BOLTON – Dogs are Cara Armor’s life and she loves it.
“I could talk all day about dogs,” she said. “I love their sense of humor, everything to please us, and their willingness to figure out how to win in life. They’re loyal, they love and no matter how shitty your day has been, they’re always there to help. brighten it up with their soulful eyes and dedication to your emotional well-being.
“I love how cuddly and confident they are, knowing who’s a good person and who’s not. I always let my dogs judge a character and they haven’t let me down yet,” a- she added.
Armor runs Active Paws Inc. with her husband, Gerard. It started as a walking and pet sitting business 18 years ago, covering Waltham, Watertown and Belmont.
Living in Bolton off Route 117 with four dogs since 2013, they’ve tried to expand locally but realized most people here walk their own dogs, so ‘stuck in the population density of their old towns’ and travel daily to the Boston subway.
However, “when the pandemic started, people started working from home; dog walking dropped off dramatically, but training resumed,” Armor said.
She trains professionally locally, throughout Massachusetts, and virtually (and is one of the only certified trainers).
Armor prefers to call herself “dog coach” rather than trainer.
“I show your dog how to get the behaviors you want. I use positive reinforcement training methods that are ethical and force-free. Before we really understood operant conditioning, people used coercion and restraint to get dogs to do or not do the things we wanted them to do,” but tools like clamps and electric collars attempt to correct behavior. after it happened.
Instead, she teaches dogs what to do and rewards them for it, creating new stories of alternative wanted behaviors.
“I love going to people who have counter surfers or coffee table chewing dogs and giving them simple, logical and fun solutions to stop the behavior and train new behaviors. Our dogs just want our attention,” she said.
For example, if they like to chew on the coffee table and you run towards them when that happens, that’s much better than the boring chew toy that sits on the floor and doesn’t elicit a reaction.
Armor competes in dog sports and leads some of the highest ranked boxers in agility in the AKC and nose work.
In agility, the dog is guided by body cues through a precisely pre-set obstacle course within a limited time frame, mimicking running through the woods jumping over logs, weaving around trees and rocks. Nose work locates a formed scent (such as oranges) and communicates to a handler that the scent has been found, allowing them to exercise their natural instinct to sniff and be rewarded.
His first two boxers died of degenerative myelopathy; “Basically ALS for dogs,” she said. During their journey with the disease, Armor discovered there was a genetic test for it and “it’s completely preventable, but some didn’t seem to think it was worth recurring. It destroyed me.
So she bought a female boxer and “thus entered the world of trying to raise better boxers.
“I still have that ‘foundation bitch,’ as they call them. She’s almost 9 years old and broke AKC agility records for boxers and still going for it.
In addition to her many groundbreaking accomplishments in conformation and canine sports, she has been bred twice. From the first litter, Armor has kept two dogs, who are “now 6 years old with several championships under their belt”.
Her fourth dog was obtained from a kennel where she was bred for police work, not dog shows, and they are “very excited about the future” of the 9-month-old.
The competition came with the breeding, to prove that she was a reputable breeder who stopped the perpetuation of boxer health issues, so she started out in AKC conformation. She enjoyed competition, but found it too subjective, instead wanting to be judged on performance, and found it in agility, rallying and nose work.
Both Armor and her husband are involved in competitions throughout the East Coast and Midwest; Armor also organizes several agility trials and helps organize or volunteer with several others.
“My goal for this year is to recruit more juniors. With a 200% increase in dog ownership compared to 2019, we have more dogs in homes with children who should be discovering the fun of canine agility,” she said.
Armor was first interested in canine behavior.
“What motivates a dog to get up and be a dog, why does a dog choose the humans it loves, and why do I love some dogs more than others? Since we have domesticated dogs and completely genetically and phenotypically altered them, how could I help make them better? She eventually fell in love with the awkwardness and loyalty of the boxers.
She has a popular dog podcast, Startline, launched during COVID when dog trials were all canceled from March 2020 (until 2022).
“It’s been a great way for me to meet even more people in the world of agility and talk about the sport that I love,” she said.
Armor met her husband Gerard at a dog park after befriending his sister, who also owned boxers. Gerard likes dogs, but he comes from Northern Ireland; Armor was originally uninterested because of the distance, but his sister’s pairing eventually worked out. They fell in love and went into business together.
Other services offered by Armor are dog walks in Waltham’s green spaces (with two staff), a limited number of nightly in-home dog sitters for existing clients, and advice to pet businesses.
Previous canine businesses have included a pet store (selling holistic food), grooming, and a pet first aid and CPR training business. She still does sales, marketing and instruction for ProTrainings, a first aid and CPR competitor she joined in September 2016, and remains a raw dog nutrition specialist.
Originally from Baltimore, she moved to Massachusetts in 1998 to attend Boston University and earned a degree in sociology, but “actually found that my few years running a City Sports gave me more life skills than my university studies”. She has attended hundreds of pet care and training seminars (and taught a few).
Armor and Gerard bought a house in Watertown in 2006, but in 2012 they realized the city’s dog laws would hold them back and they wanted more land for their dogs to run.
‘We loved Bolton for its right to the farming community,’ she said, ‘and how close we are to everything’ with shopping nearby, being ‘down the street from one of the best veterinary practices and within an hour of three popular agility testing sites. They love to hike (with dogs) the trails in Bolton and Berlin.
Armor is very enterprising.
“As soon as I have a pattern of behavior that allows me to master a good system and a good process, I need to fill all my free time,” she said.
She also teaches beginner and intermediate level agility classes at Gemini Dogs in Littleton.
His big dream is to own a facility in central Massachusetts large enough to hold tryouts and classes (at least 15,000 square feet).
“You’re working with a sentient being that many people love as much as a child, it’s a purely wonderful feeling to know that we’ve made life better for them and their dogs,” she said.
Armor also owns an elderly rescue cat.
For more information or to contact Armor, visit getactivepaws.com or call (781) 899-PAWS.