I have long been an admirer of “positive” dog trainer Victoria Stilwell of Animal Planet’s It’s Me Or The Dog fame. I thoroughly approve of her positive training philosophy (consistently rewarding good behavior and constructively refocusing bad behavior, as opposed to punishment), and I often contribute to her website. So it was with great pleasure that I accepted an invitation from Victoria to join her on one of her film shoots to co-manage a really tough case—an out-of-control Wheaton terrier on New York’s Staten Island. As you may know, Wheatons are high-energy dogs—but this particular one was over the top, even for one of his kind. He was highly reactive and spun like a top whenever the doorbell rang, practically bouncing off the walls as he did so. He herded people, and would bite visitors as they left the home, or family members if they tried to restrain him. I will spare you the details of how we agreed to proceed, but let it suffice to say that the owners needed advice about providing sufficient natural outlets for this dog’s seemingly boundless energies, as well as some suggestions for how to train him and care for him medically.
As we brainstormed over the details of the case and discussed the matter with the family, I realized that Victoria is more than a dog training celebrity; she really has her heart in what she does. She is a totally genuine, pro-dog trainer who cares deeply about the lives of the dogs she works with as well as current issues and schisms in the dog training world. She is clearly dedicated to improving dogs’ lives, not simply to making a name for herself. I found Victoria to be as charming in person as she is on TV: She is the real deal, and I hope her influence in the dog training community will prevail in years to come.