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Personal trainer builds success with canines

By Staff | Feb 7, 2019

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Caleb Wertz of Hughesville, adopted a blind Great Dane, named Abi, at 8 weeks old from an Amish farm. Caleb, also legally blind, is training the dog in German to master commands. He trains other dogs for clients, and specializes in larger dogs and aggression.

HUGHESVILLE – All dogs deserve a good home. That’s primarily a personal mission for Caleb Wertz of Hughesville. He has taken it upon himself to train dogs who have a disability, have been mistreated or born with a defect. He said all dogs can be trained if one has the right patience, tools and commands and most important of all, the time to work with them.

Having graduated from Hughesville High School in 2015, Wertz has always set sights on being a personal fitness trainer. Currently he works with the student athletic program several hours a week at the high school, and he himself, has a disability.

Caleb was born with bilateral colobomas, which is a retinal defect of both eyes, according to his mother, Heidi Wertz. Due to his defect he is considered legally blind. “His doctor detected something wrong in his eyes at 2 days old and we went to Will’s Eye Center in Philadelphia for further diagnosis,” said Wertz.

However, as fate would have it, not too long ago a friend sent him a post on Facebook about a Great Dane who was born blind. She was born on an Amish Farm with a litter of six or seven and Caleb said she was the only one who was blind. The 8 week old puppy needed a home, and Caleb decided to take the challenge. He explained that when two white Great Danes are bred together the odds are high that a dog will be born blind. And so Caleb drove down to Allentown to get the female hound and bring her back to Hughesville.

“Purebreds average a fee of $1,000,” Caleb said. “The parents were purebreds, but not the right genetic makeup.”

He said he did his research. Great Danes are strong, regal, long legged, and possess healthy traits. They are of German descent which prompted Caleb to use his training commands in German. The Great Danes appeared in princely courts and would hunt for bear, boar and deer. They are well formed with strong muscles. Caleb christened his puppy “Abi” which is short for Abigail.

“This is my first personal dog,” said Caleb who lives with his grandmother, Sharon Hertz, whom he helps with household tasks and small repairs. Abi is now 10 months old, and because of Caleb’s tenacious working sessions, she has learned to obey at his command and adapt to her new surroundings despite the fact that she cannot see. “She maps everything out in her head, and that’s how to train a blind dog in general,” Caleb explained. “I also use treats and lures to reward her.”

He started with simple obedience training. “At first she would bump into things, but soon she learned to use her nose and ears to rub against things to figure out where it’s at,” explained Wertz. A leash and a cage are important. He is now working with Abi on a loose leash and off-leash, and his confidence and success have led Caleb to other dogs to train. He soon will be getting an 11 month old German Shepherd with juvenile cataracts to help guide Abi and “give her a mutual friend.” In March he will be getting pit bull puppy from Unityville.

Word of mouth has also given Caleb more canine customers. He continues to get training for himself as he realizes that each breed has different temperaments.

Caleb said he really enjoys training other dogs and wants to have his own kennel someday. He has a strong presence on Facebook. One of his customers comes from Linden and drops off her 11 month old dog for Caleb to train. “I taught him some basic commands. She wants him to come more often.”

He also is training a Siberian husky and a bull mastiff. “Big dogs need to be trained out of safety.”

Caleb will walk the dogs and would like to do so for other people. His business is called DUBS DOGS and he wants to specialize with humans and dog aggression. “I teach them manners, simple obedience and how to listen.” He gives his clients “homework to do” and he only trains one dog at a time. Some dogs can be trained in a few hours if it is a simple behavior issue, while others take longer such as learning not to pull on a leash.

“It is important for owners to build a bond with them.” Caleb trains both indoors and outdoors without any distractions. His goal is to do competitive obedience nationwide.

“Each one is different,” he said. “All dogs can be rehabilitated. They just need patience and time, and they don’t complain as much.”