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Steven Cogswell
VSA-CDT-Online, Cert. SAPT, LICMP

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 (Online). You may have seen Victoria on her television show "It's Me or the Dog." That certification was earned by graduating from the internationally acclaimed Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior. In order to maintain my certification I have signed an agreement to abide by VSA's "Four Pillars of Positive Training." These four pillars are the foundation of PPD's training.

The world of dog training is awash with conflicting information. There are a lot of well-meaning, reputable folks who care about dogs and they feel pinch collars, shock collars, choke chains, and all sorts of punishment techniques have a place in modern dog training. 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. 

Experience

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 in February of 2022. Practically Perfect Dogs came into being March of 2022. And here we are. 

Education

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:

  • VSA In-Person Track (in progress) -- June 2022 - February 2023

  • 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

Miscellaneous

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. 

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