Cindy Elmer has been training dog owners to establish a loving, respectful relationship with their dogs, where the dog sees its owner as the leader.
"With that kind of relationship, the dog can be trained to do just about anything, and what (the owner says) carries a lot of weight," said Elmer.
Elmer is certified with the Animal Behavior and Training Associates and has 23 years of experience in teaching family dogs, show dogs, puppies and older dogs to respect their owners. She encourages all family members to participate in training.
She said the challenge in dog training is not the dogs but the people, because most people don't realize that a lot of their dog's behavior problems are the result of how they have related to their dogs, how they have promoted a certain type of relationship.
For instance, she said, you have a nice sweet old lady with a poodle and she is babying the dog so much that the dog will not allow anybody to approach her, or she could be petting the dog at the wrong time and the dog is growling, so the dog learns that if it growls it gets petted.
The two most difficult things to train a dog to do are to not pull on a leash and to come when called.
Dogs naturally want to be the leaders of the family pack, and unknowingly owners treat them in ways that encourage that behavior
"From puppyhood on (the dog) starts out, ‘I'm in charge and I want to control my environment so I am going to go first and make sure it is safe.' They can be very assertive dogs or very afraid dogs, and they are still going to pull because it is a matter of seeing that everything is OK and safe," Elmer said.
Calling your dog to come can be a showdown between you and your dog, and mirrors what the relationship is.
"The dog needs to see you as a leader, not an equal or subordinate," Elmer said.
When the dogs sees his owner as the subordinate, he may think, ‘what are you gonna offer me if I come?' and ‘Maybe I will, maybe I won't.'
Elmer became a dog trainer because she loves animals and has a special affinity for dogs.
"I got into showing and obedience because it was fun," said the woman who used to show German shepherds.
When world-class German trainer Helmutt Rashaus joined their local German shepherd club, he became the trainer, showing them how to work with "protection dogs," and she became his assistant.
"If there was ever a dog whisperer, Rashaus was really it," she said. "He developed the canine leadership ranking, where he would gently retrain an aggressive dog. I learned a lot from him and it got me interested in doing the dog training."
She began by teaching 4-H classes, group classes for adults and their dogs and eventually started a private business in the early 1980s.
The advantage to hiring her as a trainer is experience, Elmer said.
She said she has worked with some of the best people in behavior modification and leading behaviorist counselors for dogs.
"Every time you are dealing with your dog, you are psychologically sending him the message that you are in charge, but in a very gentle way. This creates a very big difference from the way I work and a lot of other people because I put the stress on the leadership issue, then it is pretty easy to train the dog to do all the other elements.
"First, we are going to teach the dog to learn. He's going to learn to focus with his owner. He learns that you're the one teaching him. He'll learn to walk on a loose leash, heel, sit, come when called, ‘down,' ‘stay,' let go of things. Then we go through issues that might be coming up -- he chews, he bites, he plays too rough, he digs, he licks."
Elmer is the author of several interactive CD-ROMs and books on dog training skills and health. She said she will teach group classes at Rumsey Park in conjunction with Payson Parks and Recreation in the spring.
Cindy Elmer can be contacted about private or group training at (928) 517-1008.