Training Philosophy

Training Philosophy

Positive Reinforcement Training

Minnetonka, MN and West Twin Cities Metro


Positive with the Dogs.  Positive with their Owners.

Fear-free. Force-free. Reward-based.

The leading dog training and advocacy organizations have all come out clearly in favor of reward-based training, urging dog owners to choose educated trainers who use this modern, science-based approach.

As a CPDT-KSA certified trainer, Susan Ward takes into consideration all aspects of each individual dog’s needs as well as their owner’s. She helps them build relationships based on mutual respect and understanding, using motivational training, also known as “positive reinforcement.”

This evidence-based approach to dog training is more than just effective – it creates confident, well-mannered dogs who are motivated to make good choices because there’s a history of reinforcement for them.  That’s very different than dogs who avoid behaviors out of fear of being punished.

Positive Reinforcement trraining minnetonka and twin cities west metro
Clicker Training in Edina MN

Clicker Training

As the Karen Pryor Clicker Academy describes it, clicker training, or marker-based training, is a form of positive reinforcement-based training that focuses on marking the behavior you like and reinforcing it, rather than focusing on the behavior you don’t like.

Desirable behavior is usually marked using a clicker that tells the animal exactly when he is doing the right thing. The click is followed by something that the animal finds reinforcing (i.e., food treats). This technique is based on the science of how animals learn. In short, it’s a tool we use to speed up their learning.

Just as she does for dogs, Susan will break down the learning process into small, easy steps for you….so you can successfully train your dog.   Animal training isn’t an art form. It’s a skill anybody can learn.

Westie with kid Edit 2
Reinforcing “Getting It Right” – Turning Behavior ON
  • Creates trust, connection, and bonding
  • Creates a feeling of safety, security, and stability
  • Builds confidence and enthusiasm
  • Promotes learning
  • Decreases reactivity and aggression
  • Creates a positive emotional state
  • Sets dogs up to be successful
Punishing “Unwanted Actions” – Turning Behavior OFF
  • Causes mistrust in their caretakers
  • Increases fear, stress, and anxiety
  • Increases insecurity, apathy, and learned helplessness
  • Inhibits learning
  • Increases avoidance behaviors
  • Increases the risk of aggression
  • Creates a negative emotional state


…..And We’re Not Talking About Baseball

It was 2002, and my husband and I were expecting the arrival of a male puppy, rescued from a puppy mill. To our surprise, a female puppy arrived instead; she was his littermate. It was immediately clear that her time in the puppy mill had been traumatic.  She spent her time crying and hiding from the scary new world. She was terrified of everything and everyone.  In addition, she had physical problems as a result of neglect and being caged 24 hours a day.

Nina was here to stay. And a week later, so was her littermate, Klaus – the puppy we were originally supposed to get – wanting him safe with us, too.  We broke a cardinal rule that says you should never adopt littermates. We just could not have it any other way.  They will forever be known as, “The Twins.”

Twins Sitting for Balls

They were our first shy and fearful dogs. They required specialized training. And there were two to train! First and foremost, they needed to feel safe. We went at their pace, slowly acclimating them to all kinds of people, environments, noises, novel objects, and new experiences.  Over time, they found their confidence and zest for life. No one would have guessed that they started as two tiny pups, desperately hiding under the sofa, too scared to come out and face the world.

The Twins taught us how to help them – through empathy, kindness, and patience. We soaked up all they had to teach us, and they blossomed into the most lovely companions. Oh…what a grand life we had together….Our Most Precious and Loved Twins.

Nina Weena Tofina: 7/28/2002 – 12/18/2015

Klaus Mouse Tofause:  7/28/2002 – 12/23/2012