Meet the Pack – Johana Stewart-Gingras, Family Dog Obedience Trainer

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My name is Johana Stewart-Gingras and I teach Puppy Kindergarten, Basic Obedience I, Junior Trainers, and Doggone Safe group classes, as well as private lessons for Basic Obedience and Problem Solving at our Training Center.

I’m married with 2 girls ages 10 and 16.  We have 3 dogs – a 9 year old Labrador Retriever named Daphne, an 8 year old Boxer named Bailey, and a 1-1/2 year old Husky mix named Finn.

What’s the most common question you get asked in your job (and the answer)?

The most common question I get asked is why we discourage on-leash dog greetings at Pack of Paws.

On leash greetings put dogs under social pressure to interact politely with other dogs they don’t know.  Typically a dogs first inclination is to move away from anything that they are unsure of.  Dogs know when they’re on leash and are unable to move away.  Allowing other strange dogs to enter their space while their on leash forces them to make another choice and can lead to unfavorable reactions.

Also, if dogs are consistently allowed to greet other dogs while on-leash, in essence they are learning to pay attention to what is going on in their environment as opposed to paying attention to the human on the other end of the leash.  On-leash greetings are bad training.

What’s your favorite trick/behavior that you’ve taught your dogs and why?

My favorite behavior is a Hand Target for several reasons! Living in a multiple dog household with two older dogs and one very young and over exuberant dog, I use my hand target frequently to avoid dog conflicts due to a pesky puppy.  I also use a hand target to manage jumping and to get position for many other tricks and behaviors.  A hand target is a quick way to get a dog’s attention and trained properly dogs find this behavior fun and therefore self-reinforcing.

What activities/sports are you involved in with your dogs and why?

I’m currently working towards CGC with Finn and eventually Therapy Dog.  We participate in group classes to work on obedience training as well as focus and attention.  We add a lot of play into our training sessions in order to build our relationship.

Bailey and Daphne do lots of reinforcing known behaviors and training new tricks.  Teaching and old dog new tricks keeps them mentally stimulated and fosters good relationships.