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Meet Trainer Cheri Wulff Lucas

Through workshops, private consultations, and public speaking engagements, Cheri Lucas has become an internationally recognized canine behavior specialist and speaker, spreading a message of hope to dog owners struggling with behavior issues from fear and aggression to fixation and separation anxiety. Her methods are unique and effective, encouraging dog owners to unleash their inner leadership abilities.

Cheri’s life-long mission has always been rescuing dogs in need. At the Second Chance Ranch, she has saved the lives of more than 5,000 dogs since 1994, when she founded Second Chance at Love Human Society, a no-kill shelter where Lucas gives “hopeless” dogs and their owners results-oriented guidance that ensures a harmonious relationship with their canine companions. In 2013, Cheri was awarded San Luis Obispo’s “Woman of the Year” for excellence in her dog rescue and rehabilitation work.

Proving her natural ability for understanding dog behavior almost two decades ago, Lucas is now a living example of the healing power that proper dog leadership provides, and has made numerous appearances on television programs, including National Geographic’s, Dog Whisperer , VOX Network Germany’s Up and Away, the Spanish-language show El Líder de la Manada, and National Geographic Wild’s Leader of the Pack and Cesar’s Recruit Asia, where she served as the creative consultant and dog behaviorist/trainer.

In the years since developing programs for Cesar Millan’s Dog Psychology Center, Cheri has gone on to study and incorporate many different techniques and schools of thought into her work, developing a gentle, intuitive method that is uniquely her own. She now runs Lucas Agnew Workshops, hosting classes at her 20-acre ranch in San Luis Obispo County. Lucas also teaches rehabilitation at her Templeton, California ranch, including “women only” workshops, in which she encourages women to build confidence and assertiveness in all areas of their life, not just with their dogs. Cheri believes that our dogs’ behavior reflects our own, and a confident owner creates a relaxed, secure, confident dog. 

Q&A with Cheri Lucas

Q: What motivated you to start your work in the animal rescue field?

A: I’ve been an animal lover since my childhood. As a young adult, I was saddened by the number of companion animals that were euthanized every day in shelters all over the world. I began volunteering at a local shelter before founding my own rescue organization, Second Chance at Love Humane Society, in 1998. From the beginning, I wanted to take dogs that didn’t stand a chance without significant behavior modification.

Q: Who are the “Second Chance” dogs at your ranch? What’s the most common way/reason they end up there?

A: The vast majority of our dogs at Second Chance have been pulled from high-kill shelters throughout California. Many dogs end up at the pound through no fault of their own. All too often, families adopt or purchase dogs with every intention of giving them forever homes. These same dogs may later lose their homes because their owners encounter money issues, suffer a job loss, or move to an apartment that doesn’t allow pets. It’s heartbreaking.

Q: What’s your most common client problem? How difficult is it to “fix”?

A: Clients have the hardest time understanding that giving their dog excessive amounts of unearned affection will lead to major behavior issues. Sometimes the situation must hit rock bottom before the client is willing to accept this reality. It’s difficult to “fix” because many of us are motivated to get a dog because we want a companion we can shower with affection in return for unconditional love.

Q: In your women-only workshops, what do you find is the most effective way to build women’s confidence around their dogs?

A: Many women have unbalanced relationships with their dogs. If dogs only see their owners as resources for food and affection, they won’t be motivated to follow. I teach my students to ask for something before they give their dogs anything. Even an exercise as simple as asking a dog to wait calmly at a threshold before charging through can change the dynamic between dog and dog owner. Achieving even the smallest bit of compliance from a dog is a huge confidence booster!

Q: You’ve said that an owner’s attitude affects their dogs.   Do you see an immediate change in dog behavior once the owner grasps your concepts of leadership & confidence?

A: Absolutely! Dogs are the greatest because they don’t ponder the reasons why their owners suddenly begin to lead. Because they’re instinct driven, they simply create a new habit loop of following instead of attempting to lead. I often encourage my clients to let their dogs “retire” from running the show. The dogs are so ready to give up the burden of leading, that the change in their behavior is often immediate!

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