Ridgefield Resident Becomes Certified Professional Dog Trainer

Sebastien Rubino / sebastian@thereflector.com

Ridgefield resident Stephen Foster recently earned a professional dog trainer certification from the Professional Dog Trainers Certification Board.

To become certified, Foster had to complete more than 300 hours of training and pass a comprehensive test of approximately 200 questions. He worked as a trainer at Petco for three years and trained about 40 hours a month to get his certification.

“I’m excited,” Foster said. “It took three years of preparation.”

When training dogs, owners also play an important role in their success, Foster said.

“I’ve always joked with people that 90% of my job is actually training people,” he said. “(I have to) give them the skills they need to be able to work with their dog.”

Foster said finding the way a person learns is the best way for him to teach, which breaks down into audio, visual, and kinesthetic learners. He can teach the owner the three ways by explaining what he is going to do, demonstrating his tactics, or having him practice with the dog himself. He noted that it’s easier to teach a dog because treats are a powerful motivator.

Nowadays, dog training is much more humane than it was in the past.

“Training in the past was a lot more aversive, like using shock collars, spike collars, and other corrective gear like that,” Foster said. “Now science shows that positive reinforcement is the best way to train a dog, so using treats, toys and whatever else you can motivate them will help. Many dogs feed on pets and praise.

He said he follows current science as he trains, which is called least intrusive minimally aversive (LIMA) training. LIMA begins by detecting any physical or mental problem a dog may have, such as a missing limb or a mental condition that requires medication first. Then the formation is formed around that.

Next, Foster has to find a prior arrangement, which he says is how you can manage the environment to work with the behavior.

“For example, if the dog is digging in the trash, can you put a lid on it or under the sink? If the dog eats shoes, can we put them in a closet or out of their sight? ” he said.

The next step is positive reinforcement, which involves using a motivator to get a dog to do something, but also removing anything that causes the dog to act in a certain way. For example, if a dog keeps jumping on the owner and the owner says “no” or pushes him away, Foster said the dog should simply not be given any attention, because the attention that the animal receives reinforces the behavior of the dog.

Despite his training, Foster is not used to dealing with aggressive dogs.

According to Foster, an important part of training is learning not to step over a dog’s threshold or anything that the dog is mentally capable of handling. Some triggers, like another dog barking or a moving vehicle, can cross that threshold, he said.

“When they’re outside of their threshold, you don’t want to try training because you can cause more harm than good because they’re already stressed out,” Foster said. “So stop and let them pass whatever triggers them.”

According to Foster, a dog just does what works. If a dog gets a person’s attention by barking, that’s what they will do, he said.

Foster currently works at All Natural Pet Supply in Battle Ground.

He is currently accepting new clients and is in the process of developing social media pages for his services.

Foster can be reached at stepfosterm@gmail.com or 360-553-6561.

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