Brian began his dog-training career in 1985 at Matthew Margolis’ National Institute of Dog Training, where he graduated at the top of his class.
As was common practice at the time, the school taught traditional military style, correction based dog training. Although most military and law enforcement dogs excelled with this type of training, Brian found this approach too extreme and often times behaviorally detrimental to the average family dog.
Going Beyond Commands
As he accumulated training experience, Brian realized there was much more to the relationship between humans and dogs than giving commands. In his quest to expand his knowledge base, Brian sought out and followed the research of Veterinarian, Animal Behaviorist and Author, Dr. Ian Dunbar. Brian attended Dr. Dunbar’s seminars and became close friends with Dr. Dunbar’s “right hand man” Gwen Bohnenkamp.
The first concept of Dr. Dunbar that Brian grasped immediately was the importance of early socialization, which allows puppies a chance to develop necessary social skills and confidence. Conventional wisdom, however, cautions owners to isolate puppies during their 7 to 18 week vaccination period, which overlaps with this critical imprint period for early socialization.
It was clear that puppies who missed out on early socialization during this crucial period were more likely to be socially challenged, over-reactive and aggressive as adults. Based on this new understanding, Brian began his “Puppy Parties” and has continued to host them for the past 25 years as part of his puppy program.
Positive Dog Training, The Next Steps
Another major concept of Dr. Dunbar is using treats to shape behaviors, which is known today as “positive dog training.” Dr. Dunbar and others advocate the use of treats for every behavior problem. Brian agreed that using treats to teach new behaviors was a better option for most dogs than using old-school force methods, however, he felt this excessive long-term usage of treats was extreme in the other direction.
Brian watched as people became treat dispensers for their dogs and quickly realized that the use of treats should be temporary and transitory. More importantly, it was clear that excessive and constant use of treats was not a viable substitution for an authentic and genuine relationship with a dog.
An Organic Style of Training
Around the time Brian was fully developing his organic style of training, he began television appearances and was introduced to Cesar Millan while working together on a show. He immediately identified with Cesar’s emphasis on the importance of strong leadership and how it allows a dog to feel safe and secure, which cannot be accomplished by giving commands or flooding a dog with treats.
Brian was extremely delighted to find another successful trainer who focused on dog psychology as opposed to just “dog-training.” Although Brian and Cesar believe leadership is essential, Brian’s primary focus is on long-term sustainable success by teaching through the owners, not for them, and by investing in the training of the owners he is giving them the necessary skills to be their dogs leader for a lifetime.
Bringing it All Together
Brian took all of this knowledge into consideration: from the benefits of strong leadership and importance of early socialization to the downfalls of overusing treats and the limitations of forceful training.
Although he did not realize it at the time, he had found his calling. He would go on to spend the next 30 years analyzing the benefits and deficiencies of his prior experiences, developing his own holistic approach to training which focused on an owner-dog relationship derived from mutual respect and understanding instead of force and bribery.
A Transformational Approach
Brian’s transformational approach in raising and developing mentally healthy dogs has allowed him to dramatically improve the quality of life for thousands of families and their dogs. By following his passion and calling, he continues to make positive differences in the human-dog relationship every day.