From Los Angeles to East Texas: A Third-Generation Dog Trainer Continues the Family Legacy | Local News
When it comes to training dogs, Robert R. Weatherwax knows exactly what it takes to get the job done.
Weatherwax is a third generation professional dog trainer. His father, Robert W. (Bob) Weatherwax, and grandfather, Ruddell (Rudd) Weatherwax, were the 10-generation trainers of famous TV dog Lassie. His grandfather has coached every Lassie since “Lassie Come Home” in 1943.
But the Weatherwax name doesn’t stop there.
“My grandfather was Lassie’s original trainer and his brothers were also trainers,” Weatherwax said. “My family goes back, roughly, 100 years. They return to silent films.
His great-uncle, Jack Weatherwax, was Toto’s trainer in “The Wizard of Oz” and the dog trainer for the original “Call of the Wild.” His other great-uncle, Frank Weatherwax, formed “Old Yeller” and “A Dog of Flanders”.
Weatherwax, who moved from Los Angeles to East Texas last year, owns a private dog training business, Weatherwax Dog Training, and has written a book, “Training Your Dog the Weatherwax Way.”
The book, Weatherwax said, can be found under his Screen Actors Guild (SAG) name, R Ruddell Weatherwax. It also has an IMDB page under the same name.
“The book is about training, but it’s also an all-inclusive on how to take care of your dog. Basically, it’s all you need from the time you get your dog to the time it dies,” he said. “It also gives you a lot of information about what triggers your dog, ways to make your dog feel safer in different situations, basic obedience and also problem solving, like digging.”
“Training Your Dog the Weatherwax Way” is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.
From Los Angeles to East Texas
Weatherwax moved from Los Angeles to East Texas in September 2021.
A few years ago, Weatherwax met Ed Austin, whom he befriended after training Austin’s two dogs.
“I used to live in Santa Clarita and have two toy fox terriers. My wife passed away and one thing she asked me was to always take care of them and train them,” Austin said. So, I did some research and that’s how I met Robert – through dog training.”
Weatherwax said, “We were both a bit tired from the California game, so we thought about moving.”
At that time, the plan was to move to Arkansas.
“Actually, I hadn’t planned to live here. I was planning on moving to Hot Springs, Arkansas, but I came to the Longview area and started looking around and at that time real estate was booming,” Austin said. “I found a house in White Oak and bought it. That’s how I ended up moving here. I lived in Texas in the 70s and loved Texas. I’m retired now and wanted to leave California.
Weatherwax said: “I decided to follow him here and live in a guesthouse on his property.”
The life of a dog trainer
Weatherwax began training dogs after leaving the United States Navy sometime between 1986 and 1987.
“I was working in the film industry and I started working for my dad and then later I started working for a lot of his competitors. I was a freelance trainer so I worked on things like ‘Beethoven’ and ‘Homeward Bound II’, ‘K-9’, ‘Dennis the Menace’, ‘The Little Rascals’ and ‘Top Dog’,” he said. “I worked for about 13 years as a movie trainer, then I got out and did other jobs, but I was still training dogs.”
Growing up in a family of dog trainers, Weatherwax said he always knew he would be involved in some way with work involving animals.
Born in 1963, Weatherwax assisted his father in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a young child, he remembers being asked if he was going to be a dog trainer like his father and grandfather.
“All I remember thinking at the time was, ‘Do I really have to make a decision? I’m only 6 years old. It was always kind of expected,” he said.
Pal and Lassie
Pal was the first Lassie and lived from 1940 to 1958.
“He was the first Lassie but they never raised him,” Weatherwax said. “They didn’t think ‘Lassie’ was going to continue past the MGM years, but my grandfather ended up making a deal long after the show…to buy Lassie’s name from MGM. They owed him money. the money so he took the dog’s name instead of the money that was owed to him.
Weatherwax said oil tycoon Jack Wrather approached his grandfather about a television series.
“He came to Rudd and said he wanted to do a series and in 1957 they started shooting the new ‘Lassie’ series,” he said. “Calm from the movies did the pilot, the first episode. By then Rudd had raised another collie and he became the first Lassie to do the show.
The series aired from 1957 to 1974.
“They went through several generations of dogs. Our family owned the Lassie name until 2002 when the family collectively sold the name,” Weatherwax said. “We haven’t owned the Lassie name since 2002. It’s now owned by the company, but we’ve created 10 generations of Lassie as the Weatherwax family.”
Train your dog
Weatherwax hopes to grow its customer base in East Texas in White Oak.
“Right now I don’t have a website because my dad has one. He is retired and lives in the East. His business name was Weatherwax Trained Dogs and my business name is Weatherwax Dog Training,” he said. “I knew it would be confusing to have a webpage, so I used a website called Thumbtack and it always worked well for me.”
Weatherwax said he was the only dog trainer on Thumbtack in the area.
“I was one of hundreds in LA and I was busier than I could ever be,” he said. “Here I’m the only one and I always try to come back to this point… But now… I’m looking to expand here because I like it here.”
When potential customers contact Thumbtack, Weatherwax said it typically responds within 15 minutes to schedule an appointment.
“I will go to them or I will go where they want me to go. If the dog is afraid of the mall, we will go to the mall. If they have problems at home – which they normally do – then I will fix the problems at home, where they exist,” he said.
Austin is amazed by Weatherwax’s dog training techniques.
“I’ve never seen him yell at a dog. It’s not a dog whisperer — I don’t believe it,” Austin said. “It’s because of his grandfather or his father – he inherited their training methods.”
Austin said his dogs were very attentive when trained by Weatherwax.
“When he was working with my dogs, they would listen to him. It’s pretty cool to watch,” he said. “Anything you ask him to do with the dog, he can get it done in five minutes. about. I think it’s pretty cool.