Clint began his dog training career 14 years ago in 2006 after getting two American Bulldog puppies named Vega and Cash. A graduate of Animal Behavior College and an ABC Certified Dog Trainer, Clint has taught both private and group training classes helping thousands of dogs and their owners solve their behavioral problems. Knox Canine Training was launched in 2017 where Clint was focused on private, in-home training, but has recently expanded by opening up a physical location where he teaches puppy and obedience classes.
He is passionate about helping clients understand the science behind the training while working to improve communication between the dogs and their humans. Clint often finds himself helping with reactive or aggressive dogs and loves to see the progression and end result, a happy owner!
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Clint began his dog training career 14 years ago, in 2006, after getting two American bulldog puppies named Vega and Cash, a graduate of Animal Behaviour College and an ABC certified dog trainer, Clint has taught both private and group training classes, helping thousands of dogs and their owners solve behavioral problems. Knox Canine Training was launched in 2017, where Clint was focused on private, in-home training but has recently expanded by opening up a physical location, where he teaches puppy and obedience classes. He is passionate about helping clients understand the science behind the training while working to improve communication between the dogs and their humans. Clint often finds himself helping with reactive or aggressive dogs and loves to see the progression and the end result, a happy owner!
Hey, Clint, welcome to the show. Hello. I’m really excited to have you. You are with Knox Canine Training in Des Moines, Iowa, and I really just want to jump right in. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into training? I first got into training, well, I first took a class in 1992 with a family pet. It was very old school training, I would call it. And I remember because I was about nine years old, so it was very memorable because it was just kind of very brutal. Fast forward to when I first moved out of my house, my parents’ house, I got an American Bulldog, and he was kind of a wild puppy. And so my solution was I bought a second puppy, American Bulldog, so I had 2 puppies at once. One wasn’t enough for you, right? You had to go two. Yeah, which now as a professional, I’d never recommend people to get two puppies at once, but it was not knowing anything, really. I got two puppies thinking they would handle each other and train each other. And that was the solution, you know? So then I had two puppies that were ruining my house and not listening to me. That led me to taking a class that, it was a Petco at the time, and I was just, like, amazed with how fun the classes were. We were doing clicker training, using treats, all these things which I was relieved because I kept thinking, if I have to use, you know, some of these techniques that I learned when I was a kid on these dogs, what happens if they don’t like it? American bulldogs, when they’re full-grown can be over 100lbs, usually. But that’s kind of where I got interested in this new positive enforcement movement clicker training, and I just wanted to learn more. So I talked to the trainer after class and said, How do you learn how to do this? And she tells me about a college called Animal Behavior College. At first, I was like, No, there’s not a college for this, right? So I go and do some Google research and I find it and I signed up and I finished in about a year and ½, I think
My motivation, I guess, for first getting to this was I worked in a little cubicle job and just taking phone calls, and it wasn’t for me, and I knew I had to get out of there. With the dog training, I learned more about dog training and that as soon as I graduated, I started doing this full time. Yeah, I have to tell you, when I first read that about you that you went to the Animal Behavior College, I thought the same thing to myself. There’s such a thing. So I love that. That was your reaction as well. You know, I don’t know if the average person takes a year and 1/2 or if that was accelerated or not, but I think that’s a great resource for people who are interested in getting started in dog training. It is a great foundation, like so it’s still a college, obviously, and I work with them. So now I take mentors. I mentor people, from there. You have to do all the written criteria, like online classes and testing. And then at the end, you have to be like an internship or externship. And so when I did it at the time, to get to the point, but I couldn’t find anyone in my area, and I had a girlfriend at the time. We wanted to move to Arizona and I said, Perfect. I could do my internship down there, there’s a lot of people taking on trainers. I moved there for a little over a year and I did my internship down there, which was a really awesome experience. Then when I moved back, you know, eventually I started taking on students myself. That’s kind of a full circle. I was just gonna say to you, I like that you have taken at full circle. It’s not often that people get to pay back the school or the courses of the classes that you take and help that next generation, that next group of people. And so that says a lot to me about the kind of person that you are and the investment that you make, to not only the animals but the people as well in this industry. And so I really love that.
