Fear, Anxiety, Reactivity, and Aggression
What makes a Superhero dog? They can smell from 3 miles away, see in the dark, run 20 to 30 mph, have supersonic hearing, and the list goes on. They are so connected to us that they feel what we feel, and can even smell changes in our bodies. For thousands of years, dogs have had so many jobs that humans, and even computers, can't match. Day after day, they teach their weird sidekick humans what unconditional love really means.
THAT is a Superhero!
The more science studies how animals and humans learn, the more the evidence proves that positive reinforcement works. Whether you are 4 or 40, human or animal, we all want to be told we are doing a good job. We shower our dogs with praise, affection and food to celebrate their successes. We don't use slip leads, choke chains, pinch collars, E-collars, shock collars, alpha rolls or any other pain and intimidation techniques in our dog training program.
We use the word "dog training" on our website only for the sake of search engines! Conventional dog trainers are all about obedience and tricks, or worse, forced compliance. We are human teachers, not dog trainers. Our one-on-one dog training sessions will feel much more like counseling and coaching than dog obedience class. We believe that you and your dog are a powerful team that needs to communicate. Once you learn how to "speak dog," you will understand your Superhero!
Every dog has a unique personality, just like us! They are motivated by different things, respond to their environment in different ways, and learn in different ways. So, we tap into your dog's natural style and teach you both how to work as a team.
Most human language is based on sound. Most dog language is based on facial expressions and body posture. The one place these overlap is sign language! Science has shown that dogs respond much more reliably to hand signals than verbal commands alone. We use American Sign Language in our dog training to help the humans rely less on talking and get more in tune with their nonverbal communication. Puppy training is so much easier when you can speak dog language. Our dog trainer, Libby, also knows a few commands in Spanish, German, French and Yiddish!
Dogs are very simple. It's easy to learn basic concepts of puppy training. It is NOT easy to do this work day in, and day out, especially if you are overcoming dog behavioral issues. We don't train your dog to be "perfect," because there is no such thing in dogs or humans. We teach you how to be a dog trainer. And it's hard work! We only work with clients that are dedicated to putting in time and effort to build a relationship with their dog.
Trust us, Superheroes are worth it!
We want every dog and their human to have a chance to see what a Superhero can really be! We offer need-based sliding scale for One-on-One sessions because we never want cost to be the only reason you can't help your Superhero dog.
We set out to create something different at Superhero Dog Academy. Our business model looks different than most, and we don't have fancy corporate systems. We prioritize affordable services for our clients, instead. We want to support the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of both dogs and people. We recruit employees from diverse populations such as a disability, mental health, BIPOC, neurodivergent, socio-economically disadvantaged, unhoused, addiction recovery and more. We have a community of people from every walk of life united by one thing: compassion and understanding of dogs as sentient beings.
When I was 21 years old, I adopted a dog from a rural county animal shelter, and named her Bisbee. Bisbee had been surrendered with her dog "brother," who got adopted many, many months before she did. Those many months were spent alone in a chain link and concrete kennel. Bisbee was such a successful escape artist that she managed to climb out of her 8 ft enclosure, so more chain link was added to keep her in. After more than a year, I rescued her from this prison and thought I could help her.
The first time I left her alone, she escaped her crate by bending the wire and squeezing through the bars. I zip-tied the crate together. I returned to find the crate exactly the way I left it, except Bisbee was not inside. To this day, I have no clue how she did it. She easily scaled a solid 6ft fence many times. Houdini became her nickname.
Bisbee didn't do well on walks. She pulled, whined, barked, lunged and even growled and snapped at people, dogs, everything. All those difficult and embarrassing behaviors made me walk her less. And less. And then never.
At home, Bisbee was incredibly sweet and hyper-bonded, but only to "her person." She did not like strangers and tried to nip them from behind. Once, I tried to hire a pet sitter. At the interview, I gave the person detailed instructions on how to win her over with treats, but instead of holding the treats, they set them on the coffee table. When Bisbee came to investigate, they reached over her and put their face directly in her face. She bit them on the cheek. I navigated a hospital bill, animal control, threat of legal action, and a lawyer. I called a behaviorist with a full college degree. Their lasting comment: "Well, you'll never be able to trust her." That was that. Bisbee and I were in solitary confinement together. No one came over, and I never went anywhere.
Her behavior didn't change. One day she scaled the fence, and I caught her right away. She scaled the fence again, I brought her home. One day she scaled the fence and I didn't know it until I heard her frenzied barks. I will spare you the traumatic details, but she nearly killed the neighbor's dog.
I couldn't trust her. I didn't understand how to help her. I didn't want something like this to ever happen again, especially not to a child. My vet didn't counsel me about other options. I did what "experts" said was best.
I euthanized her.
I failed her.
