I’ve lived with, loved and worked with animals for as long as I can remember. One family story was that I never actually crawled, but went around on all fours, like my parents’ two Labrador retrievers!
Building on my lifelong affinity with animals and training my own and my family’s pets as well as friends’ and friends of friends’ dogs, and birds, I’m dedicated to working with pet dogs and their human companions after a rewarding career as a minister, writer and editor. I live and work in Vancouver, B.C.
I’m a “crossover trainer.” That means that my original training methods were traditional ones, including choke chains and leash corrections, which I used with success for years, as had my father who had trained our family’s dogs.
My father had adopted a beautiful black female Labrador he’d found roaming around an oilfield (he was a geophysicist). She went on to earn several AKC field titles. He also adopted a black, bench-type male who eventually earned AKC conformation titles. They were glorious dogs. Their temperament, demeanour and intelligence made a profound and lasting impression on me.
About 20 years ago, when I bought a Labrador retriever puppy for my family and began to look for an obedience trainer, I decided to set aside the traditional methods I’d known and worked with for most of my life in favour of methods rooted in animal behaviour science and psychology.
Modern science has shown that living creatures learn best through consistent, positive reinforcement to reward behaviours we like and to prevent behaviour problems before they start. I found that this understanding of learning worked beautifully with our puppy and with a Newfoundland dog we adopted a couple of years later.
When my son Isaiah and I welcomed Penny into our lives five years ago, I picked up a clicker for the first time. Penny figured out what the clicker was marking right away; that was enough to convince me that using such a precise marker could make it possible to teach some behaviours that I couldn’t teach any other way, all while having a heck of a lot of fun, too. Dogs
In addition to teaching puppies and dogs basic house manners and life skills, I use a variety of techniques to address destructive or fearful patterns such as shyness, separation anxiety and reactivity to dogs, other animals, human beings and the environment.
I’ve taken courses offered by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, the Karen Pryor Academy, Ian Dunbar and Patricia McConnell. As a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers, continuing education to refine my skills and stay on top of the latest developments in animal behaviour science is integral to my work. I’m preparing to qualify as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer in 2015.