So you had made an interesting comment about how you got a second puppy, but that you definitely don’t recommend that to your clients. Share a little bit more with me. Why is that not a good idea? I always share with people from first-hand experience. I mean, it was just, it’s like you can’t solve it by bringing in another problem and I mean that nicely because we love our puppies, right? But if they’re untrained, they don’t know each other, they just feed off each other. So it was just constant, like with my own, it was constant wrestling, constantly wrangling will say, trying to find words. The other puppy, where’s this puppy. This puppy is doing this and then as I got into it professionally and seeing it over and over, it’s just puppies are a lot of work. People tend to forget that going into it. I have a lot of clients that are older, so they had a puppy, but it was 15 to 20 years ago. They get another puppy and life has changed a lot. And they forget in that time frame just how much work it is. There’s a lot of work though. What I like about that, honestly, Clint is that you’re pulling from that real-life experience. It’s not a scientific thing. It’s saying, Here’s what I did, learn from my mistakes. Here’s why it’s not a good idea, and I think people can relate to that. So I think it’s very cool that you incorporate that personal side of consultation in connecting with your clients so it doesn’t come across as preachy. It’s more education. And it’s learned from my mistakes, which I appreciate. Yeah, it’s that whole, do as I say not as I do, thing. Totally true.
So talk to me a little bit about your training philosophy. I know you mentioned the positive reinforcement. Where did that come from? Did that stem from your nine year old self in that training environment where you were like, Yeah, this just isn’t sitting right with me. I don’t like that. So I’m going to do it this way instead, what you learned through the Animal Behavior College. Talk to me a little bit about how your philosophy has changed from when you first started to where you are today. I guess as a kid, you know, that was just to me, that was what dog training was and maybe everyone at that time in the early nineties, you know? So I just remember, as a kid, I was like, I don’t like this. This is kind of brutal for my little puppy. My dad, who’s an ex-Marine, had no problems with it, was just normal for him.
And then my first introduction that the whole positive reinforcement stuff was the first class I took, with my first dog, Vega at Petco. So they were using clickers, which I had never heard of. We were using treats and toys and, like, there was playtime. And, you know, that was the first, I guess, exposure to it. I was amazed at how fast he was learning. Besides the fact that it was enjoyable, his learning was just so quick. I would go home and whatever we worked on, I felt like I had it nailed that night, you know? And then we go the next week and I learned something else and he’d have it nailed. And then it was kind of in my own house, well, what else can I do with this? And that’s why I started doing research and then Animal Behavior College. When I got there, their whole philosophy was positive reinforcement and explaining more of the science behind it, you know. At the time I was using positive reinforcement, all these things, but I didn’t know why it was working. It just worked. Which I guess, me having that experience now that’s what most clients feel. It works so just go with it, which is awesome. But in my classes and stuff, I try to explain to people you know the techniques, the reason this is offered conditioning. This is classical conditioning. This is why this is working. This is why this isn’t working and trying to get a little warm depth with it, without boring people. There’s that fine line like if you get too sciency with it, with most average clients, they just start to gloss over and start to stare, and they don’t understand it. So it’s always finding that balance.
And do you do that by client? Or does that same philosophy happen when you’re in group training sessions? Like, where do you tend to lose your clients? At what science point does that scale tip and you can see glossy eyes? That’s a good question. So I really get deep into it in my classes. So I am always doing orientation from my puppy classes and obedience classes. The first time people come in and meet me like we’re gonna get a little bit of the science stuff, you know, I try to explain that to them, which usually I’ve got that watered-down enough where they get through it. And then in my private trainings, I guess I handle those differently. It’s client to client, mostly because a lot of times they just want results, yesterday. So I’m going in there trying to, like, show them some stuff and maybe they don’t wanna, I could feel they don’t want to talk about the philosophy as much. I don’t get into it on the first, like one on one session, potentially. People that I have that do the recurring stuff and you can get a little deeper with it. I guess where I lose people and that’s hard to say. But you start getting into the quadrants and stuff and offer conditioning. And once you get past positive reinforcement, a lot of people, they just start to glaze over because they’ve never heard of this logic.
