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Couple’s Counseling: A Breed and Need Specific Approach to Unwanted Behaviors

May 7

9:00 am PT

This talk is eligible for CEUs from: IAABC, KPA


Traditionally, positive reinforcement focused pet dog trainers have lumped all client dogs together and trained THE pet dog and THE pet dog client. We’ve followed recipes for training and living together. However, there is a lot of variability when it comes to the needs of both dogs and humans – and it’s time to do them justice.

Chrissi proposes we abandon our recipe for training THE pet dog in favor of a breed and need-specific approach. While “breed” only refers to dogs, “need” takes into account both ends of the leash.

By means of examples taken from local pet dog clients, Chrissi will guide you through a breed and need-specific counseling approach:

  • Look at the dog you are working with: What’s their breed or mix? What’s their history and personality?
  • Look at the client you are working with: Who are they? Where do they live (house with yard; apartment)? What are their resources (time, money, motivation)?
  • Create a safe space for your client to share their feelings around their dog’s behavior and the changes they envision.
  • Listen with genuine curiosity and empathize with your client’s struggles.
  • Help your client see the world through their dog’s eyes. Use metaphors and humor to help them understand the needs, skills, and quirks their dog brings to the table.
  • Set realistic expectations: share an honest assessment of whether the client’s ideal scenario is within reach and what it will take to get there.
  • Make sure your client is as committed as you are – and start training!

The goal of this talk is to add new breed and need-specific counseling skills to your dog trainer’s toolbox. Chrissi will share specific metaphors you might find useful and easily implemented tools to create a safe space and strong relationship with your client.

You are going to see that a breed and need-specific approach almost always includes both training and management. It tends to be both less and more ambitious than the average client’s initial training goal. No matter who we are working with – maximizing both the dog’s and the client’s welfare while minimizing complexity is essential. Chrissi is going to dare you to be realistic, approachable, pragmatic, and kind in your interactions with your clients.

Throughout the talk, Chrissi will draw on practical examples from two large in-person client groups in Antigua, Guatemala:

  • Client group #1: Shepherds (German shepherds, malinois, and their mixes) are purchased as puppies to protect country houses and provide good company to the owner’s children and visitors. The relationship issues their owners struggle with include excessive barking at visitors and hyperactivity.
  • Client group #2: Free-roaming village dogs (mixes; “world dogs”) are, often as adults, taken off the street by well-meaning dog lovers and provided with a typical Western pet dog lifestyle. The relationship challenges their owners struggle with tend to involve destructive behavior and leash reactivity.

Presented By:

Chrissi Schranz

Dog trainer, writer, translator, and chocolate-addict Chrissi Schranz (they/them) is currently being socially distant on a cloud-forested Guatemalan mountain.

Chrissi has been fond of dogs of all sizes, shapes, and personalities for as long as they can think – especially the so-called difficult ones. After training the dachshund of their early teenage years in traditional ways at their local obedience club, they learned about clicker training and got hooked on force-free, motivational methods. Chrissi has worked as a professional dog trainer since 2013, when they founded Click for Joy! Hundetraining in Vienna, Austria. In 2018, they moved to Guatemala. Chrissi’s Dog Training has been serving Antigua’s dog lovers since September 2018.

Chrissi’s work days are spent doing the things they love most: thinking about languages, writing, and teaching pet dog manners and life skills to their clients and dogs. Chrissi’s German-language puppy book Nur Mut!  was released in 2017, followed by their recall book Komm zu mir!  in 2018. They also teach life skills online at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy.

Chrissi is passionate about working with people and dogs, as well as training, traveling, playing, and hiking with their own crew. Their malinois, Game, and border collie, Mick, have dabbled in obedience, herding, scent work, and bikejoring, and also happen to be master snugglers and adventure companions.