Why I Love VSA

Just last week, we concluded another successful in-person intensive with the Victoria Stilwell Academy’s Dog Trainer Course students. As I sat there in the back of the room, I watched our awesome faculty member, Nichole Smith from Working With Dog, absolutely rocking this super-important lesson and content. Just about every day during our six-month course, I find myself struck by a seemingly endless string of realizations about why I truly love teaching with the Academy, and what makes sharing this learning experience with our students so special.

VSA logo_tealThis last day of our 8-day intensive is a full day class called ‘Marketing for Dog Trainers,’ and while that may sound daunting and maybe not even very enticing to aspiring trainers, most of our students tell us that it’s one of their all-round favorite days of the course. Nichole does a fantastic job of making business marketing accessible and less scary, and it ends up being a super-inspirational day that arms future trainers with the confidence, info and motivation to tackle this all-too-important aspect of being a pet professional.

Pretty early in the day, Nichole went around the room asking each student about what they wanted to achieve and what specifically drew them to VSA for their dog trainer education. Listening to our incredibly diverse group of students who joined us from all over the world, I was struck once again by how extraordinary the dog training world really is.

I live and breathe dog training and behavior, and I’m around dog experts all the time. So sometimes I become somewhat immune to remembering just how special the people are that work with these amazing animals and their people to create harmony within pet households. Dog trainers are a unique breed (sorry), and while it takes a special drive to take the plunge and hang your shingle as a pet professional, the payoff is immeasurable.

Our students that morning shared details of their journeys that brought them to us at VSA. The variation between their individual worlds and goals couldn’t be more pronounced, but there was one thru-line within all of their stories. Every VSA student on our course recognizes the deep connection between their passion for promoting positive dog training and the opportunity to turn their dog trainer education into something valuable to themselves and their communities.


Students from VSA's October, 2016 Dog Trainer Course class.

Some students have been lifelong ‘Victoria Stilwell’ fans, while others were introduced to me, Positively and VSA in recent years. Some are existing pet business owners (groomers, dog walkers, sitters, trainers, etc), others are working in other fields (reporters, stay-at-home-moms, lawyers, baristas, etc), and still others are entering the workforce for the first time and developing their first career.

But across the board, all of our students have experienced a moment where the ‘lightbulb goes off’ in their heads – when they recognize that making the world better for dogs and their people is a hugely important part of who they are and what drives them.

Not all of our students want to become dog trainers. Some work in shelters and are driven to be in a better position to help those who can’t help themselves. Some are still figuring out what they want to do with their newfound education. Still others are chomping at the bit to go into business for themselves as pet industry professionals.

We are truly blessed to attract incredibly engaged and thoughtful students who are looking to turn the corner, even if they don’t know what comes next. Last week at our ‘farewell’ cocktail party, I got the chance to go around the room and offer my take on each student’s progress and strengths. By taking a deep look at who our students are and identifying what drives them, followed by hearing them share in their own words why they’re here, it drives home how fortunate we are to share our time with such amazing groups of people.

We’re proud of the Victoria Stilwell Academy and what we’ve built over the past year-plus. We’re even prouder of the people we’ve had the honor to help chase their dreams.

Contact VSA today to learn more about our unique learning programs and upcoming classes:


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Positively Expert: Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.


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