Training is a very personal business - you let us into your homes and lives and open up during some of your most frustrating & joyful moments. As we celebrate & reflect on the last 5 years we want to share a bit of that with you - how we ended up here, what our favorite moments are & why we do what we do.
Looking back, it seems training and behavior was always a part of my path from my days riding horses and early training of my first dogs, Baron & Wally. As a career, it really came into light a bit later as I started to do some volunteer work with dogs. Not only did I get my hands on a lot of different dogs and really enjoy working with them, I started helping train volunteers and solve some post-adoption struggles for new adopters. The more I studied, the more I was able to help & the more hooked I became. Honestly, the education required for this field is one of my favorite things - there will never be an end to what I can learn and gain from study & experience. Before starting Practical Obedience LLC, my first formal education on dog training was through Animal Behavior College. Five years later I'm in the middle of my second, more exhaustive coursework through the Academy for Dog Trainers. Between there are countless seminars, webinars, books, videos and hours of shadowing & research. There are so many facets to understanding these incredible creatures we bring into our lives combined with all the skills required to teach and coach people - I can't imagine a point where I will feel like I know it all.
I knew immediately I wanted to teach individual training courses - I wanted to close the gap between what owners learned in basic classes and what they needed to be successful at home. Countless times I saw how owners could teach basic cues - sit, down, stay, etc - but failed to understand how to use these skills to solve everyday problems like jumping or begging. I felt addressing training at home would address both of these pieces to the puzzle: teaching the dogs the skills and the owners the best ways to use these skills. After the first year or so of training, I realized there was another important component missing: knowledge about dogs. Unless they were seeking this information out, most owners weren't being taught how to read and understand their dog's body language or to look at things from their dog's perspective. So many behaviors that are completely normal for dogs are constantly vilified as having alternative motives such as dominance or stubbornness or spite. There is so much misinformation available to dog owners that can send them in all the wrong directions. It became obvious that helping owners understand their dogs was important to their training success.
After teaching body language and other basic dog education in individual sessions and seeing the impact it had on the outcomes of training, I revamped our programs to include this information for all owners. In 2016 I reformatted our training programs to fully invest in owner education as a part of our process. I started our small group orientations to set the stage and serve as a foundation for all the individual training. It allowed me to ensure that all owners we work with (beyond a single session or two) would have the opportunity to get a crash course in canine communication, prevention of problems, how dogs learn and I could bust a few common myths along the way. It followed right in line with my original plans: to empower owners with more that just a "do this" set of instructions but to understand how and why we want you to do it this way.
It's amazing that a tagline that I started five years ago "Training WHAT matters WHERE it matters most" could continue to drive our focus to this day. Often training *what* matters isn't just about a custom list of skills that are important to an owner. It's about giving owners the knowledge, skills and information they need to be successful with their dogs. Sometimes that's about training skills but often it's about perspective and understanding. My favorite part about training is helping owner's see their dog's perspective and opening their eyes to how their dog views the world. It's about letting them know it's OK if their beloved dog sleeps in bed, sharing that their dog is actually very afraid (not trying to be mean) and giving owners the tools to build a strong bond and positive relationship with their pups. From starting out on the right foot with puppies to resolving a difficult, entrenched behavior - our focus is and always will be to give owners the tools, knowledge and understanding they need to enjoy their dogs. Here's to five more years of "Training WHAT matters WHERE it matters most".