Meet Erika Gonzalez, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, dog lifestyle expert, and founder of From Dusk Till Dog. We’ll be partnering with Erika to share training lessons in the weeks to come. To kick things off, here are 5 questions to get caught up to speed on her style of dog training.
If you’d prefer to watch Erika answer our questions in person, head over to our YouTube channel.
What is your ethos?
My ethos and my mission is to help pet parents everywhere enhance the bond with their dogs through better communication with them and a better understanding of who dogs are and how they learn. And the way to do that is by utilizing humane, science-based positive reinforcement techniques and methodologies.
I also strive to make sure all of our content is as easy to follow as possible, leading to more pet parents actually feeling empowered to try some of this stuff at home with their dogs and see results.
What has been the most defining moment of your career?
I always believe that there are several defining moments in your career. If I had to name a few, definitely graduating dog training school would be one. Even oddly enough this whole state of affairs with the pandemic and quarantine has forced me to innovate with my business in particular. I think we’ve made some really important changes and have evolved with what’s going on to positively impact our business for many years to come.
If I had to pick one specific defining moment, it would probably be the day I put in my notice at my corporate office job. I knew then and there that I not only had to make it as an entrepreneur but I really felt that I would. After leaving there that day I knew I’d never step foot back in an office (at least not for work). So once I did that I truly never looked back.
Why do you love dogs?
Well gee, how much time do you have? I could talk for hours about what I love about dogs, there are so many reasons. I have been fascinated by dogs and dog behavior since I was a young child. Unfortunately for me at the time, I couldn’t have a dog, but I did get one once I was a young adult and I learned even more about what I love about them.
Some of the things that I love are I feel that they are pretty much the epitome of what unconditional love looks like and I really value that with my dogs. Any of us who have dogs know exactly what I’m talking about. They’re always happy to see you, they’re always up for whatever we want to do, ready to go out on a walk, ready to go adventure with us. They’re also really forgiving and resilient. They enjoy the simple things in life. They live very much in the moment—a lesson for all of us humans, of course.
Lastly, they are non-judgmental. They don’t care what you look like that day, if you have a bad hair day, if you’ve had a bad day in general. They don’t care what’s in your bank account, they don’t care how much money you make, what job you have, or what you do. They love you for who you are. I think that we can learn a heck of a lot from our dogs.
What are some of the biggest client challenges you’ve come across in your work?
I’d say generally speaking my biggest client challenges tend to stem from our society’s need for quick fixes and fast results and instant gratification. I feel that with the internet and on-demand movies and ordering food to your house or getting something that you want online delivered in a day, everyone’s used to getting some level of result quickly.
When it comes to dog training, I think that spills over into that area as well, leaving people disappointed if their dog is not responding almost instantaneously. Then I have to walk them through how behavior modification works. Our behavior takes some time to change and we should be able to appreciate and empathize with that with our dogs. But when people are facing behavioral issues with their dogs, it can be frustrating for some clients with the amount of time and consistency and effort that it may take for those goals that they have set in mind for their dogs.
This need for instant gratification, unfortunately, is at the detriment of our dogs. A lot of people that are not seeing very fast results can fall subject to aversive training techniques and utilizing tools or methodologies that instill fear, intimidation, discomfort, or even pain on their dogs to get these results. It can seem very flashy and it can seem like it’s working, but it comes at a cost. Those types of methods can lead to all sorts of anxiety, stress, phobias, fears, even aggression. I’ve seen it firsthand, unfortunately, with people who have come to me after the fact.
I urge everyone when you’re trying to work with your dogs on behavior modification, think of it like you’re trying to change your behavior. Empathize with it. It takes time. Doing it positively not only gets you the results that you’re looking for, but it does not come with any negative side effects. In fact, it comes with positive side effects like your dog looking over to you more frequently or paying attention more to you or just enhancing your bond even further and helping your communication grow.
What are some lessons you’ve learned while training dogs that you’d like to share?
If I had to sum up all the lessons I’ve learned from working with dogs into a few, I’d probably break it down into four major points.
Lesson #1: If you’re trying to work with your dog, if you’re trying to train them on a new behavior, or if you’re trying to modify their behavior, you want to make sure that your timing and your feedback with your dog when you’re teaching them is very good. Timeliness is one of the most important things in dog training in my opinion.
Lesson #2: You never have to utilize any aversive training techniques or harmful, hurtful, or painful tools on your dog in order to train them, regardless of their breed, their age, their temperament, or their history.
Lesson #3: You’d be very surprised what a couple of minutes a day can do for your training goals. You do not need to train your dog a few hours a day every day in order to train them. You just need a few minutes a few times a day. It’s all about keeping it consistent, not so much that you’re blocking out large chunks of time to train them. It’s more about keeping it as a part of their day-to-day so that your dog starts to realize that this is part of their routine. Once you do that, you’ll really start to see some results.
Lesson #4: The most important one I’ve learned is that dog behavior change is largely, if not solely, determined by human behavior change. This means that if we want to change our dog’s behavior, we must change our own.
Stay tuned for more training tips from Erika in the weeks to come! We’ll be sharing video lessons from her on our Instagram. You can also follow @FromDuskTillDog on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Tik Tok.