My K9 Sanders (pictured above) was my best friend. We were with each other more than my wife and I; on extended shifts we ate the same food and drank from the same water bottle. There wasn’t anything we wouldn’t do for each other. We didn’t need a leash to bind us or words to communicate. I didn’t know it but this relationship based, positive reward training was to become my passion.
In 2006, we both retired and it seemed only natural that I’d go into dog training. I didn’t want to do the old school ways and besides, Sanders had taught me that there was a better way. I looked around and ended up with Petsmart. Lo and behold, their dog trainers training had a name- positive reinforcement, reward based training. Sanders would go to work with me every day and we’d show off in the training ring, letting people see what positive training could do. There was no better advertisement than Sanders and every dog owner wanted their dog to be just like him. Now I had the opportunity to educate people and train dogs. Paradise.
In 2007, I left Petsmart to join a family run Pet Resort called Purr’n Pooch. Owned and operated by Dick Palazzo, this place is second to none. Pools, day care play yards, boarding suites with marble and leather couches and best of all? Dick is a long time trainer and behavior specialist. I am very fortunate because Dick became a mentor and a friend, feeding my desire to learn about and do behavior work. On top of that, I enticed an outstanding trainer named Vicky Durnye to come with me to Purr’n Pooch. She’s incredibly talented, scary smart and very creative. I have worked with everything you can imagine. When I’ve run out of ideas, Vicky and Dick come up with more. If we’re all stumped, we’ve been able to call on Dr Nick Dodman.
In 2009, while visiting the Best Friends Animal Society (‘Dogtown’) sanctuary in southern Utah, I was enlisted into a program called the Community Training Partners. As the very first one, Program Coordinator Mike Harmon and I had to figure out the direction for the program. It is because of this program that I adopted my first dog from Best Friends, who was also the first Community Training partners Dog, Rufus. He was 8 years old, had never lived in a home, had a myriad of fears and he taught me so much, fueled my desire even more to help behaviorally challenged dogs and became "My Big Buddy". It took some time, but long before he passed away (March 2016), he learned that the world was safe and fun and that dogs and people were great to be around. He was also Joey's big brother.
It was while at a Super Adoption event in 2010 that I made contact with a representative of ‘It’s Me or the Dog’. I learned about Victoria’s new program for positive dog trainers. While I was beginning that process, Victoria visited the shelter where I’m a behavior consultant so that she could utilize some of the dogs for a live show she was putting on locally. It was while working with her that day, and meeting with her before the show that night, that my desire to be a VSPDT was cemented. I completed a rigorous interview process, background and 10 hour grueling in-person, on-site interview and became a licensed and endorsed Victoria Stiwell Positive Dog Trainer (VSPDT) in Nov. 2010.
I left Purr'n Pooch in 2010 in order to start my business, The Inner Dog, whose main focus is almost exclusively on dogs with moderate to severe behavioral issues. These dogs are in our homes, our shelters and our rescues and everyday the ones in our homes are surrendered to shelters or dumped on the streets because of their issues. I feel strongly that there must be a multi-pronged approach to begin eradicating this issue: education of people, treatment for the dogs. This is why I give seminars to dog owners, lovers, shelters and rescues; why my initial sessions with clients are about so much more than just 'working the dog'. Educating people means showing them why scientifically proven, time and again, pain free, fear free, force free, science based, positive reinforcement training has the most profound positive effect when dealing with canine behavior. It is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that these methods work the fastest, last the longest and are the most reliable methods to use. Trainers and believers in other methods can disagree all they want but they cannot point out a single piece of verifiable, quantifiable evidence to back up their claims. Why? None exist. All of those aversive methods that utilize fear, force, discomfort and pain are based on the human desire to dominate, whether it be other humans, other species, other cultures, religions, geography and even nature. It is simply and strictly a human trait, derived from fear and used on whatever we seek to control our fear of.
My message is simply this:
Build TRUST with your dog by making sure he feels safe and that you are always his advocate, TEACH your dog the skills he needs to live a happy, healthy life with you in our crazy human world, CHANGE unwanted, inappropriate or fearful behaviors using only pain free, fear free, force free, science based, bond building, positive reinforcement tools and methods which ultimately means that you and your dog will ENJOY the incredible partnership that both of you want and deserve.
In 1982 I joined the Army and was stationed in Germany with some MP K9 handlers. I listened to the stories of their initial training which sounded harsh. I didn’t know any better but I sure did learn better. The handlers treated their dogs like gold. I came to see the benefits of their bond, their trust in each other, how their interactions were always positive; very different from what they’d been taught. That’s what I wanted when I got a dog again.
Now it’s 2001, the aftermath of the terrorist attacks here in the US. I’m a police officer with a large mass transit agency and it decides to start a K9 unit. I was chosen as one of the founders, to not only be an explosives detection k9 handler, but to start a unit from scratch that was to grow to 8 teams by the time I retired. It was in K9 school that I again was privy to the benefits of positive training, though it didn’t have a name. My instructors drilled into us the mantra of ’trust your dog’, that ‘what goes down the lead comes up the lead’, ’it’s not the dog that’s stupid, it’s the human’, “your dog is family, treat it that way’ and the realization that the stronger our bond, the better the chance that we’d serve and protect in the best manner possible. They were so right.
I come from a family that always had dogs, mostly German Shepherds. I was the kid that was always getting bit no matter how many times I was told to “let sleeping dogs lie” or “don’t bother the dog while it’s eating”. Never made me afraid of them, just made me wonder why they did it (stupid human). This also means that, back in the day, we ‘trained’ our dogs the wrong way- smacked them with the rolled up newspaper, shoved their noses in their accidents, kept them chained up outside, used a choker, fed them whatever was available. Thankfully times have changed.
The Inner Dog LLC