I have been an animal-lover all my life. My dog Becca, pictured below with a stick, taught me much about mutual respect and cooperation between animals and humans. (And how to throw large sticks!)
I have been working with dogs in various capacities for 20 years, including helping friends train their dogs and managing a dog daycare and boarding business. More recently, many of these years were spent both volunteering and working at the Humane Society of Chittenden County (HSCC), including a year as the Humane Investigator and three years as the Canine Supervisor. I helped rescue animals in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and have worked with HSUS in rescuing and caring for animals involved in hoarding situations and puppy-mill seizures. I am a full member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and of the Pet Professional Guild, both of which have the mission of educating trainers and pet-owners in humane training methods.
In addition to training shelter dogs, I took professional training under Gail Fisher, a premier clicker trainer at All Dogs Gym in NH. Clicker (or marker) training is a force-free, very fun and effective training method that teaches dogs to think and make "good" decisions, instead of just waiting for us to tell them what to do. Dogs are intelligent animals with active minds, and they will think whether or not we want them to, so it is to our benefit to channel their thinking productively.
From my time with HSCC, I have a clear picture of the kinds of situations and behaviors that result in dogs ending up abandoned or in shelters, most notably a lack of early socialization and an absence of basic training. This is such a pervasive problem, and one so easily remedied, that I am committed to educating dog--and especially puppy-- owners to socialize and train their dogs, even if they don't forsee a need for their dog to ever interact with the public. You just never know what life will bring. Plus, friendly dogs with basic manners have more interesting and fun lives--in short, they get to go places! Unsocialized dogs or those with poor manners often end up staying home.
My philosophy of dog training is that dogs are our partners and companions, not our servants. Dogs have intrinsic worth, not just in relation to humans. Respect and trust should flow in both directions. The methods I use are based on a cooperative, not an adversarial, relationship with our dogs; there is no dominating, leash-jerking, or alpha-rolling. Since we bring dogs into our foreign human world, we need to teach them kindly how to live successfully within it so we can all live happily together. This is training.
But we can go so far beyond that. We can learn new ways to deepen our relationship with our dogs and to have FUN with them, so that their lives and ours are mutually benefited and enriched. And ideally, we become students as well as teachers.
"In order to really enjoy a dog,
one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human.
The point of it is to open oneself
to the possibility of becoming partly a dog."
~ Edward Hoagland