Last month, she offered to help me with a dog training issue I was having: our dog barked hysterically whenever someone rang the doorbell or knocked on the front door, and it seemed to be getting worse.
I really liked the idea of working with a professional dog trainer over the phone, rather than in person. For me, there was less pressure. And, for some reason, doing this over the phone made me feel less like an idiot for not being able to train my dog myself with regard to this issue.
Dog trainers, in person, can be intimidating sometimes. And if you disagree with them or their style, it can be difficult to break the relationship after you’ve already committed and gone forward with the training sessions.
But, since she wasn’t in my living room and I wasn’t at her training facility, I felt that I was able to get out of this relationship exactly what *I* wanted to get out of it.
So I committed to four 30-minute phone calls — one each week on the day and time of my choosing.
And I’m being honest when I say… I wish I’d found Suzy Godsey earlier. Because, almost immediately, my dog’s barking significantly improved. In the very first week!
I cannot explain how incredibly empowering it was to try the one simple thing that Suzy would recommend each week. And then see how it really worked to create change in my dog’s behavior!
In the end, what it all came down to is this…
1. I simply needed to take a step back from the situation and look at my dog’s barking behavior a different way; and
2. I needed to get back to communicating with my dog, rather than to him or at him.
Trust me, those things may sound simple, but it’s not until you’re encouraged to try something different that you actually realize that a simple change of perspective or tone or manner can make all the difference in the world.
4 Weekly Training Sessions
The step-by-step details of how Suzy helped us put an end to our dog’s barking are spelled out in a separate article: How To Stop Dog Barking.
Following are the highlights of my 4 weekly training sessions with Suzy Godsey on the phone…
The first week, Suzy taught me the basics of reconnecting with my dog, one-on-one and on his level. Of course, I knew this was how you should interact with your dog. But it’s one of those things that you forget about after awhile, or put on the back burner as life goes on.
Sometimes you think those eyeball-to-eyeball chats you have with your dog are only really necessary in a puppy’s early training sessions. Not so. Eye contact and mutual respect are lifelong forms of communication with your dog. Suzy helped to remind me of this by sharing several of her own firsthand experiences with dogs and how different dogs respond to different things.
So, first she wanted to know what we were currently doing whenever someone rang the doorbell, knocked on the door, or came into the house.
Then, she laid the groundwork — showing me how we could do things differently than we had in the past. I was to try that for a week, and report at our next phone call how things went.
Between you and me, I actually like homework" assignments like this — as long as it’s narrowed down to one thing that I can keep trying and trying until I get it right. That way, I can effectively get some sort of measure of success. Either I would be able to create change in my dog… or not. At the same time, I would be able to determine how effective Suzy’s dog training methods were… one step at a time.
In the first session, I was reminded that by changing our behavior, it would create change in our dog. (And it did!)
The second week, Suzy and I were both thrilled that we had made significant progress with our dog already.
While there were a lot of little things that Suzy reminded me of in this second phone training session (things we’d done when Tenor was a puppy in training, but we had unfortunately slacked on since he was now 3 years old), this time, Suzy suggested one big thing to try this week.
It was this: Don’t view your dog’s barking as a "problem," but rather as an exciting opportunity to interact with your dog on a whole new level. Further, the more you can connect with your dog and tell him what you WANT him to do (not what you don’t want him to do), the more you and your dog will be speaking the same language.
So we again practiced the exact same things we had learned in Week 1 of Suzy’s dog training session, only this time it was with a greater awareness of our behavior in relationship to our dogs.
Meaning: things were just starting to "click" and make more sense… the more we tried it and the more we heard Suzy say the same things in different ways and using different examples.
Again, this sounds simple, if not meaningless. But trust me, it’s worth re-learning how to communicate with your dog again!
By the second week, Jim and I were both wholeheartedly committed to this over-the-phone dog training. It was really working for us… and it was clear that it was making sense to our dog as well.
In the 3rd week, we added a new focus to our dog barking training. In addition to barking at the front door whenever someone rang the doorbell, knocked, or entered the house, our dog also barked uncontrollably when he was playing in our fenced-in backyard.
It was as if he was continually trying to tell us that there was someone playing in the yard next to ours, or a dog was nearby, or the neighbor was out grilling in his backyard — all things that happen on a regular basis near our fenced-in backyard. (We have a 6-foot privacy fence, so he can’t really see through it.)
got us to look at the situation in a different way — not as an annoying behavior that our dog was doing. But rather that this was Tenor’s way of communicating to us 2 things:
1. That these things were going on (because he would only bark when we were in the house and he was out in the fenced-in backyard). He felt someone should know about it; and
2. That he was becoming frustrated by the fact that we weren’t acknowledging these things. As a result, he being "the dog of the house," felt he had to take control of the situation out in the backyard — just like he had felt that he needed to take control of the situations that occurred at the front door before.
