My name is Silvano and my interest in dog training began many years ago at around the age of 7. There was a movie in the 70′s called the Doberman Gang; it was about 5 dobermans that were trained to rob a bank. The entire movie was focused on how these dogs were each trained to d a specific thing and work as a team. I was fascinated at the fact that dogs were so smart and could be taught to do almost anything. Of course after watching the movie I wanted a dog of my own to train; living in an apartment in West Hollywood didn’t help my cause. My dad was against having a dog in the house so I found the next best thing. Our apartment was off of Melrose Place and at the time there were nothing but antique stores on this small street. There was on store on the corner that had a Golden Retriever named Ruffy that would hangout in front of the shop. I walked over and asked the owner if I could train his dog, he asked what I was going to teach his dog. I told him that his dog would learn how to shake and bark when told to. He laughed and asked how I planned on making this happen. I didn’t have an answer so he told me that dogs will work for food. The next day I came back to the shop and began my training. For weeks I would walk to that corner and Ruffy would see the kid with hotdogs coming towards him and basically eat my hotdogs and not bark or shake. Ruffy’s owner saw how determined I was and started to help me with my training. One thing he said that I never forgot was that I had to make Ruffy work for the hotdog; I was just giving them away. We would have Ruffy sit and I would hold a piece of hotdog in my clenched fist. Out of no where he lifted his paw and hit my hand. His owner said open your hand and give him the hotdog and tell him good shake.
As the years past my attempts of getting my own dog never panned out. The week after I left for college and settled into my new living space I bought a 4 month old Rottweiler. During college I worked at a veterinary hospital for a few months then found a job at Keystone Kennels just outside of New Haven, CT. Keystone Kennels did everything; boarding, training, animal hospital, and yes a pet cemetery. It was a perfect job for a college kid with a Rottweiler, I could leave Zumaya at home during class and take her to work with me later in the day. My duties at Keystone ranged from cleaning the dog runs to assisting the head trainer. I has read many books over the years by different trainers and learned about different methods. When it came to Zumaya I was very focused on positive reinforcement with either a toy or food as the reward. Kathy the head trainer also used positive reinforcement, but I also noticed her be corrective with the dogs as well. I asked her about her method and she told me to bring my dog to the Schutzhund Club of Connecticut meet next weekend.
I had no idea what Schutzhund was so I went to the book store and found a book all about it. As I read the book I found that it was a completion in Germany that had 3 parts; obedience, tracking, and protection with 3 levels a dog could be rated. Schutzhund 3 was the highest rating and was very difficult to achieve. From what I learned at the Schutzhund club was that food is how we reinforce and drive is how we reward in this case the drive was to clamp down on the bite sleeve of the person wearing it. I also started to understand that once a dog understood a command there was no need for the treat, if the dog was given a command and didn’t do it a slight correction was given. Through Schutzhund I also learned that treats are used to reinforce because if the dogs drive is used we lose the calm attentive vibe we want while performing core commands. This relates to all breeds, if we have a lab and use a ball to reinforce his sit, the dog will most likely break the sit because the drive to retrieve the ball is too strong. I learned a lot from the members of the Schutzhund club and combined some of the techniques into my style that I use to this day. There were many trails outside of New Haven that I would walk through daily with Zumaya. As art school was finishing I was ready to get out of the east coast and get back home to SoCal.
Soon after getting back I got a job doing photoshop work for a fashion company. I always remember every time people came over my place they would always comment on how well mannered my dog was. I would always hear I wish my dog was that well behaved, I would ask what does your dog do. It was always the same answers; cry when I leave, don’t listen, pee in the house, pull me when we walk. To me these were all unacceptable behaviors and I couldn’t understand why everyone’s dog had the same issues. I noticed the common things between all these dog owners was they didn’t exercise their dog, the food bowl wS always full of food, they were always petting or telling the dog how much they loved them, and when the dog would do something wrong the would say “no” “stop that”. All of these people truly loved their dogs, but had no idea how to communicate to them or give them what they truly needed. Like Ruffy’s owner told long ago and people at the Schutzhund club, the dog must work for what he gets. We control food, affection, and exercise; if we give all three for nothing we have nothing left to give in return for our dogs to look to us as the leader. As the years went by I lost Zumaya to cancer and many more dogs. I was still in the art industry, but spent free time going to seminars for behavioral, therapy, or anything dog related I could find. It was always the same story; people would come over and comment on how well behaved my dogs were. I started working with people’s dogs as a hobby at the time.
