Since opening our doors in 2006, our team at Highland Canine Training has been proud to help dog owners across the nation. Fifteen years later, we now have trainers located around the United States who help to resolve serious behavioral problems, in addition to offering a number of group and one-on-one training programs. Our working dog team trains military and law enforcement K9 teams to help protect their communities. And our service dog division offers highly-trained service dogs who make an incredible difference to families who truly require assistance.
Although each discipline of dog training requires a slightly different approach, every member of our team has one thing in common – they love to train dogs. It is more than just a job for our staff. It is a passion.
This enthusiasm for dog training, along with knowledge, dedication and old-fashioned hard work, results in positive outcomes for the clients we work with.
For this article, we wanted to get the inside scoop from some of our trainers on why they love dog training. What is it that ignites their passion when it comes to working with dogs? What is their personal motivation? Why do they find it so rewarding? Let’s find out!
The feeling of trust and understanding
Belinda Tsakonas is Highland Canine’s dog trainer in the Scranton, PA area. A former United States Marine who served in Afghanistan, Belinda is a graduate of the School for Dog Trainers. She offers private lessons, behavior modification, group classes and service dog training to her clients.
“What motivates me to be a dog trainer is the feeling of trust and understanding you get when you effectively communicate with a dog,” says Belinda. “You can see the change in the dog’s demeanor when it clicks.”
A major part of being a successful dog trainer is having the patience and temperament to undo bad habits which may have formed over time. However, as Belinda explains, it is also extremely rewarding.
“You can also see the look on the family’s faces when it is transferred over to them and the confidence that comes with it. As a trainer, I know that they will have the best possible life together as a result of my help.
It makes every obstacle that comes with untraining bad behavior and/or teaching new behavior totally worth it.”
Knowing Police K9s will make communities safer
A vital part of our working dog division, Amber Siebsen plays an integral role in the development and progress of our police and military K9s. In addition to training working dogs, Amber also teaches their handlers through our comprehensive handler education programs.
As Amber explains, knowing the eventual difference the dogs she is training will make to society is a key motivator for her.
“A huge part of my motivation to train the Police K9s here is seeing the daily progress and knowing they will be keeping communities safer around the country.”
Providing a reliable, quality working dog takes months of hard work on the part of the trainer. Arriving as puppies, these dogs are then trained meticulously until they are ready to do their job with their team.
“I love seeing the transformation of dogs from being completely green to graduating with their new partners,” says Amber. “Every dog learns things differently, and problem-solving – learning how to make progress with each dog – is my favorite part of the process.”
Reducing stress for dog owners
With a love for dogs, twinned with a passion for helping people, Megan finds that dog training is the perfect way to combine the two. When dog owners are in need of a trainer, it is often because the stress of their situation has become too overwhelming for them to deal with. Alleviating this stress is important, as Megan describes.
“I love dogs and helping people, and dog training brings them together. It’s great to watch the progress in the dog, the owner(s) and their relationship as we go through the training process.
I really enjoy all of it but nothing beats watching my client’s stress levels decrease and seeing their enjoyment with their dogs increase! And since no two dogs are the same, as a trainer, it provides a challenge with each new situation.”
Unleashing every dog’s potential
Stasia Dempster is Highland Canine’s dog trainer in Statesville, NC.
Stasia explains how her passion for dog training has evolved over the years.
“Dog training, for me, began as a way to keep the peace between owners and their dogs by teaching them to understand and communicate with each other. My passion for dog training has evolved into more than this.
Although developing effective communication and a lifelong bond between dogs and their owners is still a significant part of my mission, unleashing every dog’s individual potential has become a critical part of my training as well. I love dog training because dogs are truly incredible animals – yet unfortunately, many of them never have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
I love the process of learning each dog’s history, analyzing their natural aptitudes and cultivating them, strengthening their “weak spots,” and developing a dog not only capable of fully existing in human society, but also capable of doing skills that many owners never dreamed their dogs could do.”
The difference a service dog can make
As Director of our Service Dog Division, Deb Livingood manages the process for individuals and families who are in need of a well-trained service dog.
The majority of these families are coping with extremely stressful or difficult life circumstances. Training a service dog to perform reliably for their handler takes untold hours of socialization and task training – but for Deb and her team, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a puppy progress into a fully-fledged service dog.
“Being a service dog trainer is one of the most rewarding things I have done in my career.
Countless hours are spent training each dog to meet the specific needs of their forever person and seeing that puppy grow and learn gives me a great sense of satisfaction and pride.”
There are so many rewarding aspects of being a service dog trainer – but is there one thing in particular that stands out for Deb?
“For me, it really hits home when we deliver the service dog to the family. Seeing the impact that these dogs have on that person and the help that they provide is really hard to describe, but I know I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else!”