I am a dog trainer with the heart of a social worker. You see, I have my formal education in Social Work. I possess both my BA and MA in the degree field and I’ve spent many years on a micro level (living and working in a boys group home) to the macro level (worked for a NGO at the United Nations) serving others. I’m a helper at the core of my being and now, I serve in a different way.
As a social worker, I’ve developed a deep understanding of how systems (from families to governments and institutions and everything in between) have an impact on the person and now, in my business, the dog too. When I sought out help from a professional who I believed knew better strategies of how to help him and me, what I found was counter cultural to my values. What I found, the methods used and how I was instructed to modify Jack’s behavior left me feeling uncomfortable and this inhibited my relationship with my Jack Bear. The systems of disapproving comments from friends, family and neighbors kept me feeling ashamed I wasn’t doing enough. The systems of professionals who find dominance theory still relevant kept me feeling uncomfortable and quite frankly sad because I was pushed to be thinking using force was the only way.
I felt lost in the dominance culture forced upon me. Instead of going down this road of forcing myself into a world that was in direct conflict with my value system, I became what I wanted. I became a dog trainer with a mission of teaching Jack in a force free and fear free way which does no harm to him, me or our relationship. As I learned how to help change behavior by using modern science (remember Pavlov and his dogs), and received guidance from those who came before me, I founded Four Paws & You Dog Training on positive reinforcement, force free and fear free principles.
The individual client and dogs are my focus. I take into consideration how the family, the neighbors, the local community, the culture and laws impacts the individual and family system. Therefore, in addressing my client’s concerns, attention during training sessions is on a holistic approach (remember all the systems in play), solution-based rather than problem focused and the use of reward based training methods.
Holistic Approach: The goal is understanding what is happening, if there are any medical issues or physical limitations in play (human or dog), what the family structure is like, what the goals of the family are, gaining an understanding what the dog is expressing when he is expressing it while teaching the family to understand the same with the goal of setting up the client and dog for success. You see, its not just teaching your dog to sit, I am taking into account all the pieces impacting you and your dog which is preventing your dog from following your direction when you ask for a sit!
Solution Based Rather than Problem Focused: I’m looking for solutions. This takes the pressure off. In a problem focused model, the professional’s attention is on diagnosis and cure. Well, if you ever experienced a dog with behavior concerns like barking and lunging at people and other dogs, or more severely, a dog who has a bite history, there is no type of cure for behavior. Behavior is fluid and is impacted by all the systems in play. Just like us, humans, behavior change takes time with consistent intention of making the change. If we don’t practice with intention, how can we expect our dogs to do the same. This is where solution based approaches are
Rewards-Based: Simply put, you’ll use whatever your dog decides is the best thing in his life. You’ll find this both motivating AND rewarding for your dog for all things you’re asking him to do. Learning takes time and consistency and with a ton of fun, you’ll find your bond unbreakable.