My Methodology

My personal methodology has been developed from years of combined education and hands-on experience with animals and their humans. I encourage you and your family to read my methodology before you decide if I’m the right fit for your behavior and/or training needs.

All dogs are individuals. Their expressed behaviors and personality traits are simply a product of their genetics and their environment; what’s in their DNA and how they are shaped by their surroundings as they develop. Though their behaviors and personality traits can be complex, the basic idea of nature and nurture being what defines an individual is what I base all of my training and behavior modification methodology from.

The closest I can come to describing my relationship with my dogs is as a parental figure. Not a boss, not a grandparent, not a best friend. I don’t believe in spoiling dogs (or kids for that matter) and I don’t believe my dog should do what I say, just because I barked an order. I believe the best type of relationship falls right in the middle of those two extremes with understanding and respect between both human and canine. Setting guidelines, routines, understanding what rewards are appealing to your dog, understanding their fears – those are all practices that dogs thrive on. This may be difficult for some to accept and/or understand and that’s okay. This is what works for me and what I’ve personally been able to build successful relationships from.

I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all narrative when it comes to training methods especially in behavior modification, most emphatically in aggression cases. Safety of the humans involved, (especially little humans) and safety of the dogs comes first, and unfortunately, in my experience, I am not of the belief system that utilizing one specific form of training can safely and effectively handle difficult behavior modification and aggression cases.

The bond between owner and animal to where a peaceful and happy existence is mutual. Again, I base this on all dogs being individuals and I find it critical to their happiness and your happiness in the relationship that you find what works best for your dog and your family. If that includes a training tool, a specific type of food, no food, no training tools, using tug, etc. and that’s what your dog responds best to, then that’s what we do. I don’t box myself into training labels such as R+, Balanced, Alpha, and so on and so forth – any of them. Again, it is my personal belief system that each dog should be approached as an individual and the relationship should be cultivated on that guiding principle.

Aside from pre-labeled training methods, I do practice a specific training strategy known as LIMA – Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive. The concept of LIMA is to only do what is necessary to stop an undesirable behavior and replace it with a desired behavior. This specific type of strategy helps us put our human emotions aside and come at inter-species communication and guidance from a place of compassion. To sum it up analogically, the idea is why use a blow torch when a lighter will suffice?

Working With Me

Much of my work is done through teaching – that is teaching owners more so than their canine companions. The reason I do this is so that owners can build a better understanding of why we do things the way that we do them and can use that information in other areas of relationship building and understanding when I am not right there with them. It’s easy for me to teach your dog “how to do stuff”. Understanding why your dog does the things that they do is more complicated and is not something everyone is interested in, but certainly brings great benefit in the long run. Expect a lot of conversation with me, especially during our first couple of sessions.

I take my work very seriously. Training and/or modification can sometimes be intense and you may feel slightly tired after some sessions, (don’t worry – not all) just as much as your dog does. That’s normal and it means positive growth is happening, just as if you were to go the gym and be slightly sore the next day. That’s when you know you are getting somewhere. You should also feel a sense of ease as we progress and begin to recognize the changes in your canine companion.

I am very open to communication, including feedback throughout the entirety of our process together.

Regarding treatment and training plans for your dog, I’ll use a line from Dave Ramsey – if you do anything different than what is presented as the Dave Ramsey Method, it’s no longer Dave Ramsey’s method. “There is no Dave-ish.” My belief system is the same in the way that I interact with my clients and their beloved animals. There is no Sara-ish. If you want it to work, you have to put in the work. If you want to reach the goals that we set together, you have to follow the plan the way that it was designed for your unique case. There are always calculated reasons for why I do things the way that I do them that are derived from many years of both learning and experience. With that being said, if there are critical barriers in the way of following a training or treatment plan, we can work together to solve the problem and come at it a different way. Open communication, (with humans and dogs) is the key to our collective success.

I very much want you to succeed. Not only does it bring the feels for me to see communication open up and relationships blossom between humans and canines, but it also leads to amazing community resolutions such as lower abandonment rates at the shelters, significantly fewer animals euthanized due to behavior problems, and lower dog bite and attack rates.

Training isn’t just about your dog being able to follow “commands”. It’s about bringing happiness to the animal just as much as it is to you. It’s about better communication and therefore better understanding of one another. It’s about leaving behind your human way of thinking and trying to learn to from your dog’s perspective given that they don’t have the cognitive ability to leave behind thinking like a dog to better understand their humans. When you strengthen the relationship, wonderful things happen.

My “Best Owner Possible” Emails

Sara Ondrako Newsletter

Every month, I send out an exclusive email with relevant things that I believe help you to be the best pet parent. It could include exclusive giveaways or chances to interact with me, books, toys, articles, health, videos, and random weird things I discovered to keep you updated on all things pets.

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