Q. Why did you become a dog trainer? How long have you been one?
A: I have always loved dogs my whole life! Funny enough, my parents are NOT dog people and we didn’t have any when I was younger. I would ask my neighbors if I could play with and walk their dogs for them. I would train their dogs to do obedience and eventually started taking a neighbor's dog to agility classes. I was around 13 by that time. At 16, I got my very own dog and started competing in obedience, agility, and conformation with him.
Q. Do you have any dogs of your own?
A: I currently have four dogs: Two Shelties, a mutt, and a new Papillon puppy. They range in age from 11 years old to 4 months old. I also have two cats.
Q. Do you have a method or philosophy by which you train dogs?
A: I’m a positive-based trainer. I teach the dog what I would like it to do and use management to stop unwanted behaviors from being rehearsed while learning the new behaviors. We use anything the dog is motivated by for learning, including food, play, and interaction.
Q. Is it important for the dog parents to understand what you’re doing and be involved?
A: Definitely! I have a board and train program, and many people think that the dogs come back fully trained and the owner doesn’t have to do anything. This isn’t the case at all. The owners must be involved and learn how to communicate with their dogs efficiently. The whole second half of the program is about the owner learning about their dog and how to communicate with it.
Q: What are a few common bad habits all dog parents need to stop?
A: I think many owners are under the impression their dogs need to “socialize” with as many dogs and people as possible. They allow their dogs to run up to everyone often, and it can create a lot of bad habits, including reactivity toward others when a dog gets frustrated they can’t run up to someone. Teaching a dog to relax around others is a life skill, and you’ll be able to enjoy your dog's company more often in new places if he doesn’t think everyone else is so exciting. Second I would say puppy owners give their developing, growing puppies too much freedom before the puppy is ready for it. Puppies go through a lot of different stages while becoming adults and need supervision and guidance.
Q. How important is it to keep your dog entertained?
The most important! As humans, we are constantly entertaining or keeping ourselves busy. We have tv, music, podcasts, video games, books, sports, gym, puzzles, and games. We can leave the house when we want, call up a friend to chat, etc. It’s silly to expect a dog to just lay around waiting for you to eventually do something with it. A lot of “problem” behaviors I see are just boredom behaviors. Dogs that aren’t exercised appropriately because the owner is too “tired.” Dogs that aren’t provided with appropriate options for self-entertainment like food puzzles, toys, and chew items. Dogs that only ever leave the house to go to stressful places like a groomer or the veterinarian's office when owners should be taking their dogs to do simple things like walk in a new neighborhood or park.
Q. When is the best time to give your dog chews like Bully Sticks?
Bully sticks are a favorite in my home. I give bully sticks under supervision when I would like to give the dog something fun to do for a while. Usually, if I’m busy with something like work, cooking, laundry, or just watching tv I will give the dogs chews to keep them entertained. Chewing is a relaxing activity for a dog so we tend to give chews and puzzles often.
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