“'VEAL LOIN.' 'What?' 'FOR DINNER WE HAVE VEAL LOIN!'” By way of analogy, Matthew Margolis, author, TV personality and self-anointed “dog trainer to the stars,” is explaining why boarding a dog in his Monterey Park kennel for training is a wise idea. Or at least that's the question that was put to him before he launched this routine, which features Margolis as both bullying restaurateur and helpless patron, alternating roles by varying his pitch. “'What would you like for dinner, sir?' 'Well, fish!' 'NOPE! VEAL LOIN!' 'But I don't like veal.' 'VEAL IS GOOD.'”
Like most questions put to Margolis, this one does not have a straightforward answer. But it does have a point: Like a restaurant with a varied menu, Margolis' National Institute of Dog Training is an all-purpose operation. “Of the four ways to train a dog – in-home, in-kennel, classes, books and videos, we do three,” he says. And in the world of professional dog training, it is the best all-purpose operation. “We are,” he says, invoking another food metaphor, “the creme de la creme.” Disagree with him, and he will remind you that he has the eternal gratitude of Whoopi Goldberg.
“'Well, the restaurant next door says, “I have fish, I have chicken, and I have meat!”' 'THEN YOU DON'T WANNA GO THERE BECAUSE IF THEY COOK THREE THINGS THEY'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT! You cook one thing, that's what you do! You go to Fatburger, they just do burgers!' 'Cheeseburgers?' 'Nope, just BURGERS! NO CHEESE!'”
Co-author (with Mordecai Siegal) of Good Dog, Bad Dog (1973), When Good Dogs Do Bad Things (1987) and his 1995 autobiography, Woof!: The Funny and Fabulous Trials and Tribulations of 25 Years as a Dog Trainer, Margolis makes regular appearances on Good Morning America to advise viewers on how to pick child-safe puppies; ABC's 20/20 featured him recently as an expert on aggressive dogs. His 1995 PBS special, Woof! It's a Dog's Life, was turned into a series, Woof! Woof!, by WGBH in Boston. His institute sees several hundred dogs a year, including Cher's, Madonna's, and the two golden retrievers that belonged to the late Jimmy Stewart and his wife, Gloria. “I think of myself as the IBM and the Intel of the dog world,” he boasts. “I've read and studied and trained thousands of dogs. People send their dogs across the country to me.”
But not everyone is convinced. In Los Angeles, at least, if you throw a stone into a pack of dog trainers it's hard to hit one who won't eagerly di-vulge his disdain. “People are insecure,” Margolis complains. “They want to knock the competition rather than say, 'He does good work, and he does good work.' AT&T, GTE, MCI – I don't think they knock each other. I don't understand it.”
Woof!, to both Siegal's and Margolis' credit, is a remarkably candid account of the events in the 56-year-old Queens-bred dog trainer's career, including how he abandoned his fleeting dream of becoming an actor when the celebrated New York agent Stark Hesseltine caught him lying on his resume. In his mid-20s and at loose ends, Margolis took an aptitude test in which one of the questions was: “Would you like to train dogs for the blind?” He realized in that moment that training dogs “was a wonderful, valuable thing that I could learn to do as well as anybody,” and he ran to a pay phone to call Captain Arthur J. Haggerty's School for Dogs, where he studied for six weeks before starting up the National Institute of Dog Training in his Manhattan kitchen. Among his first clients was a Latino family with a mean dog named Macho, a dog with “four hairy legs as thick as baseball bats.” He charged $200 or $300 to train most dogs back then, but quoted Macho's owners $1,200, hoping to wriggle out of the assignment without losing face. To his ostensible dismay, they accepted, and Margolis had found himself a profession.
Margolis has promoted himself as an expert in dog aggression ever since, an identity that has vaulted him beyond mere dog trainer into the Beverly Hills life of moderate celebrity. On The David Susskind Show a few months after the publication of his first book, he subdued a liquor-store owner's violent German shepherd in a matter of minutes. He later performed a similar feat on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, after he bragged to Bob Dolce, Carson's talent coordinator, “that I could take any dog and make it obedient within one or two minutes.” Leaving aside his skills as a trainer – and the worst of his enemies would concede that Margolis has a remarkable way with dogs – it is his emphasis on the potential viciousness of the random canine that puts Margolis at the head of the local dog-trainer pack: He uses fear as a marketing tool.
