Spectra Credit Union Small Business Spotlight Presents: Wholistic Hound Academy
story by LIESEL SCHMIDT | photography by MARGARET BUCKMAN
Picture this: You're a dog who has never been taught how to behave with other dogs or how to interact with children. Hell, you don't really understand what makes it such a big deal to poop in the house. And what's with the people getting so pissed off when you don't roll over or sit on command?
As a dog, how do you think you would react to being dominated by the person training you? Would it be effective, or would you rebel against it?
As much as society loves dogs, one of the biggest hurdles in pet ownership can be training, especially in the case of puppies or rescue dogs who may not have had any kind of housebreaking. Cute or not, all that love we have for our furry best friends can turn to frustration when they destroy the house or won’t obey a command. For that reason, professional obedience training has become a successful aspect of the pet industry, in high demand all over the nation—and rather than using the old-school method of establishing dominance over a dog, reward-based training has been shown to be the most effective way to re-wire a pup's behavior patterns.
As a dog owner herself, Sandy Modell found the efficacy of positive reinforcement when training her first rescue Vizsla in 1993. After successfully training her dog, as well as those of friends and family, she took countless courses, attended training conferences and workshops, studied and earned her certification as a professional dog trainer and continued attending training camps and learning from the best. Over the next 20 years, Modell trained people and dogs part-time. What made her method so much more effective than what others had been trying with their dogs was that rewards-based method that gave the dogs in her care positive reinforcement rather than breaking them by asserting control over them. And so word spread...and the demand for her expertise grew.
Naturally, she saw the possibilities in front of her. And so Modell launched Wholistic Hound Academy (WHA) in 2017.
“My vision for launching WHA was to have a place in Alexandria where people and dogs could come and learn, build positive relationships and have fun—all using reward-based training." - Sandy Modell
WHA offers classes in basic foundation skills, advanced behavior, dog sports and group conditioning, also workshops and private one-on-one lessons. WHA also has an innovative and popular drop-off day and puppy academies. Finally, Modell developed an apprentice program to teach people who are interested in becoming dog trainers using positive reward-based training methods and techniques.
With so many successful stories of dogs that have come through WHA in the past six years, the academy has received multiple awards. And it all started with just one dog.