I am Brenda Aloff. I have been training dogs professionally for over 20 years. I specialize in problem dogs. I have 5 published books and a DVD. I also teach at clinics and workshops around the globe.
I became interested in animal behaviour because I had a very difficult dog. I went to several trainers and behaviorists in order to understand her behavior. It was not all that helpful. So I started reading everything I could find and discovered Karen Pryor's book, Don't Shoot The Dog. This was one of the first dog training methods that made sense to me, coming from my horse training background.
Soon local veterinarians were referring dogs to me for training and clients wanted to leave their dogs with me. So, I started a boarding kennel and was providing private consults and doing a lot of rescue work at this time, as well. After about 9 years, I wanted a job in which I did not have to work 24/7 year-around and neglect my family on holidays. Mostly, I was doing so much training it was difficult to keep up with both training and the kennel. I decided to close the boarding kennel and built the Heaven on Arf Training Center and started providing training and behavioral work exclusively.
I love watching dogs and owners create a more understanding and closer relationship. After all these years, I still get a shiver of delight when I see a dog "get" the message I am trying to communicate, or when the dog has that "Ah ha!" moment. I get all warm and fuzzy when my human student has the thrill and increase in self confidence that results when using excellent mechanical skills combined with the right timing and technique. These are some of my favorite things!
At home I currently have a Smooth Fox Terrier, Zasu and a Mini-Poodle rescue, Trixie. I should be thinking about a new puppy coming up, but after years of too many dogs (no matter how much I adored each and every rescue dog, it was still too darn many), I find myself not wanting to "share" this relationship. I have given myself permission to just have two!
When I am not working dogs I am riding horses. This has been a life-long passion of mine, and I cannot wait every day to spend time on ground work or mounted work with the horses. About 8 years ago I got very involved with Dressage and love it! I find myself more intensely horse crazy even than when I was a child (which was already bordering on OCD behaviour).
The most important thing I wish people knew about their companion animals is a knowledge of dog ethology. Ethology is the study of animal behaviour, especially under natural conditions. Understanding how dogs would naturally operate opens new horizons in understanding your pet. Not having an understanding of the species or breed specific traits causes so much grief that is absolutely preventable. Most dogs lose their homes because the dog just did not behave in a way that the person was expecting. So people need to have a dose of reality BEFORE they even choose a dog. However, because I think the majority of dog purchases are an emotional decision, I think this trend will not soon change.
Once people have the dog, I wish they could read the dog's body language better, because, again, problems that are entirely preventable could be curtailed or avoided altogether. When you have even a general idea of what the dog is communicating, you have lots of opportunities to give feedback to the dog about his behaviour.
Once these two topics are understood, training and living with your dog is an absolute easy, breezy time! And then the closeness of the relationship people were dreaming about when they got the dog can develop, and wa la! No more homeless dogs! Only happy, fulfilled dogs and people.
I think, without a doubt, the most important things we should teach our companion animals is a way to relax themselves and good impulse control. The two walk hand-in-hand because you can use the same exercises to teach both concepts to the dog. Restraints are a definite part of this process, because domestic dogs are going to be handled and restrained for their whole life. Since this is not a thing that most dogs are naturally willing to put up with, it is so important to build a trust in people, that restraining and handling are not dangerous. This makes veterinary visits and strangers walking up to be "safe" activities and the dog can remain relaxed and calm and be able to be the friendly dog that is inside of them, just waiting to blossom! We place dogs in so many situations that they do not have skills to cope with. If dogs understand the concept that people are odd, but basically harmless, creatures, then the dog does not feel confused and defensive when people make clumsy attempts at communication. Not all people who come into contact with our dogs are "dog savvy" and restraints can go a long ways towards preparing dogs to cope with the humans they will meet during their lifetime. It is also important that dogs have good impulse control and a lack of anxiety on approaches and during greeting ceremonies - this allows the dog to think clearly and make good decisions even when people make poor decisions.
When teaching at clinics I really love a mix of academics and sensibility – I want the academic explanation and I want it in plain English. And I like to see those concepts with a live animal or shown on video. It improves the learning experience.
To behaviour consultants and trainers – my suggestion to you is to remain curious. Keep exploring new concepts because everything you learn might be able to help an animal to live a better, more enriched life. Look for this help in places that might be at first seem unlikely. Be ready to learn and resist rigidity in your thinking. Be kind to the human half of the equation, because that is not always so easy to do. Be exacting and deliberate with your explanations to both the dogs and the people. Confusion is hideously demotivating. Share your knowledge generously, but don't be too disappointed when people are just are not ready to take your advice. Maybe you have to begin with just planting the seed and being content that if it is planted, it might have a chance to grow.
I love helping people read their dogs better and learn to make better judgements in their dog training. My experience across dog breeds and with cross-training (training different species) adds a richness to my own training, because animals are our best teachers!
Whether you are a professional dog handlers or a dog owner, your own curiosity is your best friend (after your dog, of course) in your quest to improve the relationship with your dog and your dog's performance - no matter what the sport or job he has. My goal in training others is to help you in your own professions and hobbies. Whether you are a professional dog handler or a dog owner, there is much you can learn to improve your relationship with your dog and your dog's performance - no matter what the sport or job he has. Please check out the Reading Room, a place where I'll post articles and training videos. You can review and buy my books and DVDs and check my schedule to see if I will be in your area this year. Also, to provide a better, more in-depth learning experience, I've developed a six-month online course, the Foundation Dog Training Skills Boot Camp, to help you with many skills and learning to help you meet your own training goals.