The Association of Pet Dog Trainer’s (APDT) has declared January National Train your Dog Month. The purpose is to bring awareness to the importance of socialization and training, and most of all, to inform the public that training your dog can be easy and fun! Their goal is to promote the use of training methods that are kind, gentle and have an emphasis on building a relationship with your dog. They are also offering a number of free webinars and facebook chats throughout January.
I had the pleasure of meeting Victoria Stilwell a year ago at Clicker Expo. She is the dog training star of Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog. Recently, I was fortunate to enjoy a telephone phone interview with Victoria:
L.S. What inspired you to first become a dog trainer?
V.S. I have always been fascinated with the ways that dogs learn. How is it that two different species can live together when they don’t speak the same language? I wanted to explore how we can have predators in our home and have a great relationship with them.
L.S. What makes your training methods different than more traditional methods used by some other tv personality dog trainers?
V.S. It is much safer, family friendly, dog friendly and humane. And it follows the latest science. The positive reinforcement training methods I adhere to encourage these animals to learn and problem solve. The old dog training style is about people thinking for the dog by instilling their will on that dog. Problem solving, however, provides security and confidence for dogs. It helps create a happy, healthy, confident dog. The old way is destructive. It gets short term results because it can be scary for the dog to not do what they are told. And it causes all kinds of stress in the long run. If anybody did to children what dominance based trainers do to dogs, they would be put in jail. Dogs are like kids because both rely on us 100%.
L.S. What has been one of your most rewarding moments on the tv show?
V.S. Last season I worked with a boy who was in love with his Pit Bull, and he had witnessed a murder at the end of the street while walking him. They both heard the gun shots. Because it was so traumatic for the boy, he couldn’t walk his dog anymore. He had developed PTSD. My job in working with him was to really bring the family together again. So much of my training now is about having people open up. I found myself in a situation that a dog trainer shouldn’t be dealing with. But, so much of training is about healing the family as a whole. The dog always picks up the family’s behavior. I’m hoping this boy can walk his dog again, and I’ve heard back since the show that he is doing much better. What I love about my job is the journey of it. We brought in professional help for his PTSD, but I was able to help him bond with his dog again. And, of course, his dog wanted to be there for him to heal.
V.S. Sadie is a 10 year old Chocolate Lab that we rescued at age five when her person died. Jasmine is a one year old Chihuahua mix that we recently adopted from a shelter. They are just delightful, lovely companions, to us and to our daughter.
L.S. What was the inspiration behind your new Canine Noise Phobia series?
V.S. I’m always looking for new training techniques that help dogs. And I wanted to create a product that would give trainers another tool to help dogs with sound anxiety issues. I love sensory education, because there is always so much to learn about dog sense. And it’s our responsibility to teach them the positive side in their learning process. What about their listening ability and finely tuned ears? What about building a positive association with music? Can they recognize music? The clinical tests already showed that the right prescription of music helped calm dogs and relieve their anxiety issues. I teamed up with the creators of Through a Dog’s Ear and, together, we created the Canine Noise Phobia series that helps with both the treatment and prevention of canine noise sensitivities. My job was to create a reward based training protocol that could be applied to the calming music and the progressive sound effects of fireworks, thunderstorms, and city sounds. It’s been a very exciting project!
L.S. Tell us about your positively trainers and how We Are Pet Nation readers can find them.
V.S. You can search for a Victoria Stilwell licensed trainer in your area here. Since dog training is still unregulated, I started my licensing program to ensure that dog lovers have access to the most accomplished, professional, reward-based training option in their area. Other trainers can say they are all about positive reinforcement, and then actually use dominance training. You can be assured that Victoria Stilwell licensed trainers use the same methods as you see me use on my show, and you will have great long term results. My selection process is pretty rigorous.
Click here to view episodes of It’s Me or the Dog with Victoria Stilwell. What do you think of reward based training methods vs. dominance based training? Thanks for sharing your thoughts in a comment below.
Have you tried Sound Therapy for your dogs? Through a Dog’s Ear is the first music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system.
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Our Star Expert
Lisa Spector is a concert pianist, Juilliard graduate, canine music expert, and pet blogger for Care2.com. By combining her passion for music with her love of dogs, she co-founded Through a Dog’s Ear, the first music clinically demonstrated to relieve anxiety issues in dogs, and is the pianist on the music series. She has presented at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers’ annual conferences and has appeared on the CBS Early Show. Lisa has been a devoted volunteer at the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA and a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Her performance tours include fundraising “canine concerts” for non-profit animal organizations, including a recent event for the Doris Day Animal Fund. She is the local director for Camp Unleashed Sequoia Lake, CA. Lisa shares her home and her heart with her two adorable “career change” Labrador Retrievers from Guide Dogs for the Blind, Sanchez and Gina. Sanchez takes the words “career changed” literally, as he has enjoyed agility, musical canine freestyle, and acting careers. Gina is a new agility enthusiast. As a concert pianist, Lisa has won first prizes in Chopin competitions in New York and Los Angeles and has performed in China, Poland, Spain, France, Italy and throughout the U.S. Lisa can be found at www.ThroughaDogsEar.com on Facebook and Twitter @ThroughADogsEar