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Proof Pawsitive: A Positive Approach to Personalized Dog Training

By Kathy Edstrom

It seems you can’t throw a tennis ball without hitting someone who claims to be a positive dog trainer. Unfortunately, there are dog trainers who call themselves “positive” trainers when they still use force to train dogs. I am always seeking trainers who truly use positive methods to train pets. I am delighted to share with you two positive dog trainers who personalize training sessions to the individual dogs’ needs. I interviewed the owners of Proof Pawsitive to share their unique approach to training pets and their people.

About the Owners

Sue Loucks, co-owner of Proof Pawsitive, and her husband Steve, have two Golden retrievers, Casey and Dylan. Sue trained privately with Chris Bach, founder of THE THIRD WAY of dog training for over three years. She attends several positive-based dog-training seminars annually, including Patti Ruzzo, Leslie Neilson, and Chad Thompkins. Sue is a member of APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers).

Cindy Glazewski, co-owner of Proof Pawsitive, and her husband Jeff, have a Weimaraner, Astro, and an iguana named Freda. Cindy has a BBA in Accounting. She attends a wide variety of seminars dealing with dog behavior, holistic medicine, dog first aid and dog training methods including seminars by Patti Ruzzo, Leslie Nielson and Chad Thompkins. Cindy has experience in Obedience, Agility, Tracking and bird hunting. Cindy is also a member of APDT.

Interview with Proof Pawsitive
Paws-A-Tive Choice: How long have you been involved in dog training?

Sue: I can remember as a young girl watching a British dog trainer named Woodhouse on public television. I would then practice with my poodle, imitating her moves. Steve and I attained our first Golden over 20 years ago and I trained her on my own. She was the perfect family dog, and never gave us any trouble. I thought all dogs acted that way. When she passed away, we got our second Golden who was full of spit and vinegar. I took my first class when she was a puppy and got hooked. That was nine years ago.

Cindy: I’ve been involved since 1993 when I attended Chris Bach's THE THIRD WAY puppy class with my dog. Sue and I first met at this class.

Paws-A-Tive Choice: Why did you decide to get into teaching dogs and their owners?

Sue: I love dogs and people, and when I was training with Chris Bach, she said, “Sue, someday you’ll be teaching people and their dogs.” I thought she was either being polite or very silly, but that’s what planted the idea. A few years later, at a local club, the Director of Training asked if I would like to have my own class. I felt honored, and a little scared, but thought I really could make a difference in how people and their dogs relate. I got to devise my own program, and was very fortunate to have the Director’s backing.

Cindy: During my experience as a dog trainer, I learned different methods from a lot of people whom I thought were the so-called experts. In fact, after attending Chris Bach's puppy class, I stayed on at the same location to train my dog in the next level of classes.


These classes were not THIRD WAY classes. They used force-type methods. At the time, I was a Novice trainer and thought that this must be the way you train, never really feeling comfortable with the methods I was using. In fact, I called my dog's breeder after the first class because of my dog's reaction, but was reassured that this method was the way to go.

I then moved on to a local dog-training club that also used force-type methods, still believing I was training from the experts. I also attended Agility and Tracking classes at this time, which were taught in a positive manner. I just couldn't understand why I was instructed to use positive methods for Agility and Tracking, but not for Obedience. As time went on, I realized the force-type Obedience classes just weren't worth what I was putting my dog and me through.

As I learned more about dog behavior, I also observed some Obedience classes to see if I felt comfortable attending class with my own dog. It was very hard to find a dog training school that offered Obedience training in a positive method. I finally attended a dog training class about 75 miles away that was generally positive.

Eventually I found an Obedience class at a local kennel club where the Director of Training used positive methods in his class. When Sue was given the opportunity to teach a class at this club, she asked me to assist her. Knowing how difficult it is to find a positive-based approach in the Southeastern Wisconsin area, it was an honor to be asked to assist. We originally taught adult dogs, but we eventually taught puppy class.

Paws-A-Tive Choice: What prompted you to starting your own dog training business?

Sue: It sounds odd, but things just sort of fell together. Chris called me one day and said she knew of someone wanting to sublet some space, and would I be interested. At this point, I was starting to get frustrated where I was and decided to jump in with both feet.

Cindy: We were put in touch with an Agility dog trainer who was looking for someone to sublet training space for Obedience classes. At this time, the Director of Training at the club we were volunteering at had left. We were given the opportunity to teach puppy class, but the Obedience class management of this club only gave us a half hour to teach which is not enough time, especially when socialization is taken into effect. It just seemed like the right time to make the move.

Paws-A-Tive Choice: What are your current plans for Proof Pawsitive?

