I'm not really a dog trainer
I don't train dogs, I teach people to teach dogs.
My teaching philosophy is founded on a relationship of mutual trust and enjoyment between your dog and her human. The emotional well-being of both human and canine is at the heart of my approach. I strive for communication, connection, and choice—no matter if you come to see me for a so-called problem behavior or just want to spend time doing fun things with your dog.
Play is my favorite way to teach. It’s also our brain’s favorite way to learn. Play strengthens relationships, improves memory, reduces learning time, and inhibits fear. When we play we feel good about where we are, who we’re with, and what we’re doing.
Why would you want to learn any other way?
I use exclusively benevolent, force-free, and fear-free methods that are based on current research in behavioral science.
Dogs are people, too. We have surprisingly similar brains and share the same learning mechanisms. But dogs aren’t humans. In many ways, dogs are similar to 3-year-old children in terms of their emotional needs and intellectual capabilities, yet they are domesticated territorial predators in terms of their physical needs and behaviors.
Like you and me, dogs are individuals: what’s fun for one might not be for another. Unfortunately we don’t speak the same language, although dogs have gotten better at reading ours than we have at reading theirs—they depend on us after all. We have to find a way to communicate. The better we know each other, the more we are likely to understand each other.
Science has shown us that dogs do whatever works. They don’t plot to take over the world or your household. If a behavior has a desirable outcome (is reinforced), it will get stronger. Many things, both obvious and surprising, can reinforce behavior.
The alpha male myth has been debunked. A wolf pack is a family unit, led by a breeding pair—the parents. Your dog is a member of your family with you acting effectively as a dog parent: what do you expect of a parent? To watch out for you, protect you, be your advocate, keep you out of trouble, help you avoid making bad decisions. To listen, pay attention, be kind. To guide you, teach you, explain, be patient, engage in games with you.
Why I won't teach a new dog old tricks.
My first steps in positive reinforcement–certainly play–training started with Ekard Lind’s book “Hunde spielend motivieren” (motivating dogs through play), which I picked up in a real brick-and-mortar book store back in the late nineties with my then 8-week-old pup sleeping on my lap. This book started me on a path to using play–with toys, but also with food and, crucially, with interpersonal play. At the same time, I was still definitely a “normal” pet dog owner, who followed the age-old advice of firmness, not letting them get away with it, and only using food to teach the puppy–the grown up dog was expected to “know” how to behave and to “obey” because I said so.
Fast forward the life-span of a dog and I have a new 8-week-old blank-slate puppy. By now we have video on our phones and boy do we use it. My very first video showed me and my brand new puppy–the same night I brought her home–on the floor rolling a tennis ball around and just exploring the house. Quite literally every other word that came out of my mouth was a stern “NO.” There was this brand new being, infinitely curious about the world, and this was my idea of welcoming her? I was so utterly shocked by watching this video that I decided to completely rethink how I raise my dog–so I turned to the internet. Watching kikopup aka Emily Larlham teach her dogs without the need for any physical or verbal “corrections”–not even an “eheh”–was an eye-opener for me that pushed open the door to a journey of self-examination and learning I still find myself on today.
Since then, my most pivotal teachers and “inspirations” have been Leslie McDevitt, whose book “Control Unleashed” has taught me that emotions come first; Suzanne Clothier, from whom I’ve learned that relationship matters more than anything; Denise Fenzi, who has re-inspired me to put play, especially interpersonal play, front and center of that relationship; my mentor Patrick Aufroy, who has taught me that we have to learn to teach people before we can hope to teach dogs; and, finally, my international, inspirational, magical tribe of gamechanging unicorns at absoluteDogs, because change only happens when we are all working together.
I will never use or suggest coercion, pain, fear, or intimidation.
I am committed to staying up to date with current behavior research and continually learning from top international colleagues. The following is a selection of workshops, seminars and presentations that have informed my approach.
Reactivity: A Program for Rehabilitation; Emily Larlham (2013)
Harnessing the Hunter: Building your relationship & reliability with a hunting dog; Emily Larlham (2013)
Therapeutic Agility Summit; Michele Godlevski, Jackie Wright-Minogue: Mike Wallace, M.Ed., Melissa Ellis, Mandy Baker (2013)
Advanced Clicker Skills: Shaping and Targeting; Julie Flanery, CPDT-KA (2013)
BAT 2.0 ; Grisha Stewart MA, CPDT-KA, KPACTP (2014)
Train the dog in front of you; Denise Fenzi & Deborah Jones, Ph.D (2016)
The Agility Challenge; Daisy Peel (2017)
Toys -Developing Cooperation and Play; Shade Whitesel (2017)
Engagement; Denise Fenzi (2017)
Instinct Games: Leadership in Drive; Cassia Turcotte (2017)
The Agility Challenge; Daisy Peel (2018)
Fix it: Effective Behavior Change; Sarah Stremming (2018)
Concept Training: Modifier Cues; Dr. Ken Ramirez, Karen Pryor Academy (2018)
Control Unleashed: Reactive to Relaxed; Leslie McDevitt (2019)
Dealing with the Bogeyman – Helping Fearful Reactive and Stressed Dogs; Amy Cook (2019)
Educateur canin comportementaliste
Doggycoach 2.0; Patrick Auffroy (2017)
Pro Dog Trainer
Absolute Dogs; Lauren Langman and Tom Mitchell (2018)
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