I’ve been training dogs since 1996, starting with my first shelter dog I adopted the day after getting out of grad school. I only wanted to have a well behaved pet, but my pet class instructor thought we had potential, and she encouraged us to try a Novice obedience class. I fell in love with dog training and eventually stepped into the competition ring, hosted by the Mixed Breed Dog Club of California. I was awful (my dog was great), and we earned our first qualifying score and green ribbon. The rest is, as they say, history….
I have been very fortunate to have incredible instructors and mentors. Ellie Wyckoff was my instructor for over a decade, and she coached four dogs and me through several utility titles and my first AKC OTCH. I would be nowhere without Ellie: in addition to being a wonderful instructor, Ellie is a friendly and encouraging competitor and a great example of precise and thoughtful handling. And as much as I owe to Ellie, I have been deeply influenced by Chris Bach and her Third Way philosophy of training. Chris emphasizes training strategies based on science and psychology, creating opportunities for the dogs to solve problems and make choices. With these tools, my dogs and I have continued to train and perform at a high level, with some perfect 200 scores, several UDXs, another AKC OTCH, and many High In Trial and High Combined awards.
Why is that important? Because how I train is how I teach and what I teach to you and your dog. We are not All Positive; we are not correction based. I used to call myself a “balanced” trainer long before that term was even popular. But if I had to label myself now, I would say I’m a dog friendly, science based trainer who uses psychology, Learning Theory, and all four quadrants of Operant Conditioning to train dogs and their people. That’s a lot of words, but what I do and how I think about what I do cannot be summed up in a cozy Three Letter Acronym.
Dog training is a mystical combination of science and art. The science of how the brain works, of cause and effect, of analytical thinking, mixed with the art of knowing what you want to create and having the exquisite timing to communicate that to others. The understanding that it takes great planning and preparation to perform something that looks effortless and beautiful. I have a BS in Engineering (Stanford) and an MFA in Theatre-Lighting Design (UC San Diego), and it’s my quirky combination of education and work experience that influences my approach to training and handling my own dogs, and of course how I teach my students to train and handle their dogs, too.
In addition to competitive obedience, I also train my dogs in tracking, rally obedience, agility, conformation, hunting retriever, and tricks.
For a list of my dogs’ titles, you can find them below. But I think what is more important is: what do you want to achieve with your dog? And how do you want to do it?
Luke: UCH Sunset HHF Walk Across the Sky TKI VHMP
Eva: BIMBS MRBIS MHIT UAGII UUD URO3 UCH Sunset HHF Walk Among the Stars VCD2 UD TD RE AX AXJ NF TKA WC CCA 200 VCX GRCA Triathlon Award
Stella: MHIT OTCH UOCH UUDX UROC SHR Goldengait’s Fell from the Sky VCD3 UDX2 OM4 TDX RE NF WC 200 Can. CDX
Glinda: Can. OTCH UOCH RO3 SHR Goldengait’s Defying Gravity UDX OM1 WC
Clara: AKC/CKC OTCH UOCH Goldengait’s Clear the Way VCD2 UDX RE OAP OJP OBHF
Nora: UOCH Nora Bora MB-UD MB-RE CGC
June: UUD Sliver of a June Moon MB-UDT MB-RE CGC