Brad Jaffe believes dogs should have an active part in their own training, which is why his Dogological method is all about working with the dogs as opposed to bribing or punishing them. Since 1999, the 46-year-old Phoenix resident has trained more than 6,000 dogs in private lessons and group classes. He also works with a greyhound rescue program with inmates at the Eloy Detention Center.
Now, Jaffe is getting ready to launch his first series of dog training DVDs and is currently promoting a crowdfunding campaign to help with post-production, a portion of which will go towards Gabriel’s Angels, a local nonprofit that brings therapy animals together with at-risk youth. You can donate to the campaign through March 14. Get to know Jaffe, who also wrote a dog communication-themed book called Conversations with Courtney, below. He also names his five favorite reasons for living in the Valley — keep scrolling for the video.
What brought you to Arizona?
I came out here in 1984 and went to high school for a year at Chaparral High School because my aunt and uncle lived here, and I wanted to experience it. I loved it for the weather but moved away for awhile before coming back in ’94. I was born in Detroit.
How did Dogological come about?
As a child, I always wanted to be a veterinarian, and when I came back to Arizona, there was a veterinarian right by where I lived. I was getting income from my other business and didn’t need to work, so I went into the vet’s office to just get a job there to see what it was like. I was hired as a vet tech in training, and within two weeks, I was managing the place.
I was there for about five years and managing three animal hospitals at the same time. I realized I didn’t want to be a veterinarian and go back for all the schooling, but I really wanted to get into training.
Where did your love for animals come from?
I was always connected to animals, especially to dogs. I was a little bit of an introvert and was the kid who would bring every stray dog home.
What made you want to be a dog trainer, and how has Dogological evolved?
Though it wasn’t the medical route, I loved the idea of working with dogs and had worked with my own dogs and enjoyed the way it connected us together. To me, it was a really natural fit.
Back in ’99, I was just learning how to do this, and the person I learned from had been trained in the old-school method, which is still used today as far as choke chains, corrections and that master-servant approach. It didn’t feel right to me, so I wanted to find another way of training.
I started attending lots of seminars and joined the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and went to their conferences and read every book I could find. I found a couple mentors and evolved from there.
After I was in it for five or six years, my confidence level was up enough where I just started creating from my own method. I’ve now trained more than 6,500 dogs in 15 years.
How would you describe the Dogological method and how it stands out from others?
It’s different from the mainstream in that it’s not correction-based, and we don’t use choke chains and shock collars. It’s not about intimidating a dog and you being the alpha and dominating the dog.
It’s also not treat-based. My method is a psychological approach to training from the dog’s point-of-view. Dogs learn by cause-and-effect and trial-and-error. If I can teach my clients to communicate in a way the dogs understand, the dogs will train themselves to do what we want.
The biggest problem I see in dog training today is the dogs are rarely, if ever, allowed to use their natural problem-solving ability and have the time to think through things for themselves. We’re either correcting them into something, or bribing them with food. If you set things up in the right way and help dogs become a cooperative part of their own training, it’s magical. The training is so much more reliable and fun for both, because you’re now a partnership.
My training is about teaching people how to get crystal-clear communication with their dogs. I help them learn that with the simple techniques I can teach them, they start communicating with their dogs in a way the dogs understand and begin to work as a partnership. It makes things so much easier because it gives the dog the privilege to think things through and figure out things on their own, without us spoon-feeding them or intimidating them into it.
What’s the most striking thing about dog psychology to you?
Many of the mainstream methods of training people are taught unfortunately dumb our dogs down as if they’re stupid. I think the most striking thing is realizing and honoring how intelligent they are – and they’re so much more intelligent than they’re given credit for.
Dogological allows dogs to train themselves and use their brains to figure things out. Once they get in the habit of doing that, everything else you teach them comes so much easier.
What basic training tips do you have?
The only training I don’t tolerate is violent training, where you’re injuring the dog, intimidating the dog, or dominating the dog using painful equipment.
