I strive to make humane dog training accessible and affordable.
I have heard reference to the phrase "those who can afford dog training", and it saddens me to think that only those with ample finances should have access to quality dog training. I understand why prices are high. They are "professional" rates needed to support the business and its infrastructure. Still, the financial weight of "premium rates" is not something that most people I know would be willing or able to bear.
I try to keep my business lean to keep my services affordable. I work with Atonement Lutheran Church of Beloit to keep group prices down. For those looking for economy-priced private lessons, I can work over Skype. This is a great platform for dog training. It also adds to convenience, since neither of us needs to travel.
Happy, well-trained dogs in homes can truly be a source of joy and comfort. Unhappy, poorly-behaved dogs can just as easily bring more stress. Bringing modern dog training into homes frugally is my way of helping improve the quality of life for entire families.
The value of dog training for families, however, really goes well beyond simply training dogs. For me, force-free training is ultimately about compassionate living. Science is showing us that the most productive way to work with your canine companion is through a loving relationship. That means being mindful of her or his physical and mental well being. But this isn't just about dogs. While we learn to work more compassionately with our dogs, we are also learning new and creative ways to relate to other people. So, when you support me through my services, you are also supporting my personal mission. You are helping me to promote an alternative, more compassionate way of being in the world.
I place this one first because not all trainers are guided by what we know about dogs through scientific inquiry. The science of dog training includes looking at how dogs learn, how their brains function, and how they relate to humans. For example, research shows us that canines actually process their feelings on the level of a two-and-a-half year old child. This has significant implications regarding how we treat our canine companions while we teach them.
Dog training for me is a part of my spiritual commitment to this world. I believe that love is the most powerful tool in our toolbox to make a difference in this world and change it for the better. Indeed, science is showing us that forceful dog training methods are not only less efficient, but also often counterproductive. But if it science were to prove that non-loving methods were more efficient, I would still default to love.
I’ve chosen to identify this value as “compassion” rather than “love” simply because of the tendency in perspective. We tend to think of love in the first person (“I love you”) or the second person (“You love me”). It is something that is directed toward another. On the other hand, “compassion” literally means “passion with”, or something that is shared through a certain kind of resonance. It’s splitting hairs, but I think it communicates better how I train dogs. I don’t just do dog training; I do humane dog training.
Everything I do in training is geared toward facilitating a stronger, loving relationship between the humans and canines I work with. The more the dog trusts her or his person, the stronger the training dynamic. So, the methods employed need to be those that do not get in the way of that bond. Anticipation drives dog behavior. If they expect something good to happen if they perform a behavior, they are happy to do it. If they are afraid that something bad will happen, then they will avoid it. (Not unlike people.) Therefore, my focus is on facilitating quality communication and quality experiences that are foundational to quality relationships. I encourage people not to think of themselves as their dog’s owner, but rather their dog’s guardian or life coach.
When I talk about “justice” I’m coming from a theological perspective. In short, there are those in society who are disadvantaged and they need a break. Currently, dog trainers generally charge “professional rate” for their services. There is nothing wrong with this, especially since they are indeed offering professional services. But most people I know aren’t able to afford such pricey help for their dogs. If they need help, where will they get it?
Our dogs are part of our families. When our dogs struggle with issues, it affects the quality of life in the household. I don’t want people to find quality dog training inaccessible due to price. This is why my prices are as low as they are. In fact, my Skype training (which is a great platform for this) is specifically priced for this. Yes, I still need to make a living (and it isn’t easy at these prices). But this is one of my values, one of my commitments. It is why my rates are out in the open for all to see (I don’t hide my rates and say “contact me for a quote”). I believe that more people would invest in the quality of their family life if it were a reasonable option.
When I train, I don’t focus on teaching the dogs. I focus on teaching their human companions and teach them the concepts and techniques that birth good dog trainers. In short, I train people to train their own dogs. In class, the dogs do indeed learn things. We use basic exercises (such as sit, down, and stay) to practice the concepts being taught. Then, once they have built up a certain foundation, they will be able to mix and match concepts in creative ways to come up with their own training responses to issues as they arise. One of the great joys I have in life is watching humans and canines begin to resonate on deeper levels. It comes out through their demeanor. And after I’ve worked with them, I know that they have good tools to build on what we have begun.