treating your dog like a child but not to their detriment – I think we’re babying our dogs so much that we’re neglecting the fact that they are animals. Because of that, shelters are full and dogs are being euthanized. There’s a direct correlation between the decrease in quality of training and the increase of dogs being euthanized because they’re “untrainable.”  

That said, Graham shared a little advice for those interested in owning a pet. “Do your research before adding a dog to your home. If you don’t research what you’re bringing into your home you most likely won’t be able to keep it in your home.”