Charleston, SC Dog Trainer talks about learning vs behavior modification, indicators and socialization of dogs.
Have you ever found yourself frustrated at your dog because he or she wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t stop pulling on the leash or was simply embarrassing you in front of your friends by jumping all over everyone when they came in? Well, you are not alone. If you are one of the 99% of people that didn’t get the “perfect” well behaved dog, then I can assure you, you have many people that can sympathize with your challenge. The good news is, your dog can be taught, and he or she wants to learn.
The Dog Wizard of Charleston is an expert in dog training, and he shared some extremely valuable information with us that we think you will find helpful!
Q: How did you get into this profession? Did you always know you would be a dog trainer?
A: I knew from an early age that I wanted to work with animals, but I didn’t know the exact direction. I never said, “ I am going to be a dog trainer, or I am going to be a marine biologist,” but I knew I loved animals! I naturally began training a few cats and dogs that belonged to my friends without pay. I did it just because there was a need, and it was natural for me.
I attended Art School at Winthrop in Charlotte, where I met my now wife. She was a nanny, and the family she worked with kept their dog in a crate for 8-9 hours a day. She felt bad for the dog, and asked if she could find someone to help with training. They gave her the go ahead, and in her research, she came across The Dog Wizard Academy. Immediately she started asking lots of questions, thinking that I would be great at this.
After inquiring about scholarships for their program, I started doing some work with the company. I did everything they needed me to do over the next three and a half months and they ended up granting me the scholarship for the program. That was almost five years ago!
Q: How do some dogs, that 1% just end up “good?”
A: Some dogs just get it. They understand and they behave. A larger percentage of dogs are brought into the family as a pup and the older family dog is still alive and actually helps teach and train the puppy, passing on those good qualities, and this goes on over the generations.
Q: With training, is it all individualized single sessions or are their classes too? How do people know which is right for them?
A: This all depends on the dog and the goals. If a client is interested in their dog being leash trained, I can do that in a short period of time. If the dog has behavior issues with children and the wife is pregnant, then the ongoing Socialization Group classes that I put on every Saturday morning would be a better fit. All training depends on the dog, how bad or good the behavior is and what the goals are.
Q: What are the top three complaints that people come to you to fix?
A: People want their dog to have a strong recall command and come when they call.Chasing their dog is embarrassing and troublesome
Second, people do not want their dog pulling /lunging/jerking/exploding/reacting/aggressing on the leash for any reason suach as: squirrels, a ball, or another dog.
Third, people do not want to be embarrassed by their dog jumping on house guests/children.
Q: You mentioned the older family dog helping train the younger pups. I hear the term “socialization” a lot and how important it is. Can you talk a little about what socialization means, if it is important, and, if so, why?
A: I am still an itty bitty baby in the world of dog training and I still know a lot more than the average person… but My goal is to always be or emulate the calm alpha dog or wolf, and I can do this pretty well for a human, but overall, I am not a dog or wolf. A dog of wolf is always going to be better at this, so having a dog around other dogs allows them to have breakthroughs that have more impact because they feel like they are learning them on their own. I have two personal dogs that are “trained” as employees of my company that help me train for that reason.
For example, if a dog is humping another dog, I can yell and gesture and smack his back end and say “no.” This will eventually get the point across if repeated consistently enough. If the dog is humping the other dog, and I let the dog manage this behavior, the dog will teach that dog not to hump very quickly and will let it go. He will snap quickly and the misbehaving dog will learn immediately that he should not be humping that other dog. In this way, socializing is great because it catalyzes these breakthroughs that are much quicker.
Socialization skills are important to learn from a young age. I like to get a new Pup that I’m working with into mixed dog play groups (*different size, age, and shaped dogs) around the age of 8-10 months at the latest. The early access to good dogs with variances in personalites will provide the NEW Pup with a rich environment to practice social skills, like bite inhibition. Also, this allows dogs of all sizes to be together and get used to that dynamic which will help them develop in a balanced way .
Q: How do you know if there is behavior that needs to be corrected? I have heard that if dogs are wagging their tails, then everything is fine. Is this an indicator we can use to judge the situation by?
A: 60-70% of the time wagging is based on that dog feeling comfortable. However, there are times when wagging doesn’t necessarily represent good behavior. For example, if a dog has drawn blood before, he may wag because he is adrenalized by the thought of that experience, which is not good. So, sometimes this is a good indicator, but not always. Just like with people, dogs’ personalities and their individual behavior will be different than other dogs.
Some indicators you can keep in mind are:
-Is the tail wagging?
-Is there visible stiffening w/ a low growl
-Is the lip curled?
-Are the teeth showing?
-Is there a Mohawk? (Is the hair on the back standing up?)
-Where is the dog looking?
Even though these are things to consider, it is not always clear. For instance, the Mohawk can be more like goose bumps where the dog is stimulated but not upset.
Q: What are some things owners can do to prevent uncomfortable or volatile situations?
A: Knowing your dog is KEY! The more you know about your dog’s body language and behavior, the more prepared you can be going into an encounter with another dog. For example, if you know that your dog goes into an encounter with full eye contact (which is fighting language for dogs), but maybe they move into the nose to rear that then helps them calm down, you can use leash tension to direct them to the nose to rear positioning to avoid that eye contact that could cause some tension.
Q: Does the age of the dog matter in training?
A: Learning is different than behavior modification. If I am training a new dog to sit, it will take less time than house breaking an older dog that has been going to the bathroom inside for years. It is all dependent on the family’s goals and the dog’s physical ability. An older dog will re-learn to sit quickly and a puppy will learn to sit just as fast, but the older dog who once knew sit will learn to “stay” and be comfortable in rested positions much faster than the puppy who is learning it for the first time.
Q: How long does it take to train a dog?
A: Generally it takes 2-3 weeks…but some doges require much more attention and follow up. I never know how long it will take to train any dog on any task or reach any goal until we start and get to know on another. It is all dependent on so many components.
Q: What is your favorite part of your career as a professional dog trainer?
A: I used to be interested in that feeling I got when the guy would say “You saved my relationship man. It was either me or the dog, and you saved it all with this training!”
Now I am more interested in the transition of the dog. Seeing a dog with separation anxiety go from shivering in the corner when the door creaks or the A/C turns on to being able to chill out and behave confidently is so satisfying. I know my work is done with a dog when I want to keep the dog as part of my pack.
Q: Owning a business is not easy. Who in your life has helped you get to where you are?
A: My Bright Wife, the part Owner of The French Eclectic (Vintage Furniture Rental) has been such a huge help in keeping me motivated and prompt, not to mention even pointing me in the right direction in the beginning. She has helped and continues to help me get where I am going. My Partner and friend Noelle Woodhead showed me how to kick butt at this profession! Also, my partnership with Riley Place Pet Retreat has been amazing! I have trained the dogs of the entire staff and I also use their facility for my classes. The owner of Lowcountry Valet and Shuttle, Jeff Newton
Here are some other businesses that have been monumental in my development as a business owner and professional in the Charleston community:
( They all help to spread the word and keep spreading the word about The Dog Wizard I wish them so much gratitude and thanks!!! )
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