Hey Dope Dogs! Looking for training tips? Interested in new activities to keep your dog entertained around the house? We've got you covered! This week begins our new series "Ask The Trainer" with Sylvia Wes, Los Angeles based, certified positive reinforcement dog trainer.
Get to know Sylvia in this interview and then send us your questions about dog training and behavior. We will be answering your questions LIVE with Sylvia on social media, so stay tuned!
Meet The Trainer: Sylvia Wes
What is your earliest memory/ experience with dogs?
Oh wow... literally my earliest memory! I grew up on a two acre ranch out in Temecula CA and have had dogs, cats, ducks, goats, turtles, bunnies, chickens, geese and horses around me my entire life. When I was just a little toddler we had a fantastic black Labrador Retriever named Monte who used to follow me around the yard and keep a watchful eye on me. I really owe my love of all animals to my upbringing, I can't imagine not having a dog in my life.
If you were a dog, which type would you be and why?
I would say a Rough Collie. Firstly, the long hair is a dead giveaway. All joking aside though, I LOVE to work and sometimes can take my job a little too seriously. In feel like deep in my soul I belong in Scotland, fun fact: My husband and I eloped there because of a dream I had about a wedding in the countryside when I was 19. Being that I am a Gemini, I feel like I easily embody the duality of both gentle and protective and I am definitely friendly but have a killer RBF.
When did you decide to make your life mission about dogs?
March 2012. I had just left a job working in sales, let's just say cubicle life was NOT for me. Then, I was depressed, I weighed 250llbs and was having a hard time finding direction for my life. Furthermore, I was lying in bed, something I did a lot during this period of depression, with my little rescue Dog Tallulah who I had adopted 2 years prior, binge watching "Shorty's Rescue" ( the show about little people and pitbulls) when it struck me. I knew that I needed to get back to the animals. I needed to be surrounded by the little creatures who had propped me up throughout my entire childhood. Lastly, I volunteered and acquired a job at a rescue in one Saturday, I have worked with Dogs every single day of my life since that Saturday in March 2012 and I will never look back.
We imagine your life is pretty awesome being around dogs all the time. What does your day-to-day look like?
Well given the current circumstances, I am missing all my babies. But on a normal day: I get up to care for my two little bugs and anywhere from 1-3 extra dogs in the house (depending on the day). My husband and I can sometimes share our queen bed with 6 little doggos.... I dunno how, but we make it work.
Then, it's off to start my day of sessions with private in home training, some days a couple of dog walks get sprinkled in there and then I do my group training hike everyday with anywhere from 4-10 dogs with me. It's literally my favorite part of any given day. Furthermore, Wednesdays I have the honor of teaching a super fun Scent Works class for some dogs who go to Fit Dog Club and then on weekends I teach puppy classes, and private sessions and attend dog events/conventions. Lastly, Somewhere in those days I throw in a workout or two and a date night with the hubby (self care is very important) and there is a whole lot of puppy cuddling going on.
What's the first rule when it comes to dog training?
Set yourself and your dog up to be successful. I always try to remind my clients that dogs aren't like us. They don't have the emotional capacity to fail and beat themselves up into succeeding. The reality is, neither do we. If we don't set our dogs up to be able to achieve that goal or standard we've decided to set for the day, they will get discouraged and their ability to "learn" things gets dampened. It's best to approach training when you are able to set aside time and patience to help your dog win, set yourself up for success by training when you're in the mood for it and don't push yourself to do it if you're having a bad day or are annoyed by your 3 months old puppy. Everyone needs to have a win, it makes training more fun for you and your dog.
What tips do you have for Dope Dogs to help staying busy?
Brain Games! Are you challenging your Dope Dog's mind? Exercise is one thing.... and we trainers always say "A tired Dog, is a good dog" but there is of course more than one way to achieve this. Your dog needs mental stimulation much in the same way we do. Challenge them to problem solve for meals, or to try to get a treat out of something. Training works too! Teach your dog a new trick or two, whatever you do, make them THINK!
What type of questions should Dope Dogs ask you in "Ask the Trainer"Q+A?
Anything really! Ask away and I will do my very best to get you to a solution or give you a new tool for managing behavior. Want to learn a new trick? Dog "sits" but won't stay seated? Puppy Biting? Crate training?
Send Sylvia your questions and we will be answering them LIVE on social media. Comment below with your questions or send them directly to us on Facebook or Instagram.