“One percent of all emergency room visits in this country are dog-bite related,” Margolis has said, on TV and off, to me and to anyone who asks, to which he sometimes adds, “Kids get bitten more than anybody over 12, and boys twice as much as girls. As a responsible pet owner, don't you wanna go, 'You know what? There's a possibility here.'” Toward the end of our first interview, he reminds me that National Dog Bite Week is coming up June 9.
LISA McREE: Matthew, there are so many choices when you go to a shelter. I know if you're picking a puppy, it's fairly easy to find one you like, and you start from scratch. But how do you know when you pick an adult dog that it'll get along with your family?
MATTHEW MARGOLIS: Well, you don't, Lisa, and the key is to give personality testing . . . You do a hand-shy test, you do a boy test, you do a pain-tolerance test. So we got Joey over here. Come here, Joey. Come on, buddy. And we're going to actually give him a series of tests. I've never seen him before. We're going to find out if he's the right dog for any kind of family.
-Good Morning America,
March 2, 1998
Every Saturday at NIDT's Mon-terey Park kennel, a facility that houses 100 dogs and employs 35 people, Margolis holds open house. Dog owners with pets at “doggy camp” stop in to visit; potential clients come by to have their dogs evaluated and, almost invariably, to be told their animals need to stay for a few months. On the second Saturday in April, I arrive to find Margolis mid-pitch. “What if that dog bit somebody?” he's asking an older couple with a black dog that looks like a Lab mix. “You'd say, 'That never happened before!' Wouldn't you say that? 'It never happened before.' And there it happened. Right? And then what've you got? A lawsuit. Right? Do you want a lawsuit? Of course you don't.” (He'd a used nearly the same words with me when I brought my 8-year-old Cairn terrier for Margolis to assess at his West L.A. sales office. “I'm talking to you as a client now,” he reminded me twice, “not as a journalist.”)
Not one to dress for the trenches, Margolis' jeans are neatly pressed, his sneakers sparkling white. He's a small man who gives an impression of wealth, but also of weariness: His graying brown hair looks thinner, his face more careworn than it does on TV; his brow seems perpetually contorted in consternation. Under the canopy in NIDT's driveway, Margolis is trying to persuade an 8-month-old chocolate-colored Shar-Pei puppy, Misha, to come to heel with repeated sharp jerks on her leash. Trembling in every muscle, the dog yelps and wriggles, throwing her head violently from side to side in an effort to escape the metal correction collar, commonly known as a choke chain. Meanwhile, Margolis lectures Misha's owners, a neatly dressed couple in their 30s who drove up in an alarm-equipped sport utility vehicle, on the tenets of love, praise and affection. “Most of my trainers,” he assures them, “are female.”
A few minutes ago, Misha might have been more compliant. She arrived at the kennel eager to solicit anyone's affection, and deemed Margolis as worthy of her love as anyone. As he squealed in his trademark falsetto – “Ooooh, what a nice little doggy! Oooh, Uncle Matty's proud!” – she climbed gingerly onto his lap, wagged her little brown tail and licked his face. But suddenly Margolis stood up. “Okay!” he announced. “Let's find out what you really have here.” Snapping a piece of paper against his thigh, he began stalking Misha with a menacing glare. Bewildered, Misha backed away. He raised a hand as if to strike her over the head; she cowered in a dramatic display of terror.
“See how scared she is?” Margolis says. “She needs socialization, see? Socialization in the kennel. That's the only way to deal with this shyness.”
The owners nod and smile weakly. “We've never seen her act like that before,” they say.
“That's what everybody says,” Margolis says, and turns the conversation from shyness to biting. “It only has to happen once. See that dog over there, Ulli?” He points to his own protection-trained German shepherd. “He's my dog. If I told you he only growled once, would you feel comfortable? You always want to remove yourself. It doesn't mean she's a bad dog, it means she's got problems. Most dogs have problems. It's social problems – shyness, aggressiveness – that's the problem.”
Margolis gives Misha a break and runs a few demonstrations. He borrows Jewel, a 10-month-old Dalmatian puppy, from her visiting family to show what four weeks at NIDT can do. Jewel, who'd already been performing beautifully with director of training Sherry Davis, jumps happily over Ulli's back as the big shepherd holds his down-stay. “And I've never worked with her before!” Margolis announces. Jewel goes back to her owners, and Margolis begins the process of winning Misha back, first by sitting on the ground and whining like a lost puppy. (The sound attracts dogs by working on an ancestral force: A whimpering dog means an injured dog, and an injured dog means leftover food.) But Misha has freaked beyond his estimation, and he's finally forced to go against his no-food principles. He retrieves a biscuit from a treat box and lures Misha toward him. She takes it. A few more squeals, a little scratching behind the ears – and eventually the puppy puts her paws cautiously back on Margolis' right leg.
