Dogs | July 20, 2016

Dog Training from the Heart: Featured Interview

Val Culpin
By: Val Culpin
Michele Jarvis-Wonnacott

Michele Jarvis-Wonnacott has been connected to dogs and other animals all her life. On her website, she states, “Every single event in my life has added up to the moment of realizing that to be truly happy I must follow my passion and work with these angelic creatures. Over the years I have had the blessing of studying under some of life’s true masters and the education that I have accumulated from this, as well as life’s personal lessons, have led me to a place where I am able to educate people on the true nature of their beloved pet. From there, I am able to understand what the best method in this moment is for helping people have a calm, more balanced relationship with their dog.”

Petcurean recently had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Michele about herself, her journey and her methods.

Petcurean: Dog training is a competitive and difficult field to make your mark in and to be able to make a living at. When did you first decide that this was your calling and what made you decide that this was your career path?

Michele: It is written that dog training is a difficult career path and challenging to make money at, yet I believe that when you follow your passion the money will flow. It is also common knowledge that the field is very competitive and has a tendency to be very cutthroat. I believe that those who need you will find you and those who don’t will find exactly what they are looking for elsewhere.

I first decided that dog training would be my calling when walking my two Shepherd crosses back in 2002 through Centennial Park in Victoria, BC. I noticed that for the very first time in my life that I was feeling pure unadulterated joy.  I also noticed that the concept of time simply did not exist either. It seemed at that point as if the universe began unveiling my true path in life. Soon after this my husband Mike suggested that I quit my jobs and find out what I really wanted to do with my life. In line with my passion, classes and courses began to show up and I took one after the other with every single one confirming that everything I was doing from my heart was in fact what famous dog trainers were doing after years of practice. The ever increasing push for me to help dogs led me to create a dog walking company that I called Dog Walking Etc. and a huge glorious wolf was the face of my business card.

One and a half years later, after walking dogs that no one else would walk, I knew that my new role was going to be to educate dog owners on their dog’s true needs. One day I told my husband that I needed to be a dog trainer and I was not going to rent a hall, advertise myself or go looking at 100 houses to buy. A few days later he bought me the only house that we looked at. The house had everything that I needed to begin my training journey, including a 1500 square foot facility in the back yard, and this is where the magic still happens today.

Petcurean: The tag line to your business name is ‘Dog Training from the Heart’. Can you please explain what that means and how it differs from other methods of dog training?

Michele: I knew that I had to attract a clientele that really wanted to know, understand and support their dogs in this confusing, conflicting world. I know that everything I do with dogs is from my heart; not ego or misconstrued, biased education. I know that I have understood dogs from the age of 5. In holding this title of dog trainer, I promise myself to stay open minded and not conform to one form of training. This is what makes it different. No one dog is the same. They all tell their very own story and it’s up to me to hear the story, interpret it and offer the best understanding of it all for the dog and for the human. Dog Training From The Heart is not textbook, it’s from the heart.

Petcurean: What is your methodology in training?

Michele: My methodology includes taking deep breaths when you want to strangle or re-home the dog! It involves setting the dog up for the highest level of their own personal success. It involves understanding dog psychology, human psychology and teaching the human that it truly takes years and years to have a ‘sort of’ fully trained dog. It involves understanding and accepting that there is no such thing as a bad dog, it’s all just instinctual behavior that is up to you to shift into something that works for the both of you. It involves understanding and respecting your dog’s own personal limitations and then setting them up for success over and over again. It involves understanding that this may be a lifetime of ‘what you do’, not a lifetime of confusion and anger.

Petcurean: What was your most memorable or challenging training experience?

Michele: One of my most memorable training experiences was a feral, rescued Pit Bull. This was a dog-aggressive, feral pit bull from a rescue agency that no one else would take. Not to mention no trainers would work with her. The rescue gave her to a 25 year old girl and the girl was facing euthanizing the dog if no one would work with her. Eight years later, this dog is like my grandchild, the girl is now in her 30’s and like a daughter to us. This dog proved to me that if you can see it, it can be done. This dog has continued to teach me for eight long years and counting, and we love her like she is our own.

Petcurean: Do you find it more difficult to train dogs or their people?

Michele: Dogs or people? Hahaha the dogs are easy, the people are the challenge! We all hear through our very own set of conditioned filters. I no longer work with red zone aggression, as after specializing in it for 9 of my 12 years I still have no idea how to get people to do what works and set the dogs up for success. It appears that for some people there is far too much dramatic, psychological positive weight in having an aggressive dog. For the past two years I have had a registration form to filter out those who really want the best for their dogs. I choose to work with those people and my life is now filled with absolute happiness and my heart is always full. The opposite is intensely, physically and emotionally painful. I choose joy now.

We’d like to thank Michele for taking time out of her very busy schedule to answer our questions and help show the way to more balanced dogs in our society. You can connect with Michele at her website: http://connectivetraining.com