The most basic thing people can do is to understand how their dogs think and learn, which is by cause-and-effect and trial-and-error. They don’t learn by words until we teach them what words mean – just like a child.
What happens a lot of times with puppies is we correct them for doing things they were never taught not to do in the first place. They’re not that dissimilar to children. You have to teach them in a way they’ll understand, then trust they’ll figure things out on their own if you set it up in the right manner. It’s respecting the dogs for what they are, then helping them learn while not getting frustrated with them when there are things they’re doing that you never taught them are not OK.
When would you recommend people hire a dog trainer?
Before they even get a dog. The biggest problem I find is the wrong dog is in the wrong house. A lot of people will choose their dog based on looks, but you need to think about lifestyle. If you find the right dog for the right home, everything is so much easier. People need to do their research and have someone to walk them through the process of what questions to ask when buying or adopting a dog.
You can also do a temperament test after seven weeks of age, where you can get a baseline idea of what the dog’s personality, traits and underlying mechanisms are.
Are there some breeds that are easier to train than others?
Yes – a co-dependent dog who wants to be around you all the time, not a specific breed. But once again, it’s making sure it’s the right dog for the right home.
What’s your work with the Eloy Detention Center like?
It’s a wonderful program I’ve been doing for four years at this maximum security prison. There’s a local greyhound rescue called Racing Home Greyhound Adoption, and we bring greyhounds into the prison where carefully chosen handlers who have earned the privilege get to train the dogs. The dog lives in the cell with two inmates whom I’ve taught how to teach these greyhounds.
I hadn’t worked with greyhounds much before I got involved with this program, so I had to come up with a whole new method of training for them. The dogs stay with the guys for about two months and learn all the basics – sit, stay, walk on a leash, come on command, go up and down stairs, etc. Sometimes the dogs learn tricks, and a few get prepared for service work. We’re now at nine dogs with 18 handlers.
What’s your plan for your DVD release?
The DVDs will be the at-home program for Dogological. The idea for them has been in my mind for about five years. I was getting really frustrated with seeing so many dogs trained with very harsh and abusive methods. It was driving me crazy the mainstream attitude toward dogs for about the past 10 years has been the master-servant approach. A lot of people are uncomfortable with that, but were doing it anyways because that’s all that’s out there. It breaks down your relationship with the dog.
I am a big fan of the P90X workout program, and I wanted to do a dog training program just like that. I started filming it about a year ago, and now the editing needs to be finished, along with formatting for DVD form, as well as for separate downloadable formats for computers, tablets and phones, plus production and packaging – that’s what the crowdfunding campaign is for. I want the videos to be so detailed, you won’t have any question about what to do with your dog.
There are 29 different dogs, ranging from beginner and intermediate dogs that are learning, to some advanced dogs showing you what the finished results look like, in 66 clips for six different exercises featured in the program. Viewers will be able to click on any dog they want and see where they’re featured in the program, and the DVDs also come with a workbook. We’re hoping to be able to finish everything within a month or two after a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Why did you decide to give a portion of the funds raised to Gabriel’s Angels?
Our missions are aligned. I help dogs get away from or avoid being trained by violent techniques. Gabriel’s Angels does the exact same thing with children, as their dogs go visit at-risk kids and help alleviate their anxieties.
What are your goals?
I love what I do more than anything in the world. The relationship people have with their dogs after they learn how to train them is wonderful, so my goal is to make this available around the world and to translate the DVDs into other languages.
Why would you encourage people to learn dog training from you?
The methodology is different, and it’s great if they want to build a strong relationship with their dog without having to intimidate them or bribe them with food. I’m in it for the dogs, and I’m in it for the people.
I also don’t dictate how to do things – I make the training individualized.
Why should people consider getting a dog for a pet?
They’re unconditionally loving and amazing beings. They don’t judge you. When you’re crying, they’re right there licking your tears up and bringing the ball to you to make you happy. They’re just wonderful companions.