Guest Blogger: Tiffany Aytes Lovell
I am Tiffany Aytes Lovell. Like many in the pet professional world, I grew up with animals as a little girl and our family was never without at least two pets. After becoming burned out working in the mortgage and real estate fields, I decided that working with the animals I loved would be a better fit. Before transitioning into professional training, I worked in two busy veterinary clinics learning as much as I could about caring for animals of all kinds.
It was while working in one of these clinics that I met an amazing couple who ran a local, force-free dog training business. Shortly after, my husband and I adopted our first puppy together. We enrolled in Brad and Lisa’s beginner class and the rest, as they say, is history. I absolutely loved teaching and training my dog with positive reinforcement and knew I wanted to learn more. My career evolved from there by becoming an apprentice at Cold Nose College in Murphy, NC and simultaneously going back to school (while still working as a vet assistant) to obtain the very first Animal Assisted Interactions degree in the country.
Throughout the last eleven years, I have prided myself on continuing my education and gaining as much knowledge and expertise as I can to help my clients and their dogs. In addition to my degree, my qualifications include:
Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA)
Certified Separation Anxiety Specialist (CSAT)
Fear Free Certified Professional
Low-Stress Handling Professional
The Family Dog Private Trainer
Graduate of Pat Miller’s Level I & II Academies
Cold Nose College Apprentice Graduate
Professional Member, APDT (Assoc. of Professional Dog Trainers)
Professional Member, PPG (Pet Professional Guild)
My dog training career has led me to experience many different forms of teaching and training for clients, their dogs, and even other trainers. These include group classes, in-home training and behavior counseling, seminars and workshops, online, remote training and community education events.
Currently, a large portion of my time is devoted to my specialty in separation anxiety and isolation distress. This online training allows me to help people and their dogs all over the world. It is truly my passion to help fearful and anxious dogs feel more comfortable in their world.
I feel very fortunate to be able to educate others about the power of positive reinforcement training every day. I am not just a firm believer in force-free, fear-free training and handling because of what I’ve read or been told. I believe in it because I see the actual results in my own dogs and my clients’ dogs.
I also have the unfortunate opportunity to see the real-life results of aversive techniques and tools on dogs quite often. This happens when someone calls to inquire about training because their dog is displaying signs of aggression and/or fear. In most of these cases, we are able to determine quite quickly that the dog’s new behavior began following the use of a choke chain, prong, e-collar (shock collar) or other aversive tool or technique the client was told to use.
It is heartbreaking every time I meet with someone and have to explain what they unknowingly did to the dog they love. Many of these people were just doing what they were told to do without stopping to ask how it would truly affect the dog psychologically and behaviorally.
This is why it’s imperative to seek out a professional, force-free trainer who values their education, is knowledgeable about canine body language and only uses force-free, positive reinforcement techniques and tools. It’s helpful to remember if you wouldn’t do it to your two-year-old child; you shouldn’t do it to your dog.
People often tell me their dog is too old to learn or change their behavior. That couldn’t be further from the truth and I always love showing clients how much their adult dogs can learn. It goes without saying that teaching and training puppies when you first bring them home is the ideal time to start. But our dogs never stop learning, just like us.
It saddens me when I hear people refer to their dog as stubborn or stupid because of their specific breed. All dogs are capable of learning. While breed characteristics should be taken into account when working with a dog, they should not be seen as negatives or obstacles to the learning process. Many breeds were bred for certain jobs or tasks and a good trainer will take advantage of those impressive traits and channel them into behavior suitable to the guardian and fun for the dog.
I have had the pleasure of working with many wonderful people and dogs over the years. One of my favorite parts of this job is educating dog-lovers about how their canine companions actually communicate with them throughout the day using their body language. If my legacy is nothing more than helping humans and their dogs understand each other better and reach a stronger bond, I would be very proud.
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