What is Holistic Pet Training?


What is "Holistic" Pet Training?
Written By Natalie Hawkins CPDT-KA


"Holistic | Holistic Definition by Merriam-Webster
Medical Definition of holistic. 1: of or relating to holism. 2: relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body."

Seventeen years ago I started training dogs; a friend suggested the very name for my business. I wanted the name to convey that I provided a service that didn't just correct bad behavior, but helped the dog as a whole. Considering the environment, their health and how everyday routines and even their food could contribute or take away from behaviors and mental wellbeing as well as physical health.

As most dog trainers do, I started my learning process with limited knowledge about actual training. I had trained my own dogs, helped some friends and seemed to have some natural instinct for it. I spent several years working with other trainers learning the basics. Also, while continuing to research health and behavioral issues that seemed to plague the dogs I had as clients. I grew up with horses, my father and mentor Lester Dumm learned when he was young the value of communication with an animal, not just to force behavior. We trained our horses with the mindset that they could be shown, and learn what we wanted without force or pain. This was always in the back of my mind; if a horse was struggling with a task we broke it down into smaller pieces, took more time and were patient.

Environment must be considered in any behavior modification situation. What is influencing the undesired behavior? Food? Home? Daily activities? With the understanding behavior cannot change if it is being reinforced by the environment. This is where the Holistic part of my job started to take shape. Looking into and asking questions about the dog's daily activity, the food they ate, the medications they were on, how the people in the family treated them, all is part of the training process. My goal is to better understand the dog, the "why”, was the dog behaving in a particular way? Could that situation change? If it did change did the behavior change with it? Management is the first step to correctly addressing behavioral issues in animals.

I always felt because dogs are bred for generations to do a specific task for us and enjoy our company we should give them the benefit of understanding their needs. My goal is to help owners provide an enriched, understanding environment for their pet dogs. All family pet dogs must learn how to best live with their human families. Manners or the lack thereof is the number one reason dogs are sent to shelters, so yes they are very important. Dogs are very quick studies, especially if the environment supports learning. This means the humans must have a basic understanding of how their dog learns. Luckily for us there are always breakthroughs and advancements in the scientific field of learning. If we can understand how to shape an environment to support a desired behavior we can be more effective and will have greater success. Foods, exercise, stimulus all play a very important role in the learning process.

We strive to treat each animal as the individual they are, be the benevolent leader they can respect. We must provide a nurturing environment and set them up for success. Holistic is to be aware of the whole, the entirety of the situation. When we are educated, understanding and supportive of their needs our pets become part of our family.