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Steven Cogswell
VSA-CDT (In-Person with Distinction), FDM, Cert. SAPT™

Choosing a dog trainer can involve wading through an overwhelming mishmash of letters and philosophies. It's a huge decision, one we dog trainers don't always make easy for you. Adding to the confusion, dog training is a completely unregulated industry in Colorado. Anyone can legally charge money as a dog trainer, regardless of education and experience. It truly is buyer beware.

And ... speaking of education and experience, here's my story. I hope it will help you decide if PPD might be a good choice for you and your dog(s). 

Training Philosophy

I am a Victoria Stilwell Academy Certified Dog Trainer. You may have seen Victoria on her television show "It's Me or the Dog." That certification was earned by graduating with distinction from the internationally acclaimed Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior. I was fortunate to attend VSA's In-Person course, receiving hands-on instruction from Victoria and the entire VSA faculty. I take great pride in my association with VSA. They truly are leaders in the dog training industry. And ... genuinely nice folks. 


The world of dog training is awash with conflicting information. At PPD we try to follow the science. It's not enough to know an approach works; at PPD we want to know what works AND what is in your dog's best long-term interest. In answer to that, here's the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviorists recent statement on humane dog training. TL;DR "Based on current scientific evidence, AVSAB recommends that only reward-based training methods are used for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems" (bold emphases are mine).

If you choose to work with PPD we will ask you to spend your days telling your dog(s) in very specific ways when they are doing things you like and if they're doing things you don't like, to show/teach them what they could be doing instead. We will never ask you to frighten, intimidate, or intentionally cause your dog pain. 


Honestly, I'm pretty new to the dog world, outside of living with my own dogs for the past 20 years or so. My official entry into the "dogs that aren't my dogs" world was when I started volunteering at the Dumb Friends League in October 2018. For the first year, I volunteered at the Dog Adoption Desk. I looked up the dogs' behavior notes in the database and helped patrons find good potential matches. Also in 2018, I enrolled in the Lang Institute of Canine Massage, graduating from that year-long 663 hour program in 2019. 

I realized I wanted to have more direct contact with the dogs at DFL so I took DFL's training to become a volunteer trainer in the Head Start program in late 2019. The Head Start program provides one-on-one positive training to dogs that are safe to adopt out, but they have behavior issues that could use some TLC to help them succeed in their new homes. During my four years volunteering at DFL I had one-on-one training sessions with almost 400 dogs. This collage shows just a few of the dogs I've had the privilege to help. I was hooked. 

So ... I enrolled in VSA in July of 2021 and graduated from the online course in February of 2022 and the In-Person course in July of 2023. And here we are. 


It is an exciting time to be in the world of dog training. Science is doing its exponential thing and the field is exploding with new discoveries. As such, ongoing education is a must in order to stay current. Luckily, I am an ongoing education junkie. Here's a brief list of my educational endeavors:

  • Trauma Informed Pet Professionals, Assessed Practitioner -- ABK Pet Behaviour, Daniel Shaw July 2023 - February 2024

  • Fear Free Certified Professional -- Fear Free Pets -- September 2023

  • Fear Free Shelters Graduate -- Fear Free Shelters -- August 2023

  • VSA In-Person Track Graduated with Distinction -- June 2022 - June 2023

  • The Resilience Rainbow, Behavior Vets (Dr. Kathy Murphy & Bobbie Bhambree) -- June 2023 

  • 2023 Dog Behavior Conference, Victoria Stilwell -- April 2023

  • Cyber Scent (in progress), Helix Fairweather & Sarah Owings (Karen Pryor Academy faculty) -- March 2023 

  • Rocket Recall, Lisa Waggoner -- December 2022

  • L.E.G.S.® Applied Ethology Family Dog Mediation® Professional Course -- November - December 2022 

  • Scent & Scentibility: 3-Day Workshop with Dr. Robert Hewings and Karen Hewings -- November 2022

  • Harmonious Walks: Redefining Loose-Leash Walking, Nancy Tucker-- October 2022

  • Julie Naismith's SA Pro Trainer™ Program -- April - July 2022

  • Aggression in Dogs Master Course, Michael Shikashio CDBC  -- June - July 2022 

  • 2022 Dog Behavior Conference, Victoria Stilwell -- April 2022

  • Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training & Behavior -- July 2021 - February 2022

  • Brainwork for Dogs (3 sessions), Pat Miller -- January 2022

  • Geek Week 2021, Pet Professional Guild -- November 2021

  • The Great Big Dog Aggression Workshop II: Meds, Moods, & Modification, Dr. Chris Pachel DACVB, CABC & Michael Shikashio CDBC -- November 2021

  • CAMambassador, Canine Arthritis Management -- March - April 2021

  • PPG 2020 Virtual Summit - Celebrating The Pet Rescue Resource! -- April 2020

  • BRAVE - Essential Coping Strategies for Every Dog, Victoria Stilwell -- March 2020

  • Dumb Friends League: Basic Dog Walking, Learning Theory, Head Start -- December 2019

  • Re-think Trigger Stacking, Sarah Fisher -- November 2019

  • K9 First Aid and CPR -- June 2019

  • Lang Institute of Canine Massage -- June 2018 - June 2019


I'll finish up with a few odds and ends. As I have mentioned, I am certified by the Victoria Stilwell Academy as a positive dog trainer and a member of the Pet Professional Guild. I am a Lang Institute Certified Canine Massage Provider, CAMadvocate, and member of the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. I am fully insured both as a dog trainer and as a canine massage provider.


I share my life with three practically perfect rescue dogs Jasper, Gerald, and Fritz; and an unquestionably perfect cat, Jett. 

Training Philosophy
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