Touch of Love



Dogs give us kisses, laughter, unconditional love and a guaranteed snuggle if a bad dream make its way into our slumber. But what if that delicious doggy from the pet shelter proves to be a behavioral handful once you get him or her home? Thanks to professional dog trainer extraordinaire Skip Daiger, you won’t ever have to worry about a rambunctious pooch.

A certified pet dog trainer, Daiger has been strengthening the bond of dogs and their owners for six years through his gentle obedience training—and the results speak for themselves. Daiger coaches both dogs and owners in tandem, which he says helps to eliminate common behavioral problems such as chewing, barking, jumping, nipping and running away when the garage door is left open.

“Many people believe if they dominate their dogs, then everything will be fine,” says Daiger. “That’s not even remotely true.”

Skip Daiger, manager of behavior and training for the Heartland SPCA.

In fact, Daiger says dominating a dog can cause it to become even more aggressive, since it can come to fear its owner. Combining positive reinforcement for the dog along with a load of education for the owner is integral to Daiger’s process.

“Utilizing and learning theory and counter conditioning is extremely effective and yields much more pleasant results in the long run,” says Daiger.

Counter conditioning simply means to re-teach a pet to have a happy or pleasing reaction toward something that they generally fear. For example, rather than yelling at a dog to hush when he barks, providing him a treat or a soothing belly rub when he is quiet is a positive reinforcement for good behavior. The action reinforces that good things indeed will happen when the dog is silent.

Daiger’s recent work with the Heartland SPCA in Overland Park is a testament to his enthusiasm for dog training. In January of 2012, Daiger was named the manager of behavior and training for the organization and dedicates his time to evaluating and guiding behaviorally-challenged dogs that arrive at the shelter. The goal is to train the animals to become more appealing and safer to the prospective owners who are considering adoption.

“We see dogs on both ends of the emotional spectrum,” explains Daiger. “There are reactive dogs who are aggressive, and dogs who are extremely shy or fearful.

We want the dogs to first feel safe, and once that happens, we can often uncover the core behavioral issues.”
It may seem that the training and evaluating of dogs in the shelter would be most beneficial to the owners who take them home, but in reality, the true benefit is to the animals themselves.

“In working with these dogs, we are uncovering past issues that can be very difficult to deal with,” Daiger explains. “Some dogs are perfectly fine and go straight to an adopted home. But the ones that need training are really evaluated and taught to control their emotions.”

And though a trained dog is more likely to find a forever home, it becomes the owner’s responsibility to continue the process. Thankfully, Heartland SPCA and

Daiger maintain detailed records of each dog’s history, including what behavior training has been completed.

“Education is key. We want owners to know that they’re not just a treat Pez dispenser to get their dog to behave,” says Daiger. “We want to educate them on what we’ve done with the animal so they can maintain that behavior.”

It’s natural that anyone would feel proud for taming a behaviorally-challenged dog, but for Daiger, it’s something much simpler than vanity that inspires him.

“Pairing a dog with a forever home is a gift,” he explains. “When you can make that happen, it’s a life-changing event. For the dog, for the human and for the family members. It is so very rewarding, and I’m glad to be able to be a part of it.”

For more information about Skip Daiger, dog training classes and the Heartland SPCA, visit heartlandspca.org or daigerdogtraining.com.