Sue: Our plans include being able to offer more types of classes in the future. I would like to once again offer Agility, as we have in the past, maybe a Tricks class, and possibly a Canine Good Citizen class. I want to keep our focus on the pet population that has dogs as friends and companions.

Paws-A-Tive Choice: What type(s) of services do you currently provide?

Sue: Currently, Proof Pawsitive is doing only In-Home dog training. Meaning we go to our clients’ home, and design a program specifically for that family and dog. We are able to offer our clients more than can be gotten from group lessons. As In-home instructors, we also are able to really get to know the dog and his/her family situation. We are able to work around that particular clients’ schedule and are there to listen to all their questions and concerns.

Our program runs for five weeks, utilizing Chris Bach’s THE THIRD WAY. Each class is approximately 1-hour in length. We also offer individual behavioral consultations, helping owners understand what is normal dog behavior and how to address the particular problems they may be having.

Paws-A-Tive Choice: Do you teach competitive canine sports as well as pet classes?

Sue: If by competitive you mean for actual competition, no. That doesn’t mean we won’t in the future, but at this point in time, our focus is really on the households that want a well-trained friend and partner in their home.

Paws-A-Tive Choice: What is your approach and attitude toward dog owners and the dogs themselves?

Sue: Our attitude and approach towards both dogs and owners is basically the same. We treat each and every one of our clients, human and canine, with respect. We realized that each and every one of us is a unique individual with our own personality. This allows us to tailor our program to what our clients’ wishes are, and not a set schedule. That’s what makes this job so much fun! Every day is different!

Paws-A-Tive Choice: What can pet owners expect to walk away with after they complete one of your classes, or private lessons?

Sue: A much better understanding of what normal dog behavior is. Dogs are not furry little people and have no concept of right and wrong. Most pet owners don’t realize that, however. They can also expect a dog that is able to practice self-imposed self-control. Our dogs are able to calm themselves down with something as simple as playing the Eye Contact game.

Their dogs will also be dogs that can think for themselves. It is ultimately the dogs’ decision as to what their actions are going to be and we are there just to show them the correct behavior. These behaviors then become self-reinforcing to the dog himself.

Cindy: Hopefully owners will also learn that habits, both good and bad, are based on voluntary responses, so management tools must also be used to prevent an undesirable behavior from becoming a habit.

Paws-A-Tive Choice: Do you specialize in a certain age range of dogs, or do you work with puppies through adults?

Sue: We work with dogs of all ages, but our specialty is puppies and young dogs under a year old.

Paws-A-Tive Choice: How does your approach to dog training differ from all the other methods that are currently available for pet owners?

Sue: I think our method is unique because we ultimately allow the dog to make the correct decision. Once that decision is made, we then reward the dog and reinforce that behavior. I think this is something that is truly different than other types of training that are out there today. We also want both dog and owner to have fun training. It is in this fun that builds a special and long lasting relationship between dog and human.

Paws-A-Tive Choice: Who are the people you would like to reach?

Sue: We want to reach all types of people that are looking for a different type of training and who want to truly understand normal dog behavior. I think that at the end of our training sessions, people have a much deeper and enjoyable relationship with their dog because they understand what magnificent creatures they really are!

Paws-A-Tive Choice: What changes/improvements would you like to see in the field of dog training?

Sue: There are lots of changes and improvements I’d like to see in dog training today, but probably the first and most important one that comes to mind is to throw out the wolf/dog connection. Both are two different and wonderful species and should be thought of as such.

People get dogs to have a special relationship and friend in their lives, and all they’re told is “You need to show this dog who’s boss!” Our relationships with our human friends are not based on that theory, and it shouldn’t be in our relationships with our dogs, either.

I’d also like to see electric shock collars taken out of pet stores. These devices are getting into the hands of uneducated people. The person at the pet store probably has little or no knowledge of these collars either. It is a set-up for disaster.

Paws-A-Tive Choice: Where do you see yourself five years from now in regard to instructing canines and their owners?

Sue: This is a hard question to answer because I’m having so much fun right now! Someone once asked me if there was a dog I didn’t like, and I thought for a moment and had to truly answer “no”. Once you look at the world though a dog’s eyes, you realize what a wonderful world we live in, and how very, very lucky we are to share it with these magnificent creatures!

Paws-A-Tive Choice: Thank you Sue and Cindy for taking the time to talk with me about your approach to dog training. It was a pleasure hearing your positive methods for teaching pets and owners. I wish you both much success with Proof Pawsitive!

For more information on the services Proof Pawsitive offers, visit their website at www.proofpawsitive.com Sue Loucks may be reached at (262) 253-1108 or by email at Sue@proofpawsitive.com

 

Published August 2002