Margot & Alfredo

The Dog Whisperer; That’s what I call Catherine Stewart after watching her with my new puppy. She’s been working with him for four weeks now, and he’s a different dog. Not that Alfredo had problems… a dog doesn’t have to be a problem to want for him what my puppy has had. No… he’s a different puppy because he’s becoming very manageable and he’s excited about learning—and with Catherine, he learns so fast!

So often we hear people speaking to their dogs. “No! Stop! Wait! Sit! Fetch!” But Catherine doesn’t speak to Alfredo with commands and demands. It is amazing to see her elicit the behavior from the dog without commands. She uses her hands to guide him into a sit. She uses her eyes, gazing with great intent at his bed, where he quickly learns to lie down. Only AFTER the dog has got the idea of what’s wanted does Catherine add the commands, so Alfredo has figured it out using his own canine critical thinking. Then comes the positive reinforcement. I’m a psychologist by trade and in my own work I know that learning is more effective and lasting for a client if they come to their own realizations, with gentle guidance from me. Well, it works with dogs too. I think Alfredo has a huge sense of accomplishment and pride when he figures something out. Then comes the praise, the reinforcement, and thus the relationship is built. It’s an egalitarian relationship in many ways, in that the dog is not humiliated or bullied. I think when you respect an animal, like Catherine respects my dog, there is an incredibly strong bond that is developed.

Catherine is training me too, and I’m learning how to raise a happy dog. He doesn’t have anxiety if I am in charge. But being in charge is achieved with positive reinforcement, with the clicker, with treats, and never with harsh words, punishment or threats. And when he is successful, Catherine is quick to praise.

I guess the loveliest thing about Catherine is how she touches my pup. He is teething and I can imagine the itchy pain in his mouth. I could understand why he snapped at me and at everything else he could find, but I didn’t like it. Catherine is able to massage his gums and teeth, and it settles him right down. He loves it, and now I know how to do it. She has also demonstrated such warmth and affection for my pup with gentle body strokes. He especially seems to love to have his ears rubbed. Lucky dog.

Catherine is obviously gifted with dogs. She has what seems like an innate ability to relate to them, and it is indeed a lucky dog that gets to meet her and to be trained by her loving, gentle guidance. A dog introduced at a young age to Catherine, and her methods, is going to be better off, I believe, developing a sense of trust in humans and an eagerness to interact. And it’s a lucky dog owner too. I now feel a sense of confidence and control that doesn’t involve yelling and yanking and general frustration. No matter what stages Alfredo may go through, I’ve got some tools. And, of course, I can always call Catherine.

I am very happy with the work Catherine has done with Alfredo, and would recommend her to any new dog owner. Here’s an example of how dinner time is different in my house. When Alfredo jumps up and puts his paws on the kitchen counter (he’s a Standard Poodle and already has long legs) I just wait. No pushing him down or issuing commands. I just wait. He soon figures out this isn’t getting him anywhere, so he drops back down, and in that split second, Catherine has taught me to say “down”, click the clicker and only then does he get his food. Both Alfredo and I feel good about things. He’s figured it out, I reward him, and we are a team. He doesn’t jump up again. He’s been allowed to learn through his own thinking processes, and the learning sticks. I’m amazed by Catherine’s methods and most of all by her loving respect and affection for my puppy.

Point Roberts, WA