If I had someone to help me understand why she behaved that way, I would have understood that she was just scared. I would have understood how to help her. I would have understood that she could change. I wouldn't have given up hope. If only I knew, I wouldn't have failed her.
I vowed to never fail another dog again.
That was 20 years ago. Since then, I have devoted myself to understanding dogs. My work with dogs comes from the very bottom of my heart, as an honor to Bisbee. I work to honor all my Superhero dogs who have passed over the Rainbow Bridge: Bisbee, Chrissy, Max and Gito. I work in the here and now for my two puppies, Lil and Finn, to give them everything I didn't give to Bisbee (we walk, A LOT!). I work for all the Superhero dogs that are just scared and confused. I work for the humans, so they can experience the joy of Dog Life.
I want to give you hope for your dog. You only fail if you give up.
Don't fail them. Don't give up.
Epilogue, May 2023
And sometimes, we do everything and it's not enough. I didn't fail this time because I tried everything. The whole LIMA ladder, strict protocols, gates and crates, managing every interaction, and medication. I know I gave them a life that no one else would be able to give them. We ran through forests, deserts and snow banks. We played and sniffed and chased squirrels at the park. They got belly rubs for days. Spoiled with treats, toys and pupaccinos. They are loved and respected as sentient beings forever.
But sometimes we still can't change it. It's not their fault. They are just being dogs. Dogs that are incompatible with our current human society. I would never be able to keep them safe with dogs or people. Locking them in a cage is no life. Allowing them to keep others in constant fear is no life. When there is no good choice, you just have to do your best. I did my best, and the right choice was euthanasia.
Everything dies, sometimes sooner and sometimes later. We are far kinder to animals at end of life than we are to people. So we gave them the best goodbye we possibly could.
My big philosophy on dogs: I believe we don't get the dog we want, we get the dog we need. The reason why dogs are only in our lives for such a short time is because they have life figured out. They know how to live in the moment, find joy in the little things, play and laugh and love unconditionally. They are here to teach us something. What lesson is your dog here to teach you?
My hard lessons:
Finn taught me that dogs can still be wild animals. He taught me that genetics matter. He taught me that compatibility in dog siblings matters.
Tater taught me it is possible to find absolute joy in every moment. He taught me that socialization can be as strong as genetics. He taught me that even if they're "still babies" we still can't save them all. He taught me that rescues need to be more responsible about which dogs they adopt out, and make more hard choices for euthanasia. I wish we could save them all. But we can't, and once that dog is your baby, it hurts a million times more to make that choice.
I still want to give you hope for your dog. You only fail if you give up.
Don't fail them. Don't give up. Try.
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What to look for in a R+ Positive reinforcement professional dog training company in Salt Lake City, UT. Positive reinforcement training should be lots of fun for you and your dog!
Obedience commands can be taught to dogs young and old (yes old dogs can learn new tricks!). Puppy training at 8 weeks can make good obedience skills for the life of your dog. Don't wait to start puppy training. Teach a puppy to stop biting. Don't let puppy biting become a fun game. If your puppy is biting, just walk away from them or place them in a safe area like a dog kennel or puppy playpen. Puppy potty training and crate training go together. Make a potty routine. 8 week old puppies should be taken outside to go potty about every hour. After they go potty, puppies can have free play time! When your puppy is all tired out, give them a meal or some yummy treats or chews. Nap time!
Yes we can help with behavior issues!
Separation anxiety training should use desensitization and counterconditioning. Practice leaving in very small time increments. Give your dog enrichment activities to keep them busy while you are gone. Snuffle mats, silicone lick mats, Kongs, bones, chews, treat dispensing balls, or homemade dog puzzles can all stop dog from chewing or destroying the house.
Many dog owners struggle with dog aggression. Reactivity and aggression can look very similar. How can you tell if a dog is aggressive? Schedule a free consult with Superhero Dog Academy to help tell the difference between an excited dog, a fearful dog, and an aggressive dog.
Resource guarding is when a dog has something valuable, like a bowl of dog food, a bone or favorite toy that they are scared will be taken away. Resource guarding is the fear of losing something. Train resource guarding by offering lots of yummy treats while your dog enjoys their favorite item. Good timing is important for resource guarding so be sure to consult with a professional dog trainer.
Looking for a dog board and train in Salt Lake City Utah? We only use positive reinforcement WITHOUT e-collars! Boot camp sounds like no fun to us. We are Puppy Preschool teachers at Superhero Dog Academy! No Alphas around here, just really awesome Sidekick Humans.
Teach a puppy to fetch. We use fun games like fetch and positive reinforcement dog training to teach obedience like Stay, Come and Drop. Learn American Sign Language hand signs for dog obedience commands. Dogs respond better to visual cues like hand signs.
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