“Now you wanna see something?” he says. “I don't know if she'll do it or not, but let's try.” He scoots away from the dog, but her paws remain in his lap. Margolis smiles broadly. Her owners are suitably impressed.
Margolis recommends Misha for seven to 16 weeks of socialization, at $395 a week. “Now, you have to be ready to make that kind of investment,” he says. “I mean, we can take a look at her in six weeks and maybe do the rest at home.”
“Oh,” says the man of the couple. “We wanna leave that up to you.”
A few days before I met Margolis, a state humane officer named Barbara Fabricant had de-scribed for me a scenario by which I could “trap” him. “Get one of your friends to dress up really nice and send her over there with a pit bull in a Mercedes, dripping with jewelry,” she advised. “I'll tell you what he does to these people. The dog is in the car. He goes over and bangs on the windows, screams and yells and goes into all kinds of gyrations. The dog thinks someone is trying to attack his owner's car, so he barks and growls. Matthew will go, 'You have a lethal weapon here!' When people hear how much it's going to cost to put the dog in the kennel for training and tell him it's out of the question, he'll say, 'Well then, you should put this dog down.'”
But there was never a need for a setup. All I had to do was hang around the kennel for a few hours on a Saturday morning before a woman drove up in a silver Honda Prelude with two dogs, one of them recently adopted from a shelter. Sure enough, Sherry Davis asked her to leave the dogs in the car, and subsequently approached the car to knock on the windows. As if on cue, the dogs went crazy, jumping from front seat to back, snarling and yapping as dogs will do when they're feeling territorial. The woman signed the pair up for 12 weeks of socialization. Never mind that her only concern was about the new dog chewing up her sofa.
Six years ago, Gail Katz was the woman in the nice car. “He saw me coming a mile away,” she says of Margolis. “My husband's a surgeon, and I drove up in a Volvo 760.”
Her new German shepherd puppy, Leybourne's Prin-cess Ariel, had already had a hard life. At 5 weeks of age, she'd been taken from her mother, who was recovering from an infection. Within days, she came down with parvovirus, a deadly communicable disease found in dogs under a year old. She survived only with a blood transfusion donated by her mother, Cinderella. According to a letter Katz wrote to Barbara Fabricant, “Cinderella's temperament was so incredible [that] after a five-hour car ride, [the vet] took a pint of blood from her jugular vein without having to muzzle or sedate her. She just sat there and let him do it.”
Ari completely recovered at 8 weeks, and by 3 and a half months had grown big enough to cause trouble. Katz had never owned a German shepherd before. “She frightened me to death,” Katz says. “I was afraid she would hurt my 2-year-old son. She was nipping at my hands, and I would scream and she would nip more. It turns out she thought my screaming was fun.”
On a friend's recommendation, Katz signed up for home training with NIDT trainer Nikki Litwin at $999 for eight weekly lessons. But at the end of the eight weeks, Ari was still nipping, and Katz was nervous. “I wanted someone who is an authority on dogs,” she wrote to Fabricant, “to tell me that Ari was not dangerous.”
In November of 1991, Katz brought Ari to Margolis for evaluation. “He put on a good show for us. He held her down, looked into her eyes and elicited her best fear response.” Ari scratched and fought, but never attempted to bite. Katz wrote that she “turned away in tears.”
Margolis diagnosed the dog as dangerously fear-aggressive, and told Katz, who also had a 6-year-old daughter at home at the time, that if she was not willing to pay to have the dog trained at his kennel for four months at $6,300, the dog would hurt her children, and that she should have the dog put to sleep. “He told me she wasn't a bad dog, that she was a good dog with 'major' problems. But he told me I couldn't give her to a shelter, because she might be adopted, and then she'd be a danger to someone else's child.” When Katz told him that was too much money, he offered her one month and 20 home visits for $4,300.
Katz wrote NIDT a check for $2,320 as a deposit and drove home, “debating whether to bring her to the Humane Society to be put to sleep so she wouldn't hurt anyone. But I didn't.” Instead, when she got home, she contacted Bob Penny, an animal handler who currently serves as chairman of the temperament committee of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America.
