2013-04-11 / Neighbors

New public access show puts spotlight on canines

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer


George Quinlan of Kennebunk watches his Bouvier, Merlin, leap over obstacles on command in his backyard in Kennebunk. Quinlan is the host of a Biddeford Public Access show “All About Dogs,” named after his dog-training business. George Quinlan of Kennebunk watches his Bouvier, Merlin, leap over obstacles on command in his backyard in Kennebunk. Quinlan is the host of a Biddeford Public Access show “All About Dogs,” named after his dog-training business. BIDDEFORD – George Quinlan has been rehabilitating animals since he was 13 years old. The walls of Quinlan’s aged wooden garage are a testament to his long and colorful career as an animal trainer. Pictures pepper Quinlan’s walls: Asian elephants, dogs, wolves and coyotes, even a shot of Jane Goodall and Quinlan squatting on either side of a dog.

“It was a dream come true to meet Jane,” he said. “But this one is my favorite,” Quinlan said, pointing to a picture of a younger version of himself being licked on the mouth by a wolf. “I trained her when she was young and then I left her for six years. When I finally saw her again, this is how she greeted me.”

Quinlan has made a career out of rehabilitating and training animals. Operating a private practice since 1985, Quinlan is certified by the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors and a member of the Association of Pet Behavior Counsellors. These titles, and his 40 years of experience, have garnered a respectable name for Quinlan. Now, instead of conducting his private behavioral consultations out of his wooden garage, Quinlan operates out of a yurt—a large circular tent with a conical roof—in the back of his property in Kennebunk. He also uses obstacles scattered about his yard for command exercises. A short wooden fence marks the perimeter of his yard.

“I purposely built it short so I could teach dogs not to jump over it,” he said.

When guest-starring on the Biddeford Public Access show, “The Wandering Road,” Quinlan’s expertise caught the eye of local producers.

“After I guest-starred five or so times, they told me, ‘You need your own show,’” Quinlan said.

So it was born. Quinlan’s show is named after his business, “All About Dogs,” and airs Friday mornings on Biddeford Public Access television.


George Quinlan of Kennebunk with Merlin, left, and Bobby in front of the yurt where he operates his dog-training services. His business is named after his Biddeford Public Access television show, “It’s All About the Dogs.” (Alex Acquisto photos) George Quinlan of Kennebunk with Merlin, left, and Bobby in front of the yurt where he operates his dog-training services. His business is named after his Biddeford Public Access television show, “It’s All About the Dogs.” (Alex Acquisto photos) Quinlan has distilled his training of dogs down to three principles.

“I truly believe that the average American dog owner can train his/her dog by teaching just three habits,” he said. “Go away, come to me, stay with me; and these exercises can bleed into all other areas of training.”

“It’s All About the Dogs” is Quinlan’s platform upon which he teaches to the masses. He covers deceivingly simple topics, such as what kind of crate a dog should be kept in.

“I don’t want my dogs to be submissive or scared of me,” he said. “You can teach a dog without invoking fear, it just takes patience from the owner.”

Quinlan is disarming and humble despite his exceeding knowledge. He uses French commands with both of his dogs, a 10-year-old border collie named Bobby and a 2-yearold Bouvier named Merlin.

When asked, “why French?” Quinlan chuckled and responded, “Most people think dogs can only understand monosyllabic or onesyllable responses. This is just proof of their knowledge. Oftentimes I train dogs in French just to show their owners that they are capable of learning.”

“On ‘All About the Dogs,’ I’m trying to disassemble alltoo common myths,” he said. “Everything we teach is obedience,” but it’s an obedience that stems from a deep respect for the animal involved. “In the show I ask people to know why you chose your dog; ‘Why did you want it?’”

During the show’s filming, Quinlan insists on letting Merlin and Bobby off leash on the set.

“I want people to see this as an example – I can train all dogs in a respectful way so that they want to be around us – mine are an example. Look at these guys,” he said, motioning to the first episode of his show, which was playing on his laptop.

“They want to be near me because they aren’t afraid of me,” he said of the dogs sitting on either side of him, autonomously. “A form of correction does not have to imply verbal abuse.”

Quinlan keeps his voice low when communicating with his animals. After they’d been relegated inside, however, he became noticeably more ebullient.

“I’m sorry I’ve been rambling so much,” he said with a smile. “I’m just so passionate about what I do.”

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