Get the scoop on our positive reinforcement trainers at WOOFS! This month, meet Erica Pytlovany, a senior trainer and behavior consultant who has been WOOFing for 10 years!

1. Did you have a background in working with dogs (or other animals) prior to working at WOOFS?

I started working with horses and riding when I was 11 and I dreamed of being a professional horse trainer when I grew up (hunter jumper, and later dressage). It was much later, when I first learned about clicker training, that I began to train dogs and started to compete in Agility and Rally Obedience.

2. What are your goals/aspirations in being a trainer?

Too many goals and aspirations! I want to get back into the Rally Obedience ring this year. I’m training Primrose (3 year old Border Collie) in Canine Freestyle. I am getting started with Fenzi TEAM titles for obedience training. I want to complete Caleb’s (6 year old Border Collie) Trick Dog Champion title. And I am getting ready to submit for my own TAGteach Level 3 certification. And that’s just what I’m trying to complete in 2017!

3. What is the most challenging part of working with animals for you and why?

The most challenging part of working with animals is to learn to completely set your ego aside. If your animal is struggling with something, it’s almost certain that YOU need to make changes. Maybe your trainee is just having a tough day and you just need to stop and try again tomorrow. Maybe your brilliant, perfect training approach isn’t as amazing as you think it is (and trust me, your animal will let you know!). Maybe your expectations are just way too high and you need to do a major reset. When things go wrong, we tend to take it very personally, but to be an experienced trainer is to step back, adjust your plan, and work with the animal in front of you at the moment.

4. What is the most rewarding part of working with animals for you and why?

I love the way that choice-based positive training gives us a way to have two-way conversations with our furry, finned, and feathered family members. Through training, we develop a common language. It’s exhilarating to connect during a training session, but during everyday life, it’s even more deeply satisfying to know I’ve established strong ways to communicate with my dogs and other animals, and they can communicate with me just as easily. We have a relationship built on trust, and I am committed to being consistent, fair, and most important, to listen to them as much as I would like them to listen to me. Sometimes people ask me how you can tell what your dog wants. Just ask them and watch. They’re ususally pretty darn clear about what they want, if you only take the trouble to pay attention!

5. What is the most rewarding part of working at WOOFS! for you and why?

The most rewarding part of working at WOOFS! is the community that has grown over the years. Our clients and students are some of the nicest people I could hope to spend my time with, and I’m consistently inspired by all of you. We often think of ourselves as Aunties and Uncles as much as trainers, especially when we get to see puppies grow up and develop over years. I am also grateful for the incredible camaraderie and collaboration amoung our fantastic trainers – we continually push each other to improve our teaching methods, our class material, and our own training skills.

6. Tell us about your pets:

In addition to our canine family members, we have Darwin, a 7 year old Citron-crested Cockatoo, an orange Hellraiser cat named Scotty Don’t, and a large saltwater aquarium.

7. Certifications and Accomplishments:

– Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP)
– Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), 2008-2014
– TAGteach Level 2 Certification
– Certified Trick Dog Instructor (CDTI)
– AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator
– Professional Member of Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT)
– Professional Member of Pet Professional Guild (PPG)
– Competition titles in Rally Obedience as well as accomplishments in agility, obedience, and sheep herding