Linda Brodzik’s childhood interests has shaped her into the animal trainer she is today. Like many animal lovers, she grew up with dogs, cats, and numerous “pocket pets”. In her teens, she even adopted a Sulfur Crested Cockatoo. Unlike many animal lovers, her passion didn’t stop with just owning pets. At age eighteen, she got involved with a local dog club. She also began reading books on behavior. It was a natural progression to combine these passions and to make a career of them.
Today Linda runs In Relation With Dogs, a dog behavior consultation and training practice. In addition, she shares her training insights through articles published in numerous trade magazines, appearances on radio and television programs, and lectures. Always the avid learner, Linda continues to attend classes and to stay attentive to the most current knowledge in the science of dog behavior and teaching. She’s studied with the many top dog and animal trainers, animal behaviorists, and veterinarians from around the world. In addition, Linda is a member of the Animal Trainers Acadamy, an international group of domestic and exotic animal trainers from around the world.
ALLISON: Why do you continue to pursue studies?
LINDA: I continue to pursue studies because there are always new studies, new findings, and new applications. Most people do not know how much scientific study is being done in so many different facets of canine behavior and learning, here in the United States and around the world. So much is being learned about dogs as a species and about how they learn, develop behavior issues, emotional issues, trust, etc.
ALLISON: Describe a typical training session.
LINDA: A typical training session starts with me greeting the client and dog (or occasionally, horse, cat or bird). I start by observing the pet’s behavior as I take a short but detailed history from the owner. This offers me a greater insight as to the pet’s behavior and the owners concerns, as well as what contributing factors (management, communication, environmental) need be addressed. From there we start directly into a training program. This includes educating the owner in becoming the very best trainer for their individual pet(s) that they possibly can be. Our pets can only be as good as our ability to teach and guide them. For that reason as much emphasis is placed on educating the owners as is placed on educating the pet(s).
ALLISON: What is a memorable training moment?
LINDA: Wow, there are so many! I love seeing clients “get it” and in return help their dogs/pets succeed. It sounds so silly, but I really do get so excited watching each person and each pet learn, improve on ability, and build that bond of trust that we all seek to have with our pets.
ALLISON: What are the most common behavior issues you’ve encountered?
LINDA: The most common behavior issues I see are separation anxiety, and fear and aggression issues. These are generally not behavior concerns that can be fixed quickly, but with dedication and a well-planned out and executed training plan progress can be made.
I myself have personally in the past adopted two dogs with severe and dangerous fearful aggression concerns. Both were rehabilitated. One of my current dogs, Jolie, came to me with severe separation anxiety, kennel anxiety, and learning anxiety. She was a mess! With dedication and a systematic and positive training approach, I’m happy to say that she’s doing great on all accounts today.
ALLISON: What have you learned from the less-successful moments?
LINDA: My life is all about continual growth. I love learning, whether on a personal or professional level. I’m always attentive to what I can do better and how I can better communicate or present training lessons to my clients. Being open to the feedback of my clients is important too. My goal is to meet each client and pet where they are and to give them what they need in a positive, motivational, and trust- oriented manner.
Behavior and training, communicating with and teaching animals, are my passions! Even after all these many years, the field just keeps getting more fascinating to me.
ALLISON: Share some highlights of what you’ve learned from one or two dog experts.
LINDA: There have and continue to be so many people who influence me and help me continually grow as a trainer. I’m so thankful to all of them.
If I had to pick one or two that have had the most profound impact on my training, I’d pick Kathy Sdao and Ken Ramirez. They have exceptional knowledge and abilities as trainers and teachers of other trainers, and are commitment to science-based positive reinforcement methodology that always puts the mental, emotional, and physical welfare of animals as first priority. I’ve taken numerous clinics with both, as well as engaged in numerous private sessions with Kathy and attended a 5-day intensive advanced trainers course at the world-renowned Shedd Aquarium where Ken was the director.
ALLISON: You were recently accepted into a program focusing on the science and application in training of canine scent discrimination. What excites you about this program?
LINDA: Canine scent discrimination is what dogs do! All dogs, big, small, old or young. Dogs meet and explore the world with their nose.
This program focuses strongly on the science behind the training and it’s taught from a science-based positive-reinforcement methodology. There are so many different facets of scent work; it’s a fascinating field.
I’m even using these techniques to train my tortoise, Dewberry, to do scent diction work. He’s learned to identify and indicate find on a target scent and is now ready to start discrimination work. You can follow his training on his FB page, Tortoise Training. This is an interesting training project that is being watched by many around the world, including those in an international group of trainers, “Animal Training Academy” where I have opportunity to converse and share training an ideas with dog, horse, bird, reptile, exotic trainers around the world.
(Below is a video of Linda’s turtle learning to Hi-Five.)
ALLISON: What lessons have you learned about running a business?
LINDA: I must push myself to do the actual business work. Office work is not my passion. My passion is the science of behavior and learning/training. I love sharing this passion with my clients and watching their relationship with their pets grow.
ALLISON: What lessons have you learned about working with animals?
LINDA: There have been so many lessons! Every client and pet brings more growth an understanding. How much our animal companions communicate with us is a lesson I become more and more aware of. If you know how to listen and accurately interpret their actions, behavior, and body language, animals are constantly giving us feedback.
Training is a conversation. One must listen to the feedback an animal gives and ask: Are they stressed? Are you being clear? Are you trying to teach more than they can learn in that moment? Being attentive to what they’re communicating allows not only for faster and more successful training but also strengthens trust and engagement. Isn’t that ultimately what we all want?
ALLISON: Give a tip to anyone who might work in the pet business.
LINDA: Be positive! Always put the pet’s welfare, safety, and emotional safety and trust as your foremost concern. We bring pets into our lives because we want to share a bond with them. Often we focus on what we want out of the relationship, and not enough about what they need out of the relationship. As pet professionals, it’s our job to help clients find this balance.