Merced County Times Newspaper
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Mercedians learn to guide, connect with their dogs


Have you ever wondered why your dogs react the way they do?

Barking, pulling, and many other problems can confuse and frustrate many dog owners as they try to understand their furry companions.

Ancestral Companions, a duo pet training team run by siblings Juan and Maria Luzuriaga, are here to help. They are the top-rated dog trainers in the Merced area and have just finished hosting their first “Mastering Your Walk With Your Dog” training class for small dogs at the Multicultural Arts Center (MAC) on Sunday, July 24, and plan on hosting another training class in the near future.

“We started by walking around and giving free advice to people here and there, helping as many people as we could,” Luzuriaga explained of their start. “There was a really big need in the community for this service… as we reached out to people it just kept growing and growing.”

Since February of this year, the siblings have committed to teaching and assisting residents with dog training and other services that include dog walking, sitting, and group demonstrations like the one held at the MAC. Their training also includes targeting specific behaviors such as; reactivity, fear based aggression, and basic obedience.

“My sister and I are very in tune with our ancestry,” Luzuriaga said of their training name Ancestral Companions. “The name goes really deep because we want to make the connection with the people we meet and have them grow their connection with their dog and also their ancestry as well. If you are connected with knowledge of an animal, you are connected with your ancestors. That is why we are always representing that spiritual connection to align what comes from dogs and the wolf line and how one of our ancestors at one point had a wolf pup and created a bond with him.”

Between the duo, every week Ancestral Companions helps over 50 dogs as the need for dog training, sitting, and walking has gone up as many people are re-emerging into the workforce and leading busier lives than those they have lived the past two years due to the pandemic.

“There was a huge resurgence in animal services and animal care after the pandemic and during the highlight of the most difficult parts of the pandemic. The fact is that sometimes people were looking for things to do or had extra time and so they decided to get interested in an animal. We see a lot of different situations; some of our clients are people who don’t have as much time as they used to but they have a need to teach their dog to do a certain thing whether it’s behaving, being calm at the store, or learning how to be at home alone without being anxious.”

Moksha, Luzuriaga’s 2-year-old companion, is a therapy dog and also an essential part of the team as she helps dogs rehabilitate from fear and aggression and also helps comfort puppies, big, and mean dogs.

“She teaches them a lesson or helps them become more confident,” he explained of the rescue.

Moksha is a rescue and the team emphasizes that along with their training service, they also continually advocate for residents to adopt and rescue whenever they can.

“There is always an ongoing thing with dog services and so we are very in touch with the community. We also give presentations at some schools and are talking to Mayor Serratto and the public schools superintendent to do an outreach program where we’re touching on a lot of different demographics and teaching the public how not to get bit by a dog — specifically for kids.”

“We’re also currently trying to put together another ‘Mastering Your Walk’ class for bigger dogs at the MAC,” he said of upcoming events. “And we are going to be having a little 5k where owners can walk around with their dog and also put together a donation for all the strays and rescue efforts in the area.”

A “Paint with your Dog” is also in the works where owners can essentially have their dogs make art for them. No specific dates have been set for any of the events but Luzuriaga mentions “Mastering Your Walk” will be held in late August to early September.

“I invite people to think outside of themselves and to look at their dog and really ask them what they need to be fulfilled, not what WE think, but what they need, and then they will be able to actually grow a better relationship with their dog that way.”

For more information on Ancestral Companions, you can reach out to the siblings at (201) 681-2972 or visit their website at

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