Yeah, so I see on your website that you do a lot of stuff with very aggressive or reactive dogs. Talk to me a little bit about why that area of training for you, what was it that you saw that made you really want to focus on those aggressive dogs or those reactive dogs? When I graduated college and I started doing this full time, my first job was I taught puppy classes and obedience classes. And I felt like the number one thing people would come in and ask me was, Well, how do I handle my dog when he lunges at other dogs on a leash or when we’re in the dog park and he’s going after dogs? And, you know, somewhere, questions like that I didn’t really have an answer because the one drawback of the college is they didn’t really cover that for, like, liability reasons. And I would actually email them and say, Hey, I want to learn more about this. Can you guys tell me and they would kind of say, No, we can’t because liability. They just don’t realize how much of a concern that was for a community of people I was dealing with. And I didn’t like the fact that I was like, I don’t know how to help you, but kind of the whole reason I started getting into it as I wanted to know the why and the solutions. And then you get this recurring question I’m like, I don’t know. I don’t know how to help you with this, you know.
So that led to my interest, I would say. I just wanted to learn more and more. I actually mentored with a guy in Des Moines, his name was Scott Jeter. He owned a facility called Canine Crazy. When I got took that job, one of the big driving factors was he was known for being really good with aggression and reactivity. He’d work with numerous species, not just dogs with said similar issues. Like he worked with chimpanzees and stuff with aggression. So anyway, one of the reasons I took the job was to learn more and more about how does this guy know? How does he do it? And so that was a big part of my learning after college was with him. It’s always interesting to me that one thing really sparks or ignites something within you. It’s like this desire to just know everything about it, which is what happened with you. You had so many people within your local community saying, What do I do? How do I handle it? There are things across the board that trainers can do, and to find that specific area where there’s a need in your community, I think is really cool. So I really applaud you for listening to them and really finding solutions for them and then offering them help on how to fix those things.
So what would you say in De Moines, or in your community, is the number one question that you get asked? I would say one of the most common ones is the whole reactivity thing. Like, I walk my dog and he barks and lunges. Usually, dogs, the most common thing is the barking, lunging at other dogs. But a lot of times its just people. They are lunging at people. They’re going after bicycles or strollers, and I think that’s one of the more common ones that I get here and end up working with is the whole dog reactivity.
And for the listeners, if you had one thing that you could share with them, that they could leave this podcast with that, they could go do with their dog to help with that. What would be that one thing that they could leave with? I guess I would stress management. So before we begin the training, when people contact me, I’m always stressing management. And what that means is like, how can you manage your dog so he can’t exercise this behavior every single day? So when people email initially like everyone’s going to get to the training part right away. But if I can’t be with them for a week or two, or whatever it ends up being, their first assignment is, how could you guys reduce this amount of reactivity or barking or lunging culture, to zero? So in homes, a lot of times that means you have to block your windows. You have to get the film stuff to put over your windows. The window film. We have to remove your dog’s favorite perch because he sits there and barks all day. That kind of thing. I find those behaviors kind of transition, or they boil into the outside behavior if the issues walking on a leash. Very interesting.
So I get the management aspect of it and reducing the opportunity for them to react. You had mentioned, you know, covering your windows and explain to me Clint, how long do you do that for? What are those steps? Give me some details on how you progress from this really severe reactive dog, to, like maybe not a perfect dog. But how do you get them down that path? What are some of those steps that people can do? First, I’m being really general, but that is the step. That management piece of this. Whatever that is in your house, how can you stop your dog from performing the behavior? Then when we get to the training stuff, we’re doing tons of conditioning. We’re doing what we call it counter conditioning, desensitizing. When I meet with people, typically there’s a couple of ways we initially start it. One would be with, I have another trainer that has a dog that we use to train dogs. If your dog barks and kind of goes crazy, that dog is not gonna react back, which is very helpful when you’re starting this. But we’ll start with, let’s say that dog, we’re 50 to 100 yards away. We’re really far away. You have to find that distance where your dog can see the other dog, but not go over threshold and bark and lunge. When they’re over threshold, they won’t take food. They won’t take any training, those kinds of things. We’re finding that threshold where the dog can see the dog, but not completely go berserk. And usually, if we start very far away, and the more success we get then we’re able to reduce that distance closer and closer. Which basically means your dog is getting more comfortable with another dog being in proximity. As we go, though, there are limitations. Some dogs will never get within, whatever the distance maybe because you can always reduce the behavior or lower it. But you can’t always make it go away 100%.
To your point, it has to be manageable. So I don’t know that an owner, a pet owner, is thinking, I’ve got this reactive dog. They have a little bit of aggression. I need them to be this perfect model dog. No barking, no nothing, never. Like in my mind as I hear you talk about this, it’s not about controlling them. It’s about understanding and putting them in a safe environment based on maybe some of their triggers or environmental scenarios that they’re in. Is that an accurate statement? Yeah, I definitely, I will tell you that I do have clients that that is their expectation. That’s a part of the training is communicating that this dog is probably, maybe never going to be that particular dog. It doesn’t mean we can’t do awesome things with them and lower his behavior. But he may never be this going to the farmer’s market dog. Going to the dog park depends on how severe it is and all that. But that is a part of the training is telling people, here’s the expectations, you know, or the limitations, maybe.
So what I liked about the management side of this is it’s different than control. You’re not controlling the dog. You’re trying to help them through this scary time, this scary trigger. And that’s what I liked about the management aspect of what you’re doing. So thank you for really just sharing that with me. Yeah, I guess I always tell this to people. It tends to resonate so any behavior in a dog, good or bad, it’s like a muscle. And so if they’re exercising the muscle, that behavior is getting stronger. And so the part of the management is I’m just saying is we don’t want the dog to exercise it. If they keep exercising they will just keep growing and growing and growing. And so people tend to understand that. Then the other kickback that I hear, so I’ll just tell you this one to you, is “But my dog loves looking out the window, though.” And a lot of the dogs just enjoy it. But that’s part of the problem if you’re in a busy neighborhood they bark, they’re doing that bad behavior at a curb all the time, right? So it’s just like alcoholics love to drink, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing always. Like sometimes you have to manage that and change patterns and behaviors. So, you know, I always start with management. No, I think that’s a good one. And those two tidbits of information were certainly helpful as well.
I see on your website that you also do behavior modification and recall. Talk to me a little bit about what you’re doing there. Behavior modifications, kind of, I mean, even when we’re working this reactive stuff, it’s behavior modification. I put it on there because there’s lots of other negative behaviors. There are things people want to address that I handle. Such as other common ones, I guess, would be research guarding. Where the dog is guarding food, toys, space, any of those, and separation anxiety, which is a very difficult behavior. But I know that would be considered behavior modification also. And I help people with all those as well as the reactivity stuff.
So the separation anxiety I know is a really hard one. If somebody is encountering, with their dogs’ separation anxiety, what’s the one thing that you have them focus on? So I used Patricia McConnell’s “I’ll Be Home Soon” as probably my biggest resource. And I do, I tell people usually to get a hold of that book if they can. So the biggest thing would be that you really shouldn’t leave your dog for longer periods than they’re capable of. And so they’re like, Well, how do I do that? I’m trying to come up with creative solutions as well, how do you do that? You know, is that through a daycare? Is that through one of your friends or family that can help you? Can you take your dog to work? I think a guy recently was leaving his dog in his car while he was at work. He could see the dog through the windows, so he could watch it and the dog was fine in his car. But if you would leave it at home, he was having all the separation anxiety issues. The problem was this was during, like, the winter months. He was worried about, as it got warmer, that that won’t be an opportunity anymore. That’s like, that’s a really weird one and kind of a creative solution that he came up with that we were working with. But it’s just that I feel like every time people leave their dogs with separation anxiety, it could be a huge reset to the progress in the training you’re making. So it’s first up, again, I guess it’s almost that it feels like management again. How do we prevent that from happening? So, yeah, we’re trying to come up with solutions. I think that’s the hardest part for people. Is that they have to live their lives and they feel like prisoners when their dog has this issue, you know?
Yeah, there’s gotta be some guilt associated with that, right? And I think in that scenario, more than any other that we’ve talked about, you really have to know your dog. What are those triggers? What is that timeframe? How do you test that? Do you sit outside for an hour? For two hours? For three hours? Like, this is a long process in figuring out that separation anxiety. And then you kinda have to work backward, to figure out, what are those triggers? That feels more like an individualized session or a plan. And I’m sure there’s all sorts of books and resources out there. But it’s not one size fits all. Oh, no. Yeah. Not all. Every dog is different. And, like you said, the triggers and sometimes the issue is can we confine it. Where other dogs it’s just not being around people. Other dogs, that’s not being around other dogs. You know, there’s so many. It’s so broad, I guess. Yeah, that’s definitely something we handle in, you know, one on one sessions and we kind of come up with a plan and work on it.
The tricky part is that I want to make sure they understand it because they’re going to be doing a lot of this on their own. If I’m only at their house for an hour, you know, there’s only so much we could do in that timeframe, I guess. So I want to make sure that they know what they’re doing and how they, like, keep progressing it forward. So, yeah, I just give them the book as a resource. But I’m gonna show them how to do actual training parts of it and, you know, give them tips and stuff. So you’re educating the humans as much as you are the animals as well. And I think that’s a really, really important piece. And I think it’s something that pet owners are really starting to appreciate and understand when they’re looking for a trainer, is that need for teaching, right? Like they don’t just want somebody to train their dog. They want to understand the behaviors of the dog so that they can play a more prominent role in their successful life and their happy life. They wanna learn. Yeah, I think the most satisfying thing for a trainer is when the people are actually learning, like why something works or they’re able to take your techniques and do something completely different with it. But it’s the same thing we taught them because that’s my goal. I want the people to be able to understand their dogs and train them better. As trainers, we could go in and do lots of things for the dogs, but that doesn’t always mean the owners can get them to do that. So my goal has always been to educate owners so they can get the same success.
I think it’s really smart, so I know that you guys have a physical building. But given our current situation, it’s been a little bit more difficult to kind of go down those group classes, the on-site classes. So talk to me a little bit about the online training and consultations that you guys are doing. And how is that working for you? Yeah, so what we just started doing, more phone and video consults, as all this stuff has happened. For the classes, what we’ve been doing lately is Facebook live. So we started groups for the people who are registered for classes and then we’re kind of doing like mock sessions. Essentially, they were going over the criteria that we would have covered that week, and then I’m asking that people work on it and then send videos of themselves, you know, showing a couple of the items. Since we can’t be with people, it’s cool to be able to see them working with their dogs, seeing the progress and being able to still coach them and give them tips, even though we’re not face to face with them. But that’s the main thing we’ve been doing, are those, I guess, Facebook Live groups. I’ve been doing those. I’ve done a few of the zooms, but Facebook Live has been working really well for us. And then if it’s just like a one on one consult like they have more of a behavioral issue, then I’m doing phone or video consults. I’ve had really good luck with most of them. There’s a few that I haven’t figured out quite yet how to work on like the dog to dog reactivity. I haven’t had people that are willing to go take their reactive dog to the park by themselves. I think part of the reason they’re contacting me is they won’t be there to help them or you know, whatever they want, that system or hold the leash or whatever. And so those that I was I haven’t had real success with yet. But everything else, I even worked a resource starting one recently where the child or not a child. He was like a teenager. He was filming the mom work with the dog. It was a Bull Garter. And so if he was filming and I was kind of coaching to work through it and it worked really well.
So is the video and phone consults something that you guys are going to continue when we push through this COVID 19? I mean, it seems like you’re having a lot of success with it. So I get a lot of requests. I guess people outside of my normal travel area. And now, I guess I never thought of it before. I wasn’t forced to think about it, but it’s like, well, now I could just do these video and phone consults, if they’re willing, because now I kind of know how they work and they flow. So it’s definitely gonna be like another tool to use. And the other thing I’ve liked is the groups. So if I have an obedience class, setting up these groups online, it’s kind of a mini-community and everyone’s in the class and talk online and put little clips up and show off their dogs. Yeah, I’m definitely gonna incorporate a lot of this stuff into, I guess normal business when we get back to that.
One of the things that is always interesting to me is the whole doggie daycare socialization side of things. Talk to me a little bit about what that looks like in your community. And does that play a part in what you’re doing with your clients? Dog daycares are a huge thing here in Des Moines. There’s more and more opening all the time. They’re awesome. I mean, if people have the means and they could do it and the dogs appropriate, I think it’s super helpful for the dog to go to, get socialized with other people, dogs. Especially if people are really busy. And maybe they have a full-time job and do as much as they want with the dog. I think it’s very beneficial. I do find a few issues of them. One would be obviously the dogs, just not having a good time there is appropriate there. But I worked in a daycare for a while, so I’ve seen those dogs that just don’t fit in there. I guess there’s other things we could do with them. But maybe good settings, not the best. So I guess, just don’t force it, if it’s not for your dog.
And the other thing is people that are relying on the daycares, as the only socialization. Oh yes, I understand you’re a busy person. You work. But if you’re only taking the dog there to the daycare, where I see that the dog is comfortable there. It’s almost like a second home, or if the dog feels like it’s their home if they’re going every day. And so they’re comfortable with all the situations there. But it’s not transitioning to the outside of the dog daycare. But you still need to take puppy classes and get out with your dog and do other socialization things. Just don’t lean on that too much, I guess. Sure, that’s my only knock on. Otherwise, they think they’re great. You can just let me off. No, I think that’s really smart. I never really thought about it. You know, somebody working five days a week, taking their pet there five days a week. How they would feel that comfortable as a second home. So you lose the socialization aspect of that, just like us. Sometimes when we work in a corporate day job, Sometimes we spend more time at the office than we do at home, right? And so the same concept, the same thought process with the doggy daycares if they’re there five days a week, that becomes almost their first home. Yeah, exactly. It’s just like when you visit with some dogs in their home and they’re fine but outside of the home, they’re not fine with things. Right. I feel like I’m finding that with some of the daycare dogs that are going there so often but not doing other things, I have a good relationship with most of the daycares in town. I’ll call them and, like, we’ve never seen this issue, that the person’s reporting, you know, here. So it’s interesting, but yeah, I just make sure you’re not missing the other pieces. If you’re doing all that daycare, I think it’s important, and exposing them to different scenarios and environments is really the key to the socialization aspect and really helping with the reactivity.
So, Clint, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time chatting with you, and I’ve certainly learned a lot. As we get close to wrapping this up, is there anything that we maybe didn’t talk about that you want to mention? I guess I’m really excited to showcase or do an open house in my facility. I opened this right as the COVID stuff was happening. So we had an open house planned for the weekend that everything shut down. So I got this new awesome facility, I’m really proud of, and I haven’t really had any people in it. So I’m excited to hopefully showcase that down the road. And the whole plan with the facility was to be able to take on more clients, more classes, those kinds of things. We’ll see what that looks like in the future. Now that could be a little bit, but yeah, it’s a huge stepping stone for us. It’s the business. Yeah, and I love that. And thanks for mentioning that we’ll be sure to link to the website. And if anybody’s interested or in the Des Moines area, we certainly encourage you to check out the site and look for upcoming open house events and other classes as well.
But, Clint, I love the transition that you’re making in this strange time, and I’m excited to see that this is stuff that you’re going to continue in the future. And, like you said, now that you’ve been forced to think about it, I think it expands your audience as well, they’re the client base. You’re not just restricted to Des Moines anymore. You can go outside of even Iowa, and do California and New York and all sorts of different things. So I love that technology can help in that. And there’s good things that come out of scary situations. Yeah, we’re constantly learning, just like the dogs ready. Yeah, it’s true. It’s true. Well, Clint, thank you so much for joining me today, and I appreciated the time with you, and I have learned so much. Thanks for having me.
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