“Bob Penny came right over and took a look at her, played with her, and said, 'There's nothing wrong with this dog.'” He told Katz to call the bank and stop payment on the check, even though Margolis told her she had 48 hours to decide. But even though she'd written the check just two hours before, Bank of America informed her that the check had already been cashed. “I threw such a fit,” Katz says, “that they actually took the money out of his account and put it back in mine.
“I was crying buckets in his office and he let me do that, knowing he was full of shit,” says Katz. “I know Nancy Glass, who did this show, American Journal. I wanted her to get it on film. I wanted to set him up. But I could never get it all coordinated.”
“It's very annoying to me that you're making me defensive,” Margolis responds when I ask him why he recommended that Ari be put to sleep. “I didn't say that to Gail Katz. I said the dog is genetically messed up. I thought the dog had a genetic problem, and I was concerned about her children. I didn't think that dog would be safe with kids.”
I tell Margolis that Ari, who will be 7 in August, has since been trained to obey on hand signals, and has grown up with the children and never hurt anyone. “Look,” he says, “they called me with a problem, didn't they? Obviously they had a concern. She brought the dog to me. I don't solicit those people. If a dog is growling, whatever the reason is, can you guarantee that it will never happen again? Never. At the expense of somebody getting hurt, you don't do that. A lot of people are in denial about that.”
Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who's quoted on the back of Woof! as one of Margolis' fans, knows too well about the dog that only bites once. She bought that dog from Margolis. “I wrote that quote back in the days when I thought things were going well,” she tells me on a four-minute news break from her radio show. “And I regret it every day of my life.”
Schlessinger says she paid Margolis “somewhere on the order of $15,000 to $17,000” to train her first German shepherd puppy, Lazor. But after several months in Margolis' hands, “the dog was becoming more and more uncontrollable.” In lieu of a refund, Schlessinger traded Lazor for a fully trained protection dog imported from Germany, which Margolis would provide and promised to train for three months.
“The minute the dog was off the plane he said, 'Come and get your dog,'” Schlessinger remembers. “I said, 'I thought you were going to work with her.' He said, 'She's already great, come and get her.' I said okay. I named her Esta, you know, like the Esta bunny.”
By all accounts, Schlessinger lived up to her commitment to work with the dog, develop a relationship, drill her in obedience. “I'm very diligent,” Schlessinger says, “as you might imagine. I worked very hard with her.” (Margolis agrees. “She was out there with the dog every day for an hour.”) But she could do nothing to control Esta. The shepherd was “ferociously dog-aggressive,” according to Schlessinger. “She wanted to attack every dog she saw, including the Pekingese across the street. One day I was walking her, and a guy 25 feet away from me was walking a Dalmatian. You know how they are, just lumps of spots. The guy's dog did not even look at me, but Esta went to kill the dog anyway.” When Schlessinger tried to restrain her, Esta turned her jaw on her handler's thigh. “Luckily, I was wearing jeans, so her teeth didn't get through the denim. But I had a black-and-blue thigh for a week.
“I called [Margolis] and I was unglued,” Schlessinger says. “I was scared of her; I thought she was going to end up attacking me.”
Margolis took the dog back, but he did not apologize or admit any wrongdoing, nor did he refund any money, according to Schlessinger. Margolis isn't so sure. “I don't know the file, but I don't think that's true,” he told me. “I don't know. I'd have to check.” But he does admit that Esta “wasn't the right dog for her. You try to match the dog with the person. You try to think, what's the lifestyle, what's the personality? It was always 'protection, protection' with her. She seemed very concerned about protection.”
In some ways, it makes sense that Schlessinger turned to Margolis, whose advertising slogan was once “Love, Affection, Obedience, Protection.” In other ways, it's puzzling: The only negative press Margolis had ever received involved a protection dog he sold to the actor John Candy for $19,000 – a dog that Candy alleged suffered from chronic diarrhea. Candy and Margolis settled out of court, and a few months later Margolis sold the dog again, for $17,000. (The new owner is perfectly satisfied.)
