My name is Shalene, I have been training dogs for 10 years now and it is my passion.
I got into training dogs after my first dog as an adult. I have always been an animal lover, routinely bringing home strays (dogs, cats, birds, snakes, lizards, rats, squirrels, you name it and I probably tried to sneak it in my room), and always wanting to work with animals.
Both of my grandmothers bred dogs, as well as one of my uncles, one of my grandfather’s would bring home every stray he came across and my grandmother did wildlife and animal rescue/rehabilitation. You can say that loving animals is a part of my genetic make up.
Cut to when I was an adult and with my first dog. I was pregnant with my first daughter and it was an awful pregnancy; of course I find out I was pregnant less than a month after I bring home my lab mix puppy, Romeo, and I was nearly bed ridden due to complications. I reached out to a semi-local trainer to do a board and train. I was naïve and didn’t know what to look for or what I was doing with a trainer, much less a board and train.
Now before I continue please read this next section carefully.
I am a balanced trainer, I have also done countless board and train programs. This experience does not reflect badly on all trainers nor all those who offer board and train programs. This is one bad experience with one bad dog trainer. This also does not reflect on the training tools trainers and owners use.
Continuing with the intro.
I paid this trainer to take my 6 month old super friendly, confident and happy puppy for 3 weeks to train. I was assured updates, pictures and phone calls, so that I could see his progress and make sure he was doing okay.
2 weeks, several forwarded phone calls later, no updates and I was losing my mind.
I loved Romeo with everything in my being and I was panicked. Mix in pregnancy hormones and I wanted to kill someone. I truly believed that this trainer has stolen my money, and more importantly stolen my dog. My husband and I drove 3 hours to this trainer’s property to demand to see my dog and to get him back, calling every 15 minutes along the drive there.
To say I was frantic would be an understatement.
When we got there he decided to tell me how great Romeo was doing and that he was also showing a lot of interest when he was working the protection dogs on his property.
He brings out Romeo, a 6 month old lab mix puppy who maybe weighed a whopping 25 lbs? (keep in mind he maxed out at 42 lbs as an adult in ideal shape), and my puppy loses his mind when he sees me. Which I would expect in any situation. This trainer decides that since the corrections with the slip collar isn’t working, that the best solution is to lift Romeo completely off the ground by the slip chain and “helicopter” him.
Helicoptering is a reference used when someone lifts a dog off the ground by a leash and collar, hanging the dog with all feet off the ground causing the dog to flail in circles like a helicopter blade.
I lost my mind.
Once we were safe at home, and I had had enough time to calm somewhat, I opted to never send him to a trainer again. He crushed my faith in dog trainers and people and I spend the next 2 years learning as many training techniques as possible to help Romeo. For two years Romeo was petrified of men with hats, if anyone (including me) moved too fast toward him he would cower and pee all over himself. He would cower from loud noises. If I spoke too loudly in the house, not even near him, he would cower. I could hear him 3 houses down, screaming when I left and if left alone would destroy anything he could get his paws/mouth on. He has horrid separation anxiety, and caused me to finally learn how to properly use a crate and properly crate train after being so anti-crate for so long. I learned to use a crate because it kept Romeo safe when he needed to be alone. My once happy, confident puppy now was a bundle of fear. I began reading, watching videos, talking to trainers and dedicating any time I could to working with Romeo to help boost his confidence and fix my mistake.
I got a job at a Daycare and Training facility, after my daughter was 6 months old, specifically to work closer with them in methods to work with Romeo. This facility was very Positive Method oriented, loved their clickers and helped a lot with teaching me canine behavior and body language and a lot of “force-free” associated tools. From there I spent 4 months at a dog training academy, where I learned proper tool use of prongs and e-collars. Over 4 weeks of training Romeo with the academy’s methods I saw the positive effects of proper tool use and watched my once terrified dog open up and thrive. I was able to completely fix his separation anxiety, and he soon found his crate to be an extremely safe and positive place. I was able to build his confidence, engage him in play, yell and scream (excitedly or just be loud) without him flinching, men (my coworkers and dog trainers themselves) were able to work him, run up to him, even jump over him without him showing any signs of stress.
From there I never stopped learning. I went on to work with a company helping work with military and police canines, I worked as both a kennel hand and state inspector for racing Greyhounds, and even went on to work with a trainer who specialized in both Service Dogs and Protections Dogs.
For the last 4 years I have been dedicating my time, energy and passion to family dogs and while I still learn different sports and work toward being able to continue my education (it is an ever changing field) my love is to help families enjoy their lives with the dogs they love and to help dogs stay in their families through training and manners.
As a dog trainer
I am now what they call a “Balanced” dog trainer meaning that I use treats, praise and rewards, I lure, capture and stack behaviors but I also use corrections and “aversive” tools such as e-collars and prong collars.
As a Dog Trainer I do not feel that cookie-cutter methods work for most dogs. Every dog is an individual and every dog needs balance. It is important to find what works best for the dog in front of you, and the situation at hand, and to let go of the mindset that there is only one method best for all dogs. Some dogs can absolutely thrive with minimal correction, no aversive tools, and primarily positive clicker training (or equivalent); I do not question nor doubt this and won’t dispute it. Some dogs thrive with a prong collar as a tool, some with an e-collar, some do amazing with treats only, some will do anything for a toy and some will peg for a good scratch behind the ear and verbal praise. On the same note, some dogs do not handle correction well, some may find a prong collar too much of a correction, and some may find a firm “no” as enough to shut them down.
The key is to work with the dog in front of you. Find a meaningful correction for the dog, and a meaningful reward and work from there.
A meaningful correction or reward is what is meaningful for that individual dog. Not what is meaningful for the owner, or for the trainer, or for the guy down the street. The dog decides what is meaningful. What I mean by this is if you offer the dog you are training cheese because you believe cheese is a high value treat, but that dog doesn’t like cheese and instead prefers hotdogs, cheese is not a meaningful reward. If you correct your dog with a firm “no” or leash pop because you believe this is a good correction, but your dog doesn’t respond or stop for a moment when you correct, this correction is meaningless to the dog and perhaps trying a different method or tool would help you find a correction that is meaningful to your dog.
This is me, as a dog trainer.