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108: Listening x Creativity: Jenna Kingston, Dog Trainer

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

In January 2018, our family was looking to adopt a dog. Our previous family dog (a Shetland Sheepdog named Molly) left the world the previous November. We looked around at a number of adoption sites online to find a dog that would fit into our family. After searching and searching we came across Osa, a dog who had just been relocated to Canada from Mexico by a rescue agency. She was just over one year old, about 30 pounds and looked a bit like a cross between a German Shepherd and a Collie. She seemed perfect so we set up a time to meet her at her foster home. When we arrived she was just as we had imagined… and then she tried to eat our faces off. That should’ve been clue number one. After not even being able to approach the dog because she was so anxious and so protective of her personal space, we obviously said… “We’ll take her!”

Oh boy were we naïve.

We learned about Osa’s backstory; a really sad tale with some missing pieces, but what we do know is that she had a litter of puppies when she was barely out of puppyhood herself and someone (whether intentionally or unintentionally) hit her with their car. She lay in the street, broken, until a kind soul scooped her up, brought her to the rescue agency DIBS (Dogs in Better Spots) and got her the surgery she desperately needed for her broken hip. When strong enough, she was then flown to Canada to start a new life.

When Osa was dropped off at our house a few days later she inspected her new space and she had thankfully moved on from wanting to attack us. However, as she settled into her new space that (we later learned) represented control and safety to her, she was willing to guard it with her life. She was willing to do anything to protect it, including not allowing anyone to step foot in her new space. She was great with us but aggressive with others on leash, as well as anyone who dared enter our home. The final straw was a couple of months after we got her and my mom was visiting. My mom got in between Osa and our then 18 month old and Osa connected. She bit my mom and that was the final straw.

We’d been taking her to obedience training but she needed way more than those classes could offer her. She needed a therapeutic approach for her unresolved issues. We had no idea what to do or how to help her. We felt at a loss and it hurt us so much to do this but we told the agency we needed to give her back. We couldn’t risk the safety of our family and friends, especially the children in our lives. In a long email to DIBS we told them all this and more. They replied by saying that there was an incredible dog trainer who works out of Oakville, Ontario who could help Osa. We were skeptical because we felt that we were already doing so much to try and help her and nothing was working but we were willing to give it one last try.

And this is my connection to today’s guest, Jenna Kingston who runs Highfives for K9s Training. Jenna is a dog trainer and rehabilitator who specializes in working with traumatized dogs, using clear communication and the pack to help dogs manage their emotions and control aggressive behavior, among other issues. She’s incredible. If you’ve ever seen the dog whisperer, Cesar Milan, you already have a sense of the kind of magic Jenna works. Within the first eight hours of a two week live-in rehabilitation, she already had Osa walking on a leash showing no aggression. Jenna talked to us about eventually letting Osa off leash in a pet store. My husband and I looked at each other and laughed out loud, imagining her terrorizing everyone and everything in that store. Only a few days later Jenna sent us a video of Osa sitting nicely in a dog bed off leash in a pet store. Whoa. And while Osa is not perfect and we are not perfect dog owners, we feel so grateful to Jenna for helping our family be able to keep Osa. To give you a sense of her before and after, check out the show notes at for a link to a 3-minute video of the incredible progress she made with Jenna. (You will also find plenty of cute dog spam in this episode’s show notes!)

In this conversation Jenna and I discuss how dogs listen to one another and to the humans in their lives. Jenna explains the power that intuitive energy plays in canine listening, as well as how dogs in a pack communicate with one another. Dogs teach us that calm energy is required in a chaotic environment because you can only control yourself and not the world around you. Lastly, Jenna shares her thoughts on being willing to remain quiet and listen so that we can learn from every situation.

As a funny aside, while Osa looks like a shepherd/collie mix, a DNA test revealed that she is a cross between a springer spaniel and parson terrier with a hint of chihuahua. Ha!

Osa's progression through Jenna's board and train program...

Osa living her best life after Jenna's training...

About Our Guest:

My name is Jenna Kingston. I am a dog trainer residing in Oakville Ontario. Starting out my career 15 years ago by walking packs of dogs allowed me to learn how to communicate with another species without relying on verbalization. I also learnt to be creative when translating dog language into human terms so that the average dog parent would be able to apply the same techniques in order to maintain harmony in the relationship with their canine companion. Breaking down the walls of limiting beliefs is something I strive to achieve as well as teach in my business and personal life.

Our Philosophy on my website -

Music: Dandy by Ketsa, licensed with permission from the Independent Music Licensing Collective -

Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle

Boat Origami Photo: Boat Origami Photo by Alex on Unsplash

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