Celebrity dog trainer Tamar Geller is an innovative leader in the field of dog behavior, and a compassionate animal lover who uses her talents for everything from connecting veterans and shelter dogs to teaching everyday dog parents how to better themselves through bettering their furry friend. We sat down with her to talk about what she’s up to now:
TAILS: What is The Loved Dog method of dog training?
Tamar Geller: The method is a pioneer in the positive method of dog training. It is about creating remarkable relationships between people and their dogs. It came to me when I was observing wolves in the wild desert in Israel, and I got to see that most of what they teach their young and the way they reinforce bonds is done through playing games. They actually really like each other, and the leader of the pack is there to serve his pack and not be a tyrant. From that I developed the different programs that allow dogs to be not only well-mannered, but to also be their caregivers’ raving fans! We teach guardians how to meet their dogs’ core needs and how to make it fun for the dogs to learn.
What is the biggest training mistake a pet parent can make?
The biggest mistake is not to acknowledge when their dog is actually behaving well! We are so conditioned to see what is not working, and we often overlook when things are great. I ask my clients to get in the habit of looking for things to praise in their dog.
Many pet parents have a tendency to humanize their pets. How can recognizing this help us train our dogs better?
Dogs and people are both social animals and share many of the same core needs—the need for certainty and predictability, the need for variety and excitement, and more than anything, the need for relationships, love, and connections with others. Dogs are truly the “training wheels” for all relationships that we people have in our lives. They allow us the opportunity to look at ourselves and at our skill sets.
Research has shown that dogs and human toddlers are similar developmentally and emotionally. When you think about it, what parents do with kids is what we at The Loved Dog do with dogs—we teach manners, meaning we teach them to not act on their impulses and instead how to make better decisions, and conscious choices.
Your non-profit Operation Heroes & Hounds connects struggling veterans with shelter dogs. Can you tell us more about the program?
Operation Heroes and Hounds is designed to teach both war vets and homeless dogs some awesome life and communication skills. We take the homeless dogs, let them live with us at The Loved Dog Center, and after they start to feel safe and loved, the vets and myself start coaching them. At first, both vets and dogs bring their emotional baggage, but little by little, everyone starts to trust and have fun!
I honestly can’t tell who benefits the most: the vets or the dogs. It’s a real win-win situation. Sometimes we let the vets bring their own dogs to the program and we teach them better communication skills. Who wouldn’t benefit from learning how to communicate better? The dogs live for free at The Loved Dog Center until they find their “forever homes.” My dogs, Katy and Cricket, both came from Operation Heroes and Hounds.
What do you tell people who have negative ideas about shelter dogs?
As far as shelter dogs go, I see them is as coming from relationships where they were dumped for no fault of their own. It’s not their fault if their previous caregiver didn’t do a good job teaching them how to leave their impulses behind. All dogs that end up in a shelter were puppies at one point or another. They had bright eyes and bushy tails, and they trusted the people who took them in to teach them what they needed to know. I love working with shelter dogs more than anything; I love to see their demeanor change as they start to “speak” English, and when they realize that this time it will be different.
One needs to be compassionate and understand that these dogs are products of failed relationships and they may have some scars. But almost anything can be overcome with the behavioral knowledge we have today, with clear guidance, and with love.
Are you currently working on any other major projects or programs?
People who come to my home are always asking if they can leave their dogs with me to be trained, and after years and years of requests, I finally said yes to one client. It was so much fun and the client was so happy that I decided to make it available to others. The dogs get the royal treatment by living with me, and they learn how to be well-mannered in a home environment. The response has been great and we have a waiting list now.
I’m also working on The Loved Dog Kitchen and I’m developing phenomenal raw, organic, free-range dog food, treats, etc. I became an advocate for the raw dog diet after my friend, Dr. Barbara Royal, who is Oprah’s dogs’ vet, turned me on to it when my doggie Clyde wasn’t doing too well. I thought I would lose him as he was already 13 years old, but with the switch to the healthiest diet possible, I got to have him in my life an extra 3 years! I’ve been eating healthy for the past 30 years, and I started applying what I know about nutrition to my dogs, and they are all so trim and healthy now!