Easy Living With Your Pooch

Easy Living With Your Pooch


Noted dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, CEO of Victoria Stillwell Positively Dog Training program, helps dog owners balance their home design with their canine commitments.

The author of “The Secret Language of Dogs” (Ten Speed Press, 2016), Stilwell is an advocate of using positive reinforcement for training.

Stillwell, who lives in Atlanta with her husband, daughter and two rescue dogs, Sadie and Jasmine, explains how to balance home design with your favorite four-legged friends.

1.What’s the No. 1 rule people should follow with a new dog?

Be positive! The most important thing for new pet owners to understand is the overall concept of how a dog mind works. If you learn the general principles of positive reinforcement, you’ll build a healthier relationship with your pet and have a solid base from which you can tackle most problems that may arise. In simplest terms, positive reinforcement is the concept that rewarding good behavior will increase the chances of that behavior being repeated.

2. Should you furnish and arrange your home with a dog in mind?

Provided you have created a structured, healthy environment in which the dog can thrive, there are very few situations that might hamper your ability to express yourself in your home design. Incorporate your design into your training routine. For example, when we first brought Sadie into our home, she had been in the habit of sleeping on sofas, which we decided we wanted to stop. As a part of the behavior modification routine, we needed to place something on the sofas to prohibit her from jumping up, so I found some really beautiful design boxes that stayed on the sofas when we weren’t around.

3. What’s your advice for a family interested in owning a dog?

Do your research. Make sure you decide on a breed type that fits your family dynamic and environment. Always look for dogs at your local shelter first – even if you’ve decided you need a purebred dog, many shelters have such dogs in abundance. Never buy a dog from a pet store or a breeder that won’t let you visit their facility. The vast majority of such enterprises support the horrific practice of puppy mills.

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