Colorfuldogs Dog Walking


Jenna Teti Dog Trainer

Interview With Dog Trainer Jenna Teti

We're so excited to share our interview with Jenna. She's an amazing dog trainer and people line up for her services. Keep reading and you'll see why.

Q: You are a sought after dog trainer in Jersey City, why do you think that is?

JT:  Well, I think more people are leaning towards positive training overall which is awesome. And I do my best to simplify things and make it fun for my clients. It’s important to me to teach clients how dogs learn so that they have a better understanding of their dogs in general. Learning theory can be a bit of a dry, boring topic, but I make it easy to understand and...I! Having this knowledge gives clients a better understanding of their canine companions and allows them to tackle things on their own in between sessions or after they’ve completed their training package. (Though I’m of course always happy to help!) Having a dog with a behavioral problem can be difficult and I think taking the time to explain the science behind what’s going on really helps people. I also believe my certification through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers is important to people. And it should be – it’s important to me too!

Q: What has helped the most in gaining your success?

JT:  Man, where do I begin? There are certainly a lot of people to thank! First, I would say the trainers that have sparked my passion and shared their knowledge with me. Jenny Chun of Give Paw Dog Training in Brooklyn gave me the training bug to begin with. I’ve attended training academies with Pat Miller who is an incredibly inspiring teacher and trainer and the knowledge she has shared with me has been hugely beneficial. And last but not least (is this what it’s like to accept an Oscar?) my clients! Word of mouth is an incredible marketing tool, and I’m fortunate that they share their positive experience with others and get the word out about positive training.

Q:What is the positive training method?

JT:  This is the wrong question to ask somebody that really geeks out on learning theory. So I’m going to attempt to contain my nerdiness and give a simple answer. Positive Reinforcement technically refers to the positive reinforcement quadrant in operant conditioning — the dog’s behavior makes a good thing happen. But it’s really a lot more than that. Much more than I can cover in this interview. But let me try to break it down! Positive training is a philosophy — it’s about teaching a dog what we want them to do and managing the environment so the dog isn’t able to practice behaviors we don’t want them to do. It’s about communicating effectively with the dog in a humane way without using force, fear, or pain. It’s about understanding how dogs learn, and teaching them to do things with that knowledge. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not about bribing with or chucking treats. If you’re bribing with treats, you’re not doing it right. It’s about trial and error from the dog’s point of view, and delivering appropriate consequences from our point of view.

Humans tend to over-complicate dogs, when really they’re quite simple — they do what works. If there’s a blue couch and a red couch, and I give you $50 every time you sit on the blue couch, and nothing when you sit on the red couch, which one are you more likely to sit on? Similarly, if you reward a dog for behaviors you like, they are going to repeat those. If a dog jumps on you for attention when you come home, and you give them attention (even yelling at a dog to get down is attention in a dog’s eyes, FYI), guess what? They’ll do it again. “Hey, jumping worked!” But if you remove your attention when the dog jumps on you (“Wait, that does the opposite of what I want!”), but give it attention or a treat when four paws are on the floor or they sit instead of jumping on you...well, guess what — THAT’S what works and THAT is what the dog is likely to do again.

Q: Why do you believe the "positive training" method is the only method that really works?

JT:  It’s not that it’s the only method that works — I won’t argue that punishment doesn’t work. Sure it does. But if you have a more humane, kinder way that doesn’t involve pain, fear, or force to teach a dog new behaviors and to change undesirable behaviors...why wouldn’t you opt for that? There is a lot of science and a lot of real-life examples backing up positive reinforcement and force-free training — and not just with dogs. Killer Whales have been taught to give a urine sample using positive reinforcement; Butterflies were recently taught to fly a certain pattern using positive reinforcement. Heck, I just posted a video of alligators being taught a “go to place” cue (a behavior I teach to my basic manners clients) with positive reinforcement. Those are just a few out of countless examples. If we can train Killer Whales and Butterflies and Alligators (oh my!) without using force or pain, I’