The word protection has been dropped from Margolis' publicity campaigns – one of the current slogans reads, “The 11th Commandment: Never Hit Your Dog” – but Margolis still gives the impression that protection dogs are part of his business. On a kennel visit, I tell Margolis about meeting Jean-Claude Balu, a Fontana-based trainer who titles dogs in Schutzhund, a dog sport closely related to protection-dog training. Balu let me wear the sleeve and “take a bite” from his Belgian Malinois, Faust, who recently placed 14th in the World Schutzhund Championship in Slovakia. Margolis is unimpressed. “We do that kind of stuff here,” he claims. “Ulli's a Schutzhund III.”
But Margolis, by his own admission, didn't train Ulli. In fact, he doesn't do protection training at all – which hasn't stopped him from sitting on the three-man board that licenses protection-dog trainers for the city of Los Angeles. (The Los Angeles Department of Animal Regulation established the licensing program in early 1980 after animal-rights activists exposed guard-dog suppliers with nine-page rap sheets.) When I ask Margolis about the board, he can't remember what it's called but defends it anyway. “It's called the Sentry Dog . . . the Sentry Dog . . . I've forgotten what it's called.” (For the record, it's the Sentry Dog Licensing Board.)
“A lot of people say it's bogus,” I tell him.
“Bogus? Who says it's bogus?”
“Jean-Claude Balu for one. Mike Herstik, too.”
“Mike Herstik,” I repeat, referring to a local protection-dog trainer who, in fact, once worked for Margolis on contract.
“Did he go there? Did he get licensed?”
“Yeah. He gets one every year.”
“'Bogus.' It's always about 'bogus.' What do they do to legitimize the industry? I had to go through the test. At least it says you've had 2,000 hours of dog training. You check the references. At least you say, okay, you're a legitimately responsible person, as opposed to some guy who says, 'Yeah, hey, I train dogs, I'm a guard-dog trainer,' then he trains the dog wrong and he bites somebody. What do you have? They'd rather knock it. Why don't they improve it?”
But no one else – not state humane officer Barbara Fabricant, not even Margolis' fellow board member Rich-ard Karl – praises the licensing process. “I think it's okay,” says Karl, who owns Hollywood Dog Training in North Hollywood. “It could be improved. The Department of Animal Regulation is short-staffed and undermoneyed to be doing what they're doing.
“The truth of the matter is, we used to have more meetings,” Karl says wearily. “Obviously nobody's been up for licensing in a while.”
“Why do these television programs keep having him on as an expert when I keep sending them these letters?” Steve Mendelsohn says over lunch at Solley's in the Valley, handing me a folder full of documents – letters, press clippings, a Buzz interview, a storyboard for an episode of Hard Copy detailing how a reporter could catch Margolis in his act. “I want Oprah to see these letters. I want to have a head-to-head competition with Matthew on Oprah, using his own dog.”
Mendelsohn, a tall, imposing figure with a thick, black head of hair and a beard to match, carries around press clippings about other dog trainers, too, including the Los Angeles Times report on Angela Chan, who was mauled by the German shepherd that Howard Rodriguez of California K-9 sold her for $14,000 – mauled on the premises of Rodriguez's facility, during a session with a handler. (The case was settled out of court, and both parties have agreed to silence.) But he reserves the better part of his vitriol for Margolis, mostly because of a German shepherd named Dino that Mendelsohn became fond of over the few months in 1994 he worked for Margolis as a protection-dog trainer. He alleges that, after years of confining the dog to a kennel and refusing to sell him for anything less than $5,000, Margolis had Dino euthanized in April 1996. “I heard it took two shots to put him down,” he says. “This was a dog that did not want to go.”
Margolis doesn't deny that this happened, but he stops short of admitting it, too. “What I feel – I don't want to respond to that. I'm being put on the defensive without having clarity about this conversation. To remember the exact facts about this right off the top of my head is impossible. I'm not saying there wasn't a Dino. But I don't have any of the facts. It sounds like people have sour grapes about things.”
But it's this tendency to recommend euthanization to worried potential clients that fuels Mendelsohn's anti-Margolis faction, which includes Kevin Ryan, a dog trainer who co-owns the West Hollywood pet-supply store Animal Crackers, and Barbara Fabricant.
A week after my lunch with Mendelsohn, I drive out to meet Fabricant in the flat, forgotten San Fernando Valley suburb of Winnetka, where she lives in a house lined with mirrors, twinkling lights, climbing vines and portraits of various yogis throughout history. “Here's what you can get him on,” she says excitedly as she hands me a piece of faxed paper, the text of California Senate Bill 1991, “Animal Cruelty.” “What would be great is if you could write a story that would get him on Hard Copy. Do you think they might pick it up? Do you know he charges $3,000 to housebreak a dog? How can he housebreak a dog when the dog hardly sees the outside of the [kennel]?”
