Hello! I’m Keith, and I am the trainer at Good Times Dog Training. Our mission is to help people connect with and train their dogs using all positive, force-free methods. I do group and private classes in the Kanab and St. George areas in Utah.
I have been passionate about animals ever since I can remember. When I was 8, my family adopted our first dog, a mutt with a heart of gold, named Smudge. She quickly became my best friend and constant companion. We hiked through the woods and marshes together, biked over to my friends’ houses together (I shudder now to think of her running next to my bike on roads!!!!), and spent almost all my free time together.
It was a different era, and there were very few organized things to do with your dog, and certainly none with a mixed breed. How I would have loved to have classes or clubs to go to, or a chance to do agility or rally or freestyle!
But such things weren’t available, so Smudgie and I learned together. We did basic obedience, what are now rally exercises, jump and obstacle courses, sled pulling, freestyle type routines without the music, just about anything I could think up! I could never get her to retrieve (I could now that I know more, and she would have loved it!), or herd (my rabbit Freddie just sat and ate grass).
I got my first horse when I was 15. Riding and horses then became a big part of my life (and of course, Smudge’s). When I graduated from college with a degree in English Literature, I turned to horses to make my living. I loved the work, but found working for others forced me to do things I didn’t agree with. Nothing awful, for sure, but things like rushing a horse’s training to get him competing before he was ready.
So I went into business for myself. Black Cat Farm was started, and my descent into poverty began! Wow, did I struggle financially, although I loved the work, the animals, and the people. How does this tie into dog training? The kids who came for lessons, 4-H, and Pony Club were very interested in the way my dogs listened to me, and what they could do. So we started informally working with their dogs, and my passion for helping people train their dogs was born.
I decided to choose another profession to make my living in, and keep my horse and dog activities as a sideline. This way I would have the freedom to enjoy working with the animals without the financial pressures.
So I went back to college, and graduated with a BS in Nursing and became an RN. I worked as a nurse for 30 years, until I “retired” to go back into dog training full time.
HOW DID I CHOOSE MY METHODS?
When I was about 10, my father brought home my first (and one of the extremely few at that time) books on dog training. I read it cover to cover many times, and learned a lot. But some of the methods struck me as not very nice.
The first thing was an explanation of how to put on and use a choke collar. I had actually found one in the woods, so I put it on Smudgie, making sure it was on correctly. The book explained how to make corrections with it. I looked at Smudgie with the collar on, promised her we wouldn’t do that, took it off and hung it in the basement. So far as I know, it hung there until my parents sold the house 30 years later!
I loved the chapter on heeling. I loved the concept of my dog maintaining her position at my side on a verbal cue, on or off leash. She already basically did that, but the book gave me ideas to improve it. Of course, the author recommended a leash correction, or popping my dog on the nose with my hand if she forged ahead. Again, I looked at trusting Smudgie and told her we would never do that!
Smudgie was a dog who loved to DO things. She wanted to be with her people and interact. I trained her with no treats or toys as rewards, just praise, my joy at her getting it right, and our interactions. And I often remind my students now–use your energy, smile, interact, give feedback!
But I now use a lot of treats and/or toys as rewards in training. Why? The majority of dogs need them as reinforcement, especially when training new behaviors (and many owners struggle with being happy and upbeat when training). And the dogs who would do it for the joy of working with you (my Border Collie, Echo) get that much more pleasure from training with treats or toys. And that is what it is all about. Finding ways to have your dog love learning and obeying cues, so you are both having fun!
THAT BRINGS US TO THE PRESENT
Good Times Dog Training offers classes and private sessions, in Kanab and St. George. I also work with The Woof Center (now doing update renovations, so temporarily on hold) in Santa Clara.
I work closely with Best Frienbs Animal Society’s Canines with Careers program. This program helps find and train dogs as service dogs for folks with a disability, or for those looking for therapy dogs or Search and Rescue dogs.
I’ve been involved with K-9 Search and Rescue with my own dogs for many years, and presently work with Kane County and Washington County, helping with the training of their dogs.
I once read a quote (that I will totally misquote) from a child’s thank you note to his Aunt. “Thank you for the book on giraffs, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about them”. You are probably feeling that way about this introduction!
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I would love to read them. Or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And give your dogs all a pat from me!
All the best,