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 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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