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To get smart dogs, you need a brainy trainer

By Julie R. Johnson/Corning Observer

Sep 9, 2011

Sherry Clark, dog trainer and owner of Brainy Dog, sits in her yard spending some time with Gus, a dog in training for a client.

One of Sherry's client dogs searches for a toy in a kiddie pool Clark uses for confidence training as part of her dog training business.

As Sherry Clark sits in her yard under the shade of a large tree surrounded by dogs, she exudes the very calmness, gentleness and quietness that has made her dog training business a success.

Clark, the owner of Brainy Dogs, says, "I love dogs and want them to be able to stay with their families, that is my mission in life, to save all dogs from animal shelters."

Clark runs her business from Corning California, where everything, from the playground equipment and kiddie pool, to the rooms in her mobile home, are dedicated to dogs.

"Everything I have and do is to help dogs gain confidence and to teach people how to live with their dogs," Clark explains.

She uses the positive reinforcement method in her training and believes there are no bad dogs, or bad dog owners for that matter.

"Dogs are intelligent, they are not things, they are creatures you can connect with. As soon as people learn that, and understand behavior modification in a positive way, they can happily and successfully live with their animals," Clark explains.

Clark doesn't refer to herself as a dog whisperer, although she has learned much of the training method she utilizes from the man she refers to as the original dog whisperer, Ian Dunbar.

"I truly believe in his positive reinforcement method, you don't have to use power and negative corrective methods to train a dog," she states.

Positive reinforcement means a dog owner rewards the positive things a dog does instead of punishing the bad things.

"Dogs, like humans, will repeat things that are rewarding and stop doing things that don't pay off," Clark explains.

She has been training dogs for 11 years now, but her love of animals started when she as a young child she owned a dachshund.

"I taught her to sit using an ice cream cone as a reward, but I don't really recommend ice cream for dogs by the way," Clark laughs.

She was involved in "corporate America" in Kansas City when she decided to leave that lifestyle and go back to her love of training dogs.

Clark's own formal training started at a dog training school where she learned from a woman who worked for the military training bomb dogs and as a service dog trainer for people with disabilities. "I also worked with another service dog trainer, a search and rescue trainer, and for a couple of years attended positive reinforcement seminars all over the country," she said.

As Clark brings out Gus, a mixed breed dog she is training for a client, she talks about teaching dogs to have a job.

"Some dogs bark too much because they don't have anything else to do. Dogs need to have job, even if it is just finding a cup or toy," she says.

Clark explains the most common dog related problems people bring to her is jumping, not paying attention and pulling on the leash.

"All of those are repairable problems and ones really not too hard to overcome. I love teaching dogs to have a job around the house, bring in the groceries, take out the trash, recycle, grab a beverage from the cooler, stuff like that is a blast," Clark states.

But most importantly, Clark believes the greatest thing for dogs is to have enough manners to earn the privilege of spending more time with their humans.

She is also of the mindset that when working with aggression in dogs, it is really a matter of working with fear.

"We can all get over fear if we give ourselves the opportunity. I ask people to give their dogs the opportunity to learn," Clark said.

Along with dog training, Clark offers dog boarding at her property, and a doggie camp where dogs receive 30-days of personal training as well as owner training.

"I also have 'Almost Camp,' where the dog and owner come to my place three times a week and we work on in-depth training and socialization which includes trips to parks, stores, and other busy places," Clark said.

As Clark talked about her dogs, profession and experiences, Gus, sitting at her feet, happily wagged his tail, patiently waiting for a treat.

To contact Clark at Brainy Dog, call 707-922-6344.

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