FINDING A GOOD TRAINER. Linda Michaels, M.A., — Del Mar Dog Training

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One of the most important decisions you will make in paving a path to happiness with your pet is choosing a competent and kind dog trainer. The absence of standard credentials required by law, or established professional ethics, makes it problematic for pet parents to find a great trainer in an unregulated field.

Journey, wolfdog ambassador of WolfCreekRanch, admiring his harness.

Journey, wolfdog ambassador of WolfCreekRanch, admiring his harness.

However, science and culture are moving away from punishment/pain-based methods. Behavioral scientists resoundingly endorse dominance-free, reward-based training as the most effective, long-lasting and safest method, particularly for aggressive dogs who may bite if underlying issues are not adequately addressed.

Use of a front-clip harness or head collar is recommended for hard pullers — a step-in harness for puppies and small breeds. Medical injuries caused by collars constricting the airway passages are well-documented.

The Pet Professionals Guild adheres to the “do no harm” ethic and a strict code of conduct for trainers, holding pet welfare as the top priority. It’s the right thing to do for those who cannot speak for themselves. Search for a trainer near you. These trainers use the least aversive leash-walking equipment and behavior-change protocols available, including these:

• Find a trainer both you and your dog like.

• Reward behaviors you want repeated.

• Manage environments to prevent the opportunity for unwanted behavior.

• Remove reinforcement to stop or decrease a behavior.

• Teach alternative behaviors for behaviors you want to change.

Talented trainers can manipulate the resources we control in order to get the behavior we want. They don’t resort to force or pain-based methods.

Killer whales, dolphins, wild animals at the progressive San Diego Zoo and wolfdogs trained with purely positive reinforcement methods are clear examples of the power of positive methods. It can work for your dog, too.

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us

Originally published in the U~T San Diego, Scratch n’ Sniff. Chris Ross, Editor.



Linda Michaels, M.A. Psychology, Del Mar Dog Training, serves clients in Del Mar and San Diego County from La Jolla to Carlsbad, plus Rancho Santa Fe, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. Linda Michaels was recently rated one of the top ten dog trainers in the United States, by Top Ten Magazine. Linda has a master’s degree in Experimental Psychology (Hons), and is the creator of the Hierarchy of Dog Needs™ (HDN). She focuses on the psychological aspects of dog behavior that often mirror human psychological conditions, such as: fear, separation/attachment disorders, and aggression toward humans and other dogs. She also teaches private, customized basic manners/obedience lessons for dogs of all ages and every breed.

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