“All Dogs Need A Purpose”: Our Mérida Dog Trainer Explains Her Journey

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Recently, Highland Canine Training launched its newest dog training location – and our first location in Mexico!

Alejandra Vázquez Bracho Illescas provides professional dog training services to dog owners in Mérida, Yucatán. Alejandra offers a range of Highland Canine’s dog training programs, including private lessons, Board and Train programs, group classes, and more. 

In this blog article, Alejandra provides us with a first-person perspective of her journey to becoming a professional dog trainer – and what motivated her to help dogs and their owners.

My journey to becoming a professional dog trainer

by Alejandra Vázquez Bracho Illescas

“What is your hobby?”

“What do you like to do in your free time?”

These are some of the most common questions you get asked when meeting people, or by teachers on the first day at school, to which I have always answered – “spend time with dogs.” 

My name is Alejandra Vázquez Bracho Illescas, I am 25-years-old, living in Mérida, Yucatán, México. I have always loved animals. 

I have a degree in Natural Resources Management. I am cheerful, committed to my goals and to the environment. I like to share awareness about how we can be better humans by being kind and helpful to each other and to all kinds of lives. I believe that we should build a life more environmentally aware and sustainable.

Besides that, I am passionate about dogs. Since I was born, there were always dogs at home. My dad had an Irish Setter with whom he did competition obedience. Later on, our dog pack became bigger and bigger, and there were up to 6 dogs in the house. Lots of wagging tails and barks, and I was the one spending most of the time playing with them and helping with the cleaning. Somehow, I became the dog/puppy keeper at home. I had to learn how to handle the dogs to avoid misbehavior. 

At the time, I did not know it, but I was getting a little taste of what dog trainers have to do.

Early beginnings

At 8 years old I started handling the dogs at beauty matches (composition shows). I liked it, but my favorite part of going to the matches was meeting other dog breed owners, and that I got to see the K9 and obedience training demonstrations. Back then, I daydreamed about being a dog trainer. I wanted to learn the secrets of being able to communicate with the dogs.

In Junior High, I saved money by selling candy at school to buy my own dog to train. I ended up having a black English Cocker, Miga. With not much training knowledge, I started reading magazines about dogs and training, to try and learn something. At only 15 years old, I fully trained Miga on obedience and house manners. She is now a happy, well-trained, 10-year-old house dog who has taught me a lot.

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Volunteering with rescues

In Mexico, stray dogs are a big issue. Many dogs are abandoned by their owners for misbehavior,. The adoption centers are full with unadoptable dogs because of their age, fearfulness, reactivity or lack of training. 

I wanted to be part of the solution. In 2015, I volunteered for six months at the Central Alberta Humane Society as a dog walker in Red Deer, Alberta, CA. To learn about rescue centers. I got to see a lot of differences on how the dogs were treated, and how trainers there were working with fear or reactivity issues to successfully place dogs in a home.

But I felt that rescuing dogs was not going to be effective in solving the problem. Sterilization became my answer in stopping the issue from growing. When I came back to Mexico, I started dog walking and dog sitting while finishing my degree and working part-time. I also volunteered at Ester y Liza, a non-profit organization that offers low cost sterilization services and does catch and release labor. With that, my love for dogs grew; they are such noble beings, and as I learned how they adapted to humans, my desire to understand them and help them grew even stronger. I got to meet desperate owners because of “crazy dog problems”. Seeing that a lot of people have a lack of knowledge in how to fulfill their dog’s basic needs, I started considering becoming a dog trainer. 

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How I became a dog trainer

I started by going with a dog trainer as an intern. At the same time, I enrolled into obedience dog training group classes with another trainer, with a borrowed, untrained dog. My interest grew and made me decide to look for new alternatives. In the search, I found the Master Dog Trainer program at the School for Dog Trainers – and I loved it! 

The Master Dog Trainer program taught me the different types of work that can be done with the dog – whether it is to help the safety of the population, or to help people with different skills. Promoting working with dogs as a team, seeking the best interest for both the human and the dog. I got to work with service dogs, working dogs and pet dogs.

I learned that dog training keeps you humble – and that there will always be a dog that will come to teach you something new. I learned that, like in all other disciplines, learning will never stop, there will always be something new to learn, something to update, to improve upon.

With the desire to learn as much as I could before coming back, I applied to do an internship at Highland Canine. I got to see more in detail how they work with dogs. I got to participate in Service dog training from start to finish; to catch bite dogs; and to train bomb and drug detection dogs. I also got to work with pet dogs and clients, do behavior modification, among several other things. 

I know there is still a lot I can learn, but I also know I’m coming back to Mexico as prepared as I can, and the rest will come with time. 

I see dogs not only as a great source of love and loyalty to human beings, but as a species with the desire to serve them and to fulfill a function. I believe there is no perfect method or school, but indeed there are better methods depending on dog personalities and temperaments. 

I have seen a great lack of awareness about dog needs and their use as a tool. Because of that. I want to create a space in Mexico where owners come to learn how to be better owners and for dogs to obtain a happy lifestyle. This will give dog owners in Mexico the tools they need to lead a quality life with their dogs. 

I believe that all dogs need a purpose, and we as owners have the responsibility to satisfy it. I want to work with dogs as a team to accomplish better things together, while understanding their different breed capabilities.

To learn more about Highland Canine’s services in Mérida, please visit our dedicated location page:

Dog Training Merida, Mexico (English) | Entrenamiento Canino Mérida, Yucatán, México (Español)

You can also contact Alejandra at +52 999 416 2160 or via email.

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