With their deep understanding of what makes dogs tick, these individuals show us how to expand the bond between pilot and co-pilot, bringing harmony to our shared lives.
Since the 2005 debut of trainer Victoria Stilwell’s hit television show, It’s Me or the Dog, her no-nonsense, positive-reinforcement-based approach has endeared her to pet lovers all over the world. Her holistic methods empower families to work together to create lasting solutions to behavioral problems. Stilwell’s acting background and dog-training experience have put her in an ideal position to promote positive methods to both professional and mainstream audiences in more than 30 countries. She’s judged contestants on the television show Greatest American Dog and appeared on numerous talk shows, written for several periodicals, and authored two books: It’s Me or the Dog: How to Have the Perfect Pet and Fat Dog Slim: How to Have a Healthy, Happy Pet (a third book is in progress). Plans are currently underway for a foundation to raise money for smaller rescues and assistance-dog organizations.
Stilwell’s influence on popular culture has helped create exposure for positive training while providing a media counterbalance to those promoting dominance-based methods.
Together, Suzanne Hetts and Dan Estep came up with the concept of behavioral wellness, which emphasizes the need for baselines to determine what is “well” in terms of pets’ behavior.
Pamela Reid, director of the ASPCA’s Animal Behavior Center, not only lectures on animal behavior and learning theory, she puts it into action to improve human-canine relationships.
Terry Ryan has been a guru for a generation of trainers. Teaching others how to motivate dogs through games, lecturing, writing and presenting seminars, she is a bright light in support of good relationships between people and their pups.
Pia Silvani turned her love of teaching people and dogs into an amazing career as an internationally recognized canine coach and one of the training and behavior world’s go-to people.
For the past 30 years, Wendy Volhard—who is credited with developing the first puppy test and first drive theories—has been teaching people how to communicate effectively with their pets.
Sophia Yin is a multitalented vet, behaviorist, trainer, lecturer and videographer, with a great knack for imparting knowledge and expertise both to her colleagues—via her textbooks—and to the general public. Her site has invaluable info and fantastic videos.
Emily Weiss probably never thought of herself as a matchmaker, but to the benefit of many adult dogs in shelters, it’s worked out that way. During a career dedicated to creating positive, humane animal behavior programs, Weiss developed MYM SAFER (Meet Your Match Safety Assessment For Evaluating Rehoming), a test that helps animal-welfare professionals identify potential aggression in dogs as well as opportunities for behavior modification, which ultimately leads to more—and more successful—adoptions through appropriate placement.
If you want to become fluent in “dog,” start with Dog Language, the seminal work by ethologist Roger Abrantes, widely known for his views on social behavior and its applications to the daily understanding of pet behavior.