Again, all we had to do was to confirm for him that we were 100% in control of the situation — even when we weren’t present in the backyard!
We had to change our behavior in order to reassure Tenor — in a way that made sense to him — that he didn’t need to worry about things on the other side of the fence. Instead we had to clearly communicate: "I got it…. I’m 100% in control of those things… Stop worrying about things on the other side of the fence… I’m in control of those thing… not you."
It worked! (Again, the details of how we did this are spelled out in the How To Stop Dog Barking article.)
My final week of dog training sessions with Suzy Godsey over the phone involved a lot of virtual pats on the back (as we were both thrilled that we were able to modify Tenor’s behavior in such a short time!) and recommendations for continued one-on-one communication with our dog.
It’s definitely an ongoing process to keep your dog from slipping back into those old ways where he feels that he has to be in control of various things. And it’s an ongoing process for us to remember that he is constantly seeking guidance and direction from us. Tenor will behave as we instruct him to behave; we just have to play an active role in his learning and communicating — for the rest of his life.
Our biggest fault (in my opinion) was the fact that most of the times that our dog looked at us for input or direction, we usually just blew it off and ignored him …either we were busy, or didn’t have anything to "say" to our dog at that time, or we just weren’t being good dog owners at the times when he was reaching out to us for direction.
I now know that the proper thing to do (to prevent our dog’s behavior from getting out of control again) is to acknowledge each and every glance that our dog gives us. Yes, every one! That is the only way that he will learn to communicate with us 24/7, and respect the ways that we want him to behave. But if we ignore him sometimes, then he will learn that we don’t really want to communicate with him in that way. Then, he would be more likely to revert back to needing to feel in control of various situations again.
Gosh, it makes so much more sense now!
Summary Of My 4 Dog Training Sessions
In the end, just like with any form of dog training, you get out of it whatever you put into it.
Suzy definitely gave 110% during each of our 4 over-the-phone dog training sessions. I never felt like the session was being timed, and it was more like I was simply having a conversation with a fellow dog lover than with a bossy dog trainer each time.
In fact, I was the one who usually cut the sessions short (20 minutes, rather than the full 30 minutes sometimes) because I had "enough" homework for that week, and was eager to get started trying things out with my dog!
The best part about these over-the-phone dog training sessions: Suzy is not dominating the conversation or talking at you all of the time. Instead, she truly wants to know what motivates you and aims to answer your very specific questions with regard to training your dog.
Every phone training session was 100% focused on me and my dog. In my opinion, that type of dog training is priceless!
The truth is… had Suzy not offered, I probably wouldn’t have sought out a dog trainer for Tenor’s barking behavior. Instead, I would have continued to simply "deal with it" and/or try various things on my own as I learned of something that worked for someone else. In reality, that was getting us nowhere. As I said, Tenor’s barking was clearly getting worse.
Would I Call For Dog Training Over The Phone Again?
I decided to write about my experience with this particular dog trainer because I know, for me, the following are true:
1. It’s hard to find a reputable dog trainer — someone that you actually click with.
2. I’ve always had the misconception that dog training is expensive.
3. I’m ashamed to say that I used to think you only needed a professional dog trainer when you had a seriously messed up dog and things were really out of control. But I’ve learned that’s not true.
I’ve learned that talking with a professional dog trainer — even once — can make a world of difference in changing your dog’s behavior.
After those 4 brief phone training sessions with Suzy, things now make more sense (for both my husband and myself) in terms of our dog’s behavior — why he does what he does when he does; and what it all means. It also makes more sense to us and is therefore easier now for us to actually change Tenor’s behavior on a whim — not only barking, but pretty much any behavioral issue.
Now, it almost seems easy! Before I spoke with Suzy, it did not seem easy easy at all. Jim and I were going in circles and trying random things here & there that weren’t working.
In case you’re wondering, Suzy Godsey’s "regular" dog training sessions are usually $150 each for 2 hours of private training at your home. So these 4 phone training sessions are really a great deal at $35 for each 30-minute session via telephone. If you’ve got a dog training issue — no matter how small or how large — I would encourage you to contact Suzy Godsey to arrange your own over-the-phone dog training.
I do believe that 4 weeks were necessary in order to lay the groundwork and grasp all aspects of what Suzy was saying. Each week built upon the previous week’s "homework," and I believe that’s what led to such great success in my case.
Even though we’ve never met in person, I’m so thrilled that I have an established relationship with a dog trainer that I trust now. So much so, that I would feel comfortable calling her again in the future with anything that might come up. I see Suzy’s over-the-phone dog training session as a great way to get back on track with your dog and to ultimately change any dog behavior that has become a challenge.