In 1998 I realized I didn’t like what I did for a living and decided to pursue a career in the dog industry. I found a place in west LA that did training and basically worked for knowledge and experience. Around 2003 I noticed a major change in how kennels were set up and the free roaming indoor dog park trend happening. I saw an ad on craigslist for a new facility that had just opened and applied for a dog handler position. I got the job and it was awesome, a huge 6000 square foot building with a bunch of dogs. As time went by I had to make a decision on going back to my old industry or see if I could grow with this new facility. After a couple of years I talked the owner into letting me start a training program there. As time went on the place expanded to 150000 square feet, a separate training area for me and an assistant. I ended up becoming the GM and running the training program, advising clients on dog nutrition, rehabilitating aggressive dogs, becoming an AKC CGC evaluator, and so much more. As the training program grew I stopped being the GM and focused all my time and energy on the training program. My style developed naturally over time and had a little bit of everything I learned over the years in it.
People always ask what my training method is when I first meet them. I always tell them whatever works best for your dog. I am a firm believer that we should teach through positive methods, but we also need to communicate with a dog like a dog. The word NO has no meaning to a dog without some type physical correction. Spending so many years watching the dogs at daycare really taught me how dogs communicate to each other. I also noticed that many if the daily dogs were there because they had to be. I have always been a firm believer that when an owner leaves the house the dogs job is to stay home and watch the house. Dogs thrive and having a job and playing a role in the pack. Clients would ask me how Rottweiler Dante was doing and could they see him. When I would say he is great, but he stayed home today he is doing his job. People couldn’t understand why I would leave my dog home alone when he could come to work everyday with me. When Dante came to work with me it was because he was working that day. A human can’t explain or teach a dog everything, having a balanced confident dog on your team makes teaching dogs with behavioral issues a lot more effective. I loved Dante with every part of my heart and soul, but showed it to him in the form of long hikes, giving him responsibilities at the house, and a belly rub at the end of the day. The affection I gave him was not humanized, but communicated to him in a way he understood. The days Dante would stay home he would greet my wife and daughter then go back to the front porch and guard the house and wait for me to get home. When walked through the front gate he would great me with the Dante wiggle and follow me into the house. He ate when I got home, if it was 5pm he ate then, if it was 7pm that’s when he ate. Dante lived according to my schedule, I never scheduled my day around my dog.
I strongly believe that all dogs should know their core commands; which I consider to be sit, down, look, go to your area (I call it take a rest), walk politely on a like leash, and most importantly come when called. I am not into gimmicks and products that guarantee your dog well walk politely if you use this type of collar. A dog should walk politely with you because they understand that is what they should do. Certain collars, harnesses, leashes are just tools we will use to help teach and guide our dog what we expect from them. If you are wondering why I left the command stay out of the core commands it’s because if the sit commNd is given the dog should stay sitting until released by the handler. At the end of the day sit is no different then shake. It is something your dog naturally does and we have simply applied a word and hNd signal to have them do it on command. If these core commands are implemented into your dogs daily life they will become a very helpful tool I’m your quest to become the boss. In the beginning it is important to teach in a somewhat controlled environment and slowly make your way out to the real world. Working in a large facility setting for many years truly gave me the opportunity to see what truly works and what doesn’t. You can leave your dog at a huge dog facility for 2 to 4 weeks and come back to a well trained dog. Once you and your dog get home or into a real life situation the controlled stetting is no longer there and most likely dog and owner are not prepared for the unexpected situation.
Working with a dog at their home or taking them to the grove or ocean ave for a solid session will bring true real life results. Having the owner involved throughout the process gets the owner ready for the changes they will need to make. A proper session should start with a 4 to 5 mile skateboard ride with the dog tuning along side me, or a nice long hike or run through one of the many trails we have in Los Angeles. Once we have broken down the dog physically we can work them mentally, I have many clients that have me come and train their dog at the house or pick them up and take them to the spot I have chosen for the day. Once or twice a week I do half the session with the owner and give them a couple of things I want them to start practicing on their own. When I decided to leave the security of 11 years and a 3000 client data base people thought I was out of my mind. Actually it was the best thing I could have ever done. For me it will always be about the dog and quality over quantity is fine with me. Having a dog with anxiety in a facility setting with dogs barking, things moving every which way is the last place this type of dog should be. I will have 1 to 2 dogs stay at my personal house for behavioral issues, and puppy training. How can a dog be house broken in a facility setting? The answer is they can’t be. My goal is to teach your dog through love, structure, and discipline followed by helping you take over and implement everything into your home and life. You ask what my training method is; I can have 10 dogs all the same age and might use 10 different techniques to teach each dog how to sit.