I am a licensed clinical mental health counselor in the State of Indiana and have been since 2009. I earned a bachelors degree in Psychology and a masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I began my clinical work in 2007, starting in community mental health centers and eventually as a clinician at a State correctional facility. I currently work full-time as a clinical counselor at DePauw University. I am also a volunteer handler for the Indiana K-9 Assisted Crisis Response Team.
What Got Me Into Dog Training?
Like many people, I’ve been passionate about dogs for most of my life. In 2009 I began to consider a deeper interest in dog training and understanding canine behavior. I asked myself the question, what do we really know about dogs? With a plethora of dog training methods and accompanying theories on canine behavior, it is easy to get lost in the academic debate on what is right and wrong when it comes to dog training. But let me say that I’m no “whisperer” and it’s not about Hollywood to me. I’m just a guy from the Midwest who’s eager to evolve my understanding of dogs and nature in general.
I think over the course of the last decade or two, you’ll find a number of people within the dog world who have found that particular behaviorist-based methods have missed the mark in some areas (eg, dominance training, clicker training, “positive” training, operant/classical conditioning, and other reinforcement models). At times we could argue that these methods work but only on the surface it would appear they do. However, all too often behaviorism alone fails because it often doesn’t account for emotion (which is the behavioral essence of the dog) and it’s assumptions about canine cognition seem debatable. Many dog training methods do not account for the natural prey drive that the dog inherited from its antecedent: the wolf.
How I Learned Natural Dog Training
I sought out to find a model that came back to what nature shows about a dog – as opposed to the anthropomorphic attribution. My search didn’t last long as I quickly found the official Natural Dog Training model developed by Kevin Behan. I read his books and followed his blogs and discussions. And like many who came before me, I apprenticed with Kevin in the summer of 2012. It was an eye-opening experience on so many levels – encompassing not only dog training but nature as a whole. I left with a sense of connection with the world via dogs that I had never fully appreciated. I’m still soaking it all in.
How I Approach Dog Training
Having a background in psychology, it is my default to approach dog training from an inter-species perspective that respects the emotional and physical interconnectedness between dog and human. I specialize in mindfulness-based science and I apply it to human-dog companionship in a way you can understand it intellectually and both you and your dog can experience it physically and emotionally. John Kabat Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as, “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” Since our dogs live eternally in the present moment, we can learn a lot from them about how our inner lives affect the dog-human relationship right here, right now.
Also, as a black belt student and instructor in the Japanese martial art of Aikido, I bring to the table both the principles of Eastern thought as well as physical practice emphasizing balance, flexibility, and posture. These are very important concepts to be successful not only in martial arts and dog training, but also in work, social life, and personal well being.
I come from a perspective that there are no wrong thoughts or feelings, for both dogs and humans: it is a matter of how we respond to them. My approach in dog training will show you how you can channel your dog’s energy in to productive, cooperative, obedient behavior. And as they say in the dog training world, much of it really is training the human, not the dog. I also value the notion that you are your best teacher and I hope that working with me can be part of the process to opening that door for yourself.
Interested in training with me – check out my flyer.
The Open Door to Our Hearts
Dogs show us, without realizing it, a deeper part of who we are as humans. I didn’t realize any of this until I began my journey of working with my own dogs and exposing myself to a wide breadth of training models. However, it is easy to get bogged down by theories, trainers, doggy politics, and even your own ego. At one point I had already purchased a small library of dog behavior books, motivated to learn everything there was to learn about dog behavior. Had someone told me that all I really needed was to see and feel what my dogs were showing me to learn their true nature, I’d have been able to buy a lot more cups coffee in the meantime!