Q & A with Dog Trainer Elisa Kinder

A trainer with Sublime Canine in Tuscon, Arizona, Elisa Kinder is passionate about making dog ownership a fun and rewarding experience.

We had the chance to chat with her and get some fantastic advice about the ins and outs of training your dog.

The Honest Kitchen: How were you inspired to pursue a career in dog training?

Elisa Kinder: I’ve had Dobermans most of my life and I love them. When I retired and moved from California to Tuscon, I got involved with other dogs by volunteering at the pound. It was there that I fell in love with a Doberman that was up for rescue. He was 5 years old and 90lbs and I decided that I would adopt him. I had another Doberman at the time, a 10 year old female, and they got along fine but he did not get along with other dogs. I realized that he was very reactive and at 90lbs, very reactive can be very difficult. I decided that I had to start to work with him and I found a trainer who was magic. He taught me everything that I could do with a dog and after spending a lot of time, a lot of hours, I ended up titling him in the ring, surrounded by other dogs.

HK: As a dog trainer, what would you say is the most important reason for investing the time into training your dog?

EK: First of all, the dog is happier. That’s the most important thing. Because if the dog is pleasing you and nobody is screaming at it and its doing what you want it to do, it makes the dog more loyal. It’s an engagement that you have with your dog and I truly believe in engaging. Playing, training, nose work, it doesn’t matter what you do, it just matters that you’re doing it.

HK: If you could see all dog handlers master just 3 commands, what would they be?

EK: The most important one: recall. I firmly believe that it is the most important. Second to that is heeling, both focused and regular, only because it’s best for both the handler and the dog. Third is ‘leave it’, especially living here in the desert when you come across rattlers, lizards, and lizards that look like rattlers.

HK: Can you list the top mistakes that dog owners make during training?

EK: I could get rich by selling t-shirts that say “My Dog’s Never Done That Before”. If I hear that one time, I hear it a thousand times. It’s not anticipating your dog, not reading his signals and cues, and not knowing him well enough. The second mistake is not engaging your dog. You have to be the most fun that dog has ever seen. That’s when he’ll become your dog. The third is not focusing on heeling. Exercise is important and your dog has to be good at heeling to walk.

HK: What should potential clients look into when hiring a dog trainer?

EK: You want a trainer who engages the handler, not only the dog. You’re really training the handler and you cannot have a group of 10 people and pretend like you’re just one person to all those dogs. The dog trainer has to read the handler and try to go along with some things. Instead of saying “no, don’t do that”, try “why don’t we try this with your dog and see if she responds better?”

HK: Do you think that every dog is trainable? Are there some breeds that are just more inclined to learn than others?

EK: I think that every dog is trainable, some to more of an extent than others, but when I say ‘trainable’, I mean that they are able to respond to their owners. They don’t necessarily have to do hoops, find scents, or do agility. They just have to be a good dog. There are some dogs that can be harder to train because of genetics but you just have to approach things in a different way. Hunting dogs, for instance, tend to be more stubborn. It’s not that any one dog isn’t trainable, it’s just that you have to use a different method to meet what’s been bred into them.

Meet the Author: Kate Walker

Who is Kate Walker? She's a freelance writer, yoga addict, animal lover and citizen of the concrete jungle. When not on the mat, Kate can be found at the dog park or on the dock in Muskoka. She is also pretty fond of running, skiing, and Settlers of Catan.

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