Our Dog Trainers
VISION CHATEAUGUAY, JULY 2003
She holds many types of classes including puppy parties (focused on socialization, handling, housetraining, chewing, settling down, etc), basic obedience courses and private consultations. Each program is between 4 – 6 weeks long and is for dogs of all ages.
Susan has been training dogs since she got her first dog at the age of twelve. She has traveled all over the United States and Canada refining her trade. She also spent thirteen years learning from Jean Donaldson, dog trainer and author who currently works for the San Francisco SPCA, teaching the positive reinforcement training program.
Gillett not only trains dogs, but also does many other things for the community, including giving canine safety speeches at kindergartens, day cares and Beavers. She has trained two seeing-eye dogs and her career has introduced her to people like Roch Voisine and Robert De Niro, whose dog she trained while he was in Montreal filming the movie “THE SCORE
There are three main things people ask Susan to help them with: house training, greeting and coming when called. Susan says that the key to training is consistency. She believes that aversive techniques should not be used in training a dog. You need to mark the behaviour by telling them it is wrong and showing them what is right. For example, if they are chewing on the couch, tell them “BAD DOG” and give them something that is appropriate to chew on.
It has been scientifically proven that you have three seconds after the incident in order to punish the dog. And putting its nose in it will not do anything; it will basically say “Yeah, that’s mine.”
Some say that can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but it is not necessarily true. You can teach an old dog new tricks, just as you would a human. It takes a while to break bad habits, but they can be trained to anything a puppy can do with a little more effort.
A lot of people think it is better to get a puppy, but older dogs can fit some lifestyles better than a puppy. If you simply want a companion that you do not have to exercise twice a day, an older dog would be a better choice.
Through Susan Gillett’s busy life of training dogs and helping the community, she also finds time for own two dogs: Trooper, a Labrador Retriever, and Eddie, a border terrier.
Susan is a member of C.A.P.P.D.T. (Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers). To contact her for help with your dog, call her business line at 450-691-4769.
THE MONTREAL GAZETTE, September 20, 2002
Two nights a week, she takes over a West Island church, she affectionately calls “my pissing ground”, where she has been leading dog obedience classes for the past nine years.
“For the love of dogs, trainer is on call”
But Delva The rest of the week she is on call, trouble-shooting for dog owners who need help breaking their dogs’ bad behaviour – among the problems, dog-on-dog aggression, biting, incessant barking and leash-pulling.
“I wouldn’t call it a gift,” Howell said. “But it is something that comes easy to me.
“I can communicate with another species and if I can share that expertise, I’m happy.
“Hopefully, I’m making a difference.”
Howell works with Positive Canine, a Montreal-based organization that uses positive reinforcement to teach dogs to obey their owners. The group is recognized by local veterinarians and the Canadian Kennel Cub.
It’s Howell’s second job and first love.
If she was starting out today, Howell said, she would have stayed in school so that she could have become a veterinarian or animal behaviourist and worked with animals full time.
But not having gone that route, she said, she is lucky to have a full time job that pays the bills and an opportunity to work with dogs part time.
A dog lover since her childhood in Laval – where she grew up with a succession of canine pets: Bootsie, Snoopy, Peanut, Pepper and Daisy – Howell first learned about dog-training in her late teens.
After acquiring Tasha, a Golden Labrador, and her first very own dog, she enrolled in a dog obedience class offered by Jean Donaldson, a renowned dog-trainer and the founder of Renaissance Dog Training, the predecessor to Positive Canine.
“Jean’s style of training was very different and I knew right off I wanted to learn more” remarked Howell.
Donaldson now heads the SPCA in San Francisco and tours the U.S. giving dog-training workshops.
She is the author of two books on dogs, including Dogs Are From Neptune (Trade Paperback, $24.95), which sports on its cover Howell’s dog, Princess Katana, a 5-year-old Australian cattle dog.
“She was fantastic…. a real mentor,” said Howell, who ended up working under Donaldson as an assistant for six years “sucking up as much knowledge as I could.”
This evening, Howell is meeting and greeting as dogs and their owners gather at Beaurepaire United Church in Beaconsfield for one of Howell’s weekly dog-obedience classes. “Find a spot,” she tells them, “I’ll come around and work with you all.”
“Trainer says job is fun, not magic”
This is the fifth in a series of six classes for this group of puppies, including a sheltie, cairn terrier and shih tzu, and their owners.
There is some barking, but by this point in training, Howell said, the dogs are listening quite consistently to their owner’s commands and following their directions well.
She guides the classes through a series of exercises, including long-distance stays; the dogs sits and stays in the same spot for a minute or more while the owner moves 10 feet away, then gradually further, and recalls (calls the dog from a distance).
“It’s not magic,” she said. “It’s work. Whatever you put in, you get back tenfold.
“I enjoy it,” she added.
As for being peed on and snarled at, Howell said, it doesn’t happen that often. And, the bites she has suffered have not been serious enough to send her to the hospital.
“I’m smart,” she explained. “I know how to read dogs.
“If a dog is snarling and his ears have flattened back, he’s telling me, right now, ‘Don’t come another step closer.'”