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Am I a Dog “Trainer”?

Leah Lykos

Portland Dog Trainer

I always hesitate to call myself a dog "trainer." What's that all about? Well, it's my gut feeling that dogs don't really need training, what they need is relationship. Once the dog has a strong relationship with his human counterpart, the training isn't really training at all, it's teamwork! See, dogs naturally want to please us, be in connection with us, and work in sync with us. It's selfish and self-less all at the same time. When we do well, they do well and vice-versa (the whole hunting thing). So let's help them help us.

First off, relationships are all about communication. Let's be clear and consistent in our communication including words, commands, cues, rules, boundaries, and routines. Relationships are also all about trust. So help your dog to trust you by always being that "safe place" they can come home to. Now that you've laid the groundwork for a great relationship with the building blocks of trust and communication, you can start working together! Pick an activity that your dog will enjoy and that you will, too! If this means simply going for walks in the woods, great! Playing hide-and-seek, or a nice game of tug is a good way to tap into your dog's natural instincts and help them satisfy their desire to work. You may also get into dog sports such as weight-pull, or some other activities that would emulate your dog's original purpose such as protection, herding, ratting etc. 

So you see, I don't really train dogs, but I do work with them. I work with dogs in a way that helps them connect to the world through their natural drive, which is to say, helps keep the dog’s innate “wildness” alive by allowing him to express his true (predatory) nature. This ensures that all the reasons we love dogs: their sociability, loyalty, and uncanny ability to empathize with us will remain intact. The dog can then fulfill his true purpose as a helper, playmate, and ever-faithful companion.

When you meet someone you really like and want to be friends with them, do you think, "How can I train this person to be obedient to me?" Of course not! When you find a dog you want to have a relationship with, just think: "How can I work with this dog and get him to be my teammate?"

Only then will you have the harmonious and equitable bond that we all yearn for when we are in relationship with another being.


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