Over the course of her 22-year career as a humane officer, Fabricant has rescued thousands of animals from abusive homes. She keeps a photo album of survivors: a pit bull that had been tied to a tree all day while kids were sent to taunt him with sticks; a shepherd mix that survived on a steady diet of tortillas and was discovered near death from malnutrition. “We found her another home,” Fabricant says proudly, “and she turned into the most magnificent dog.” In the album is also a grisly photo of the infamous pug that was found skinned alive in an 80-year-old woman's back yard. “It was a big media thing, but the chances of finding out who did it were like looking for a snowball in Hades. So of course they tried to blame it all on coyotes. But look at those straight lines,” she says, pointing to the cut-away portion of the dog's skin. “That was no coyote.”
In another photo, dating back to the '70s, seven dogs lounge in various positions around Fabricant's living room. “I just lived with them,” she says of the dogs she rescued. “I never had to train them. They all just behaved.” Her last two dogs, a German shepherd and a border collie, passed away in early March of this year. They were, respectively, 17 and 21 years old.
“My son died last August,” Fabricant confides. “Shot in the head.”
“Wow,” I say, stunned. “It's really been a year of loss for you.”
“Yeah. But losing the dogs was the worst of it. My son, he was in the Hell's Angels. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.”
By that logic, one could deem dogs more worth defending than humans in general, and dog trainers in particular. “You could walk out in the street right now and say you're a dog trainer and start getting business. And no one would say you can't. You see trainers using these metal choke chains who don't know how to use them. These trainers – these idiots – they yank the hell out of the dog, and they end up with severe, irreparable throat damage.” But the public is to blame, too: “People think a trainer's word is gospel,” says Fabricant. “They forget that 90 percent of them are just in it for the money.”
Steve Mendelsohn has a T-shirt that says, “The only thing two dog trainers can agree on is what the third dog trainer's doing wrong.” Margolis' mentor, Captain Haggerty, says it a little differently: “If one guy trains dogs on top of the Empire State Building between 1 and 1:30 in the afternoon, then he'll say that's the only place to train dogs. Let me say the following: Matthew Margolis is not a god. I don't agree with everything he says. But he's extremely successful, and people hate him for that.”
With all the controversy over Margolis' business dealings, there's scarcely time for anyone to discuss whether he can train a dog. Mendelsohn and Herstik say his training techniques are from the '50s, that his “love, praise and affection” training is in reality based on heavy-handed correction. Dan Tambourine of Training With Tambourine, which offers in-home and in-kennel training as well as weekly obedience classes at Urban Dog, says that Margolis' disdain for food rewards amounts to abuse. “Most 'traditional' trainers,” says Tambourine – who refers frequently to the behavioral studies of B.F. Skinner – “profess to be caring, loving trainers who don't use punishment, but they're all liars. Not giving a food treat is punishment. Not giving a dog a pet is punishment.” Haggerty defends his former student's dog-training abilities, but not even he buys the “love, praise and affection” advertising. “That's the salesman talking, not the dog trainer talking. Margolis uses whatever works.”
Whatever works didn't work, however, on Lori Depp's German shepherds, Caesar and Boo, and by the end of her dealings with Margolis, she, too, was writing letters to the Channel 2 Action Team hoping to inspire an expose. The day she sprung the pair from Grace Konosky German Shepherd Rescue, they were out of control. “If I'd have been on skis,” she says, “I'd have been to my car in two seconds.” After 14 weeks (at $9,700) in Margolis' kennel, they were still out of control. Six months ago, Boo dragged Depp halfway down the block on her back, and if she wants to take either dog to the vet, she has to pay someone to help her load the dogs in the car.
“So if he's such a good trainer,” I ask Haggerty, whose huge, bald presence is an icon in the dog world, “how could a dog spend 14 weeks in Margolis' kennel and come home untrained?”
“My initial off-the-top-of-my-head reaction is that the owner is completely spastic, or the dog is a complete outlaw,” he says. “I can't believe he would spend 14 weeks with a dog and not train it.”
“The truth is that those dogs are beautifully trained,” Margolis insists. According to him, it was Depp who failed by not working her dogs at home. “There's only so much a dog trainer can do,” he says. “It's like the piano teacher – you can't make the person pra