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Study, Find a Mentor, Don’t Quit Learning—Sage Advice From Dog Training Professional Angel Rowe

Angel Rowe with his dogs, Dratini (left) and Evey (right)


Pet Professional Guild member Angel Rowe shares how he became a force-free dog training and behavior professional, and offers tips and advice to those starting out in the field.


Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you first get into animal behavior/training, and what you are doing now?

Growing up I always had a dog. I loved being around the dogs more than people and really wanted to be a vet. However, as I got older life led me down the path of training. I started off following popular TV trainers and mentors who followed the same skill approach. In 2013, I got hooked on dog sports (Rally-O, obedience, scent detection, barn hunt, agility) with my little Vanilla Bean and fell in love with the world of competition and sports. It wasn’t until late 2015 when I was running a dog daycare out of my home and training in random public fields that I found the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), DogNostics, Dr. Ian Dunbar’s academy, and a few other online courses that my training really started veering into the force-free world and a more educated approach. I was working toward expanding my business out of my home when the need to further my education kicked me into gear to gain a variety of different certificatesin the field. Now I offer a variety of online training, enrichment, and behavior consulting services.

Tell us a little bit about your own pets.

Evey and Dratini are both purebred American Staffordshire terriers (Am-Staffs) with show titles and a bunch ofdifferent sport and working titles. Evey is my active service dog. Dratini is training to eventually take over that role.Both of the girls are amazing advocates for their breed and are great demo dogs for how positive reinforcement works even with dogs with high prey drive. I also have the “Lambasaurs,” as I call them—four Katahdin sheep. Their names are Petri, Little Foot, Ducky, and Spike, and they enjoy training and chilling with the dogs. I also have a couple of chickens who do pest control for me around the farm.

What do you consider your area of expertise?

Separation anxiety and behavior work.

Why did you become an animal behavior/training professional?

I love dogs and have always gotten on with animals better than people since I was a kid. I’ve never had a time in my life that I didn’t have a dog. I wanted to, and still want to, change people’s lives with their dogs, and dogs’ lives with people.

What species do you work with?

Dogs and my sheep.

Are you a crossover trainer or have you always been a force-free trainer?

I am a crossover trainer.

What drives you to be a force-free professional, and why is it important to you?

I love the ethics of the PPG and figured if there’s an organization that is proving it can be done without needing to use fear or be aggressive with an animal, they are people I want to follow, learn from, and join myself. I wasn’t comfortable with some of the techniques I learned early on in my dog sports and training career, with compliance being neededand pushed onto the dog. I really disliked doing this to my own dogs, and in my mind, if I’m not comfortable doingthis to my dogs, other people probably are not comfortable doing it to their dogs, too. It’s important because my dogs deserve the absolute best from me and deserve the ability to tell me “No,” be autonomous, and be respected. They are sentient beings who have valid emotional outputs in response to anything being asked of them. I enjoy helping people learn they can have a great and reciprocal relationship with their dog and still reach their goals in a fun and respectful way. I went through the hoops and challenges of learning how to do this, and I want to help others learn they can,too.

What awards, competition placements, have you and your pets achieved using force-free methods?

Evey is a Trick dog Expert, Rally Advanced (not titled yet but competing at this level with a high in class), Scent Detection, Barn Hunt, Pre-Companion Dog Title, Open Stunt Dog, Triple Crown 2, Fitness 3, Herding Instinct. She has also passed our province’s Service Dog Assessment.

Dratini (Drat) is a Trick Dog Expert, Rally Intermediate (competing at this level), Barn Hunt, Champion Fitness, Animal Actors 1, Scent Detection, Herding Instinct.

I’ve personally gained my PCT-A, DN-DBC Dog Behavior Diploma, and SA Pro trainer certification, DN-CET Certified Enrichment Technician, FSG-1 Fun Scent Games Level 1, Triple Crown Trainer (TDI, CCFC, SDJ) and Animal Actor Evaluator.

Who has most influenced your career and how?

Niki Tudge. Finding the PPG, DogNostics, and the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) drove me to continually grow my education. When I felt like giving up, she kept encouraging and mentoring me, and she keepspushing me to further my goals and career. I am very thankful and appreciative of her for not giving up on me, and for encouraging me to continue to pursue further education and helping me through every bump I hit.

How has the PPG helped you to become a more complete trainer?

PPG led me to finding a community of people with like-minded ethics and guidelines, and ongoing educational offerings. It led me to find DogNostics, which really pushed me toward learning more and furthering my education. Iwouldn’t be as accomplished personally or professionally if I had not found the PPG.

What are some of your favorite force-free techniques for commonly encountered client-pet problems?

Games and enrichment-based learning. Consent checks and allowing dog to make their own choices during trainingsessions, and giving them the autonomy to choose to interact and learn, and how they want to be interacted with.Finding what the dog is driven for and using that as reward, be it tug, chase, fetch, sniffing, shredding, biting, etc.

What is the reward you get out of a day’s work with people and their pets?

I love seeing and hearing about people having a more connected household. Hearing that they are seeing a different side of their pet and are making progress toward goals they want makes me happy because I know not only is the dog progressing to what the humans want, but the humans are understanding their dog better.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Playing with dogs and helping them grow, helping people reach the goals they pursue with their dogs. Seeing them come together as a team and family. Hearing and seeing the progress they make. I love puppy rearing and training apuppy right from the whelping box, and setting up a puppy’s new owners for a great start with their new family member.

What is the funniest or craziest situation you have been in with a pet and their owner?

Watching dogs play in after-class play sessions and teaching clients how to actively read their dogs’ body language, giving them the opportunity to safely watch their dog interact while learning how to read the signals a small group of dogs are giving. Those moments of watching people light up seeing their dogs play and enjoy that time.

What special work-related projects or activities are you currently involved in?

Presently it’s more personal goals, working on advancing my accreditation and building fun skills with my dogs. Work related, to keep building up my client base and offering help to the community and people who are seeking my services.

How have these special projects or activities helped your business, career, or service offerings?

Marketing—definitely in learning marketing skills, still a work in progress. Advancing my schooling has pushed me to take more difficult cases and having to problem solve and learn more in order to help the client and dog reach their goals. Advancing my credentials has opened a few doors like becoming a DogSmith, which I never thought was possible before.

What’s next for you?

Tackling the Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (Accredited) assessment and continuing to help clients reach their goals with their dogs. Keep building some strong fun skills in my girls and Lambasaurs and challenging them further. I would like to get back into competition sports down the road.

What advice would you give to a new animal behavior/training professional starting out?

Study, find a mentor, don’t quit learning. Find a difficult certification, diploma, or accreditation and make it a goal to gain. Challenge your skills, try a sport or two. Keep having fun, keep learning!!!! Don’t be afraid to fail.

Angel Rowe is the owner of Dogsmith of Starland based in Alberta, Canada. 

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