First comes the new house, then the new puppy, right? Or in my case, new house, new and unwelcome behaviors. I have Sara Reusche, the owner of Paws Abilities Dog Training on the blog today! Her passion really shines through when she talks about any aspect of her work! My favorite thing I’ve heard her speak about is her use of training dogs (stuffed variety!!) to assess aggression in (real) dogs.
How did you decide to become a dog trainer? What do you love the most about it?
I started like many in the field, with a dog who needed some extra help! As I worked with him, I grew to really love the science of behavior and the huge changes that training could make in dogs’ and their people’s lives. I apprenticed with the then-owner of Paws Abilities Dog Training, Shalise Keating, all through high school. Once I graduated from high school, I began working towards the hours needed for my dog training certification while going to school to become a veterinary technician. I now hold three professional certifications (Certified Veterinary Technician, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and Certified Behavior Consultant for Canines), all of which require regular re-certification with proof of continuing education.
I purchased Paws Abilities Dog Training in 2010 from Shalise, who still trains for me to this day. We have twenty-four professional dog trainers on staff, and serve eight locations in the southeast Minnesota and Twin Cities metro areas. We currently offer training classes in Rochester, Kasson, St. Charles, Eagan, Rosemount, Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, and Eden Prairie, and see private training clients in their homes as far south as Iowa and as far north as St. Cloud.
My favorite thing about dog training is actually the human half of the leash! I always tell new apprentices that dog trainers have to love both sides of the leash, as this is ultimately a human education field. Most people who get into training have a strong love of dogs, but that will only take you so far. You also have to be able to effectively communicate and empathize with the dogs’ owners. I love the huge variety of people that I get to meet and work with on a day-to-day basis. We have a great team of trainers who work together, and having that professional network is invaluable. I also do a lot of safety education for the state of Minnesota law enforcement, especially parole officers, and for dog-related businesses such as groomers, veterinarians, and dog daycares. I love to hear success stories from my clients and colleagues!
What makes your method different from the other options available?
Education is the cornerstone of what makes Paws Abilities unique. Our trainers are certified by the only independent (not related to a school) certification organization in the nation, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. We’re members of professional organizations and every one of us attends conferences and seminars on a regular basis to keep up-to-date with the newest research in the field. Dog training is both an art and a science, and understanding the laws of learning ensures that the trainers at Paws Abilities can get to the root of any behavior problem and fix it.
Do you have a favorite success story?
This is a tough one! I have too many to count. By far my favorite comment actually came from a law enforcement officer who attended one of my safety trainings at Camp Ripley several years ago. He contacted me almost a year after he attended the talk to tell me that he had avoided a bad bite by following the safety steps that he learned from me! He had been on a property to check on one of his parolees when he was charged by a dog. Dog bites are the second biggest injury that law enforcement officers are at risk from (right behind automobile accidents), and knowing that I can give our brothers and sisters in blue concrete steps to keep themselves safe makes me so proud.
Do you have a favorite breed or specific behavior you really enjoy working with?
I adore working with the “non-biddable” breeds: breeds of dogs like terriers, hounds, and nordic breeds who were selected to work independently rather than working closely with people. Many people think that these breeds of dog are stubborn or even untrainable, but they’re actually very intelligent.
When is the best time to start bringing your dog to training?
Yesterday! There is a socialization window that’s open for puppies up until between 12-16 weeks. Ideally, training and socialization should start at the breeder’s or foster’s and continue until the puppy is full-grown. We can avoid most behavioral issues through early training and socialization. Many people think that they can wait, but you can forever behaviorally stunt your puppy’s development by not getting them out to a well-run puppy class early enough.
That doesn’t mean that older dogs can’t also benefit from training. However, the earlier an owner starts working with their puppy, the fewer bad habits need to be unlearned by both ends of the leash.
Can older, rescue dogs benefit from training?
Absolutely! I come from the rescue world, and have fostered over 100 dogs in the past decade. My oldest foster dog, a Pit Bull named Gentle Ben, was somewhere between 12-15 years old when he came to live with me. He had never been in a house before, so he wasn’t housetrained, and he didn’t even know how to sit. He was a quick learner, and went on to find a loving retirement home. It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks!
What is a common misconception regarding dog training?
Dog training has evolved a lot over the past two decades. Twenty years ago, it was common knowledge that you had to “dominate” your dog using force to teach them to behave. The dominance myth has now been thoroughly debunked, and we have decades of research showing that reward-based methods are much faster and more effective than old-school methods like choke chains, pinch collars, and forceful training. I’ve done training apprenticeships at some of the most cutting-edge training facilities in the world, including the Shedd Aquarium. The same operant conditioning methods that we use to train penguins, beluga whales, hawks, sea lions, and tigers are used equally effectively at home with our pet dogs.
Sara Reusche CBCC-KA CPDT-KSA CVT,
Owner of Paws Abilities Dog Training, LLC can be reached via:
Phone at 507-624-0190
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or through her website at http://www.pawsabilitiesmn.com.
You can follow her blog for more tips and education at http://paws4udogs.wordpress.com