about me

Natalie SMITH 


While volunteering at Austin Animal Center, I met dog-reactive dogs, human-reactive dogs, puppies of all kinds, pushy adolescents, fear-biters. I brought home a large foster dog (or a foster fail - we still have him!) & learned first-hand about fear-aggression. A difficult dog is a lot for owners to take on - I get it. If we are committed to a no-kill city, we need effective training and robust outcomes. 

Working at a training center, I saw owners struggle. Often we don't recognize dogs' fear; to owners, a lunging, barking dog looks aggressive, but punishment makes fear worse - so lunging and barking get worse, too. Competent reward-based training can be a life-saver. I am an honors graduate of Jean Donaldson's Academy for Dog Trainers, a two-year program in evidence-based dog behavior, training, teaching and behavior counseling

My poodle Maggie and I graduated as a Divine Canines therapy team in February 2022, and we're now working toward Maggie's 'Excellent' therapy dog title.

What's a Therapy Dog? 

It's hard to follow trainers’ advice when it doesn’t make sense to you, or when the single-guy dog trainer who’s got nothing else to do other than train his dogs gives you a crazy amount of complicated dog-training homework when you are a parent of three children, with a job, and two more dogs at home… Yeah, let’s have a little humility and realism. 

Most dog training problems have multiple possible solutions. Our job as client-focused trainers is to find solutions for clients and dogs that make sense - to them - so clients willingly participate. Let's have compassion for dogs and their owners!

It doesn’t matter how smart dog-whisperer gurus are if clients aren't on board as architects of the solution. Our parallel role as pseudo-family therapists is, for better or worse, all too real. But that's how trainers can make a real difference - one dog - and one happy family - at a time. 


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