A Conversation with Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell, Otis, and Linda Michaels on the KUSI TV Studio Lot

In my recently published interview, Victoria Stilwell discusses the major differences in dog training methods... and explains why "methods matter" to all pet parents and to every dog. Victoria goes directly to the heart of a "hot" issue in dog training that is too often misrepresented to people searching for help with their beloved pup. Victoria lays out the facts, clearly and  beautifully, in an easy-to-read manner. Please share it!


Animal Planet's Victoria Stilwell, the "Dog Training Diva", is the new heroine of dog lovers everywhere. Stilwell’s smash hit show, It's Me or the Dog, airs in more than 50 countries. Anyone who's seen her show knows she means business...and everyone recognizes the signature boots she wears. Importantly, professional animal behaviorists and progressive veterinarians applaud her affirmation that it's "scientifically sound advice to be nice to your dog."

Welcome Victoria! You’re considered a dynamo in dog training with an exploding and devoted fan-base.

Q. What’s your “mission”?
A. I’m a passionate cheerleader for positive training that’s based on mutual trust, respect and love, rather than fear, punishment, and intimidation. Our mission is to turn the tide of public awareness away from the traditional punishment and dominance-based methods which have been so popular in the past.

Q. Many people may not yet be aware of the differences in dog training methods, although they are quite dissimilar in important ways.
A. You’re right. To the casual observer, all dog training looks the same. But it’s not. Dominance trainers believe that most behavior problems stem from a dog trying to ‘dominate,’ while positive trainers know that the root cause in the majority of cases is lack of confidence. Two trainers on opposite ends of the spectrum can look at the same aggressive dog and see two totally different things. There’s still a lot of debate about which side is correct, but it’s really all moot because science has spoken.

Dominance trainers believe that they must impose their will on the dog in order to earn ‘respect’. This is very dangerous, as the dog has not fundamentally changed, and will still act out, sometimes aggressively, when it’s safe to do so.

Q. So, what’s wrong with the “alpha” and “pack leader” theories?
A. The “alpha” and  ‘pack leader” theories are based on 40-year old research that is now, admittedly, inherently flawed. Scientists studied wild, unrelated, captive wolves and translated the findings to domesticated dogs. We now know that a wolf pack is a mother, father and their offspring, and the “alphas” are the breeding pair.

A Conversation with Dog-Training Diva Victoria Stilwell. Cover "Natural Awakenings Pet" Magazine, San Diego.

Q. What about the need for leadership?
A. The most powerful and effective leaders lead without the use of force. Positive trainers believe that leadership should be used as constructive guidance rather than a punitive imposition of will. It’s similar to the way we raise children these days: build up their confidence and give them the tools to make the right choices.

Q. There’s a proliferation of shock, prong and choke collar equipment training. What type of leash-walking equipment do you recommend?
A. For “serial pullers”, a chest-led harness helps work through the behavior problem. For smaller dogs, I recommend a mesh harness.

Q. I understand your network of expert trainers now reaches from Athens, Greece to San Diego. Tell us a bit about your new project of networking trainers and what you hope to accomplish.
A. I founded Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training (VSPDT) – to provide the public with a ‘name brand’ you can trust to use the latest science-based, reward-based training methods.

Since last year, I’ve been enlisting the most accomplished, professional positive reinforcement dog trainers into my global network.  The idea is that if someone is hunting for a dog trainer, they’ll recognize that the trainer is aligned personally and professionally with me, they’ll recognize the type of training I do on my TV show and say, “I want that.”

We’ve got fantastic VSDPT members in the San Diego area, including Linda Michaels and Julie Schmitt.

Q. Please tell us, what's next on your agenda?
A. I’ll be continuing work on my new product line, developing new and innovative solutions to canine problems. We’re focused on promoting healthy, balanced relationships to make the world a better place for us and our dogs.

Thank you! Find us at www.Positively.com

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email: [email protected] for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at DogPsychologistOnCall.com

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Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.


2 thoughts on “A Conversation with Victoria Stilwell

  1. Georgie

    I have been working with dogs as a foster mum for 2 years. I work with the naughty dogs that have been in kennels for a long time, I love what I do but now have a dog that has been castrated but still have an over wellming problem with humping. He is very competitve towards both dogs and humans and seems to to rampant all the time. He is agreesive towards all other dogs and does not seem to care if he his attracted to male or females. He scent drops all over the house. He is working well in all other aspects of his training and his recall is amazing. Do you think injections would help him as I really do not think I can rehome in the way he is. I would love to keep him but if I do that I will be unable to help all the other dogs that need me. I really want to help this dog as he is a good lad in every other way. Please help!!!

  2. Michelle Cory

    How old is you dog, it could be something neurological. a dog behavior therapist would be able to help.

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