Photo from left: Anne Swan, Sara Munro, Jill Atamian Hall, Joan Hunter Mayer and Andrea Bratt (Santa Barbara Positive Dog Trainers photo)

Noozhawk’s Four-Legged Friends and More Guide is officially here! We have sniffed out local businesses that best cater to the needs, health, comfort, training, exercise, and general welfare of our furry companions!

To provide a closer look at the pet establishments in Santa Barbara County, Noozhawk has conducted a series of interviews with representatives of local businesses for this year’s Four-Legged Friends and More Guide that will be sure to have your tail wagging.

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Jill Atamian Hall of Four on the Floor Dog Training, Andrea Bratt of K9’s Behave, Joan Hunter Mayer of The Inquisitive Canine, Anne Swan of Perfect Puppy Academy, and Sara Munro of Sara Munro Dog Training to learn more about the services these dog trainers provide!

Santa Barbara Positive Dog Trainers

Question: Who are the Santa Barbara Positive Dog Trainers? 

Answer: Jill Atamian Hall of Four on the Floor Dog Training, Andrea Bratt of K9’s Behave, Joan Hunter Mayer of The Inquisitive Canine, Anne Swan of Perfect Puppy Academy, and Sara Munro of Sara Munro Dog Training.

Q: What unifies you as a group?

A: We are a local group of collaborative, science-based dog trainers who each run our own business, yet support one another in our own endeavors. We share similar philosophies and training methods, hold professional credentials maintained via continuing education, and perform dog training and behavior consulting services according to a Standard of Practice and a Code of Ethics. We have different areas of interest and expertise and offer training via a variety of service structures.

Q: What is your training philosophy?

A: We are motivated by both compassion for our clients and the science of dog behavior and how dogs learn. All of us strive to offer enjoyable experiences for dogs and people, both because we love what we do, and because evidence shows that learning is more effective when it’s fun. We tailor our programs to fit the needs of both the dog and their family members and structure training plans to make goals achievable for everyone. 

Q: What training methods do you use?

A: We use current sound, scientific principles such as positive reinforcement, and avoid the use of methods that cause stress, pain, learned helplessness, fear and other behavioral issues.

We consider a variety of factors when designing a training plan including setting animals up for success by removing opportunities to practice unwanted behaviors. When making training and behavior modification decisions, we follow the Humane Hierarchy of Behavior Change and the Procedures for Humane and Effective Practices. This is referred to as LIMA.

Q: What is LIMA?

A: Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) Effective Behavior Intervention Policy.

In the vast majority of cases, desired behavior change can be made by focusing on the animal’s physical well-being, the environment, and operant and classical interventions such as teaching an alternative behavior, desensitization, and counter-conditioning. 

Rather than focusing on unwanted behaviors and trying to teach dogs to stop performing a specific unwanted behavior, we focus on teaching a replacement behavior that is incompatible with the old, unwanted behavior. We also manage the environment to help dogs make good choices. 

Q: Can you describe the services your business offers? 

A: Collectively we offer classes and private training and behavior consulting in everything from new puppy to specialty sports, fear, aggression, and separation anxiety, and we work both in-person and remotely. (See each trainer’s site for individual details.) When the need arises, we consult with our client’s veterinarian, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB), and Vet Behaviorists (VB). 

Q: What relevant training, education and experience do you have?

A: All of us have an extensive background in education in a variety of fields including animal training and behavior. In addition undergraduate degrees at traditional universities, we’ve also completed professional programs with the Karen Pryor Academy of Animal Training and Behavior , the Academy for Dog Trainers, Pat Miller’s Peaceable Paws, and an extensive list of courses and conferences. Collectively, we have 95 years of experience working with dogs and the people who love them. (See each trainer’s site for individual details.)

Q: Do you hold any professional certifications?

A: We are all Certified Professional Dog Trainers-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), an independent certification organization.

Among ourselves we also hold the following credentials and certifications: Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA), Academy for Dog Trainers Certificate in Training and Counseling (CTC) two Karen Pryor Academy-Certified Training Partners, (KPA-CTP), Canine Nose Work Instructor, (CNWI), Puppy Start Right Instructor, (PSRI), Family Paws Parent Educator (FPPE),  two Certified Separation Anxiety Trainers (CSAT), two Dogbiz Certified Dog Walkers, Associate Member International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). (See each trainer’s site for individual details.)

Q: How do you stay up to date on the latest advances in the science of dog training?

A: In addition to being lifelong learners, and finding educational pursuits enjoyable, maintenance of many of our credentials requires continuing education through approved programs. We pursue and maintain competence through reading trade literature; attending conferences, workshops and seminars; pursuing professional educational opportunities, and hands-on experience.

Q: Do dog trainers have Standards of Practice and a Professional code of ethics? If so, what are yours?

A: Because the training industry is unregulated, there are no set of overarching standards. Regardless, we have chosen to uphold a professional path that requires them. They encompass our commitment to humane training, ongoing professional development, and maintaining professionalism via honesty, respect, transparency, and confidentiality.

Our standards promote the best possible outcomes without making guarantees, accurately representing our skills and scope of practice, titles and credentials, and above all, do no harm. 

Q: When you’re not training other people’s dogs, what do you like to do with your own dog?

A: Andrea loves working with Olivia performing therapy dog services in our community, Jill and Whitney love to track and volunteer with SB County Search and Rescue, Joan and Ringo love playing training games, especially K9 Nose Work®, Anne and her dog travel the country winning agility titles, and Sara enjoys working on special projects—like teaching Moki to file her own nails.

Q:  If dog parents want to get a hold of you, how can they do that? 

A: We would love to hear from folks. They can contact us through our individual websites. 

Jill Hall — Four on the Floor Dog Training

Andrea Brätt — K9’s Behave 

Joan Hunter Mayer — The Inquisitive Canine 

Anne Swan — Perfect Puppy Academy 

Sara Munro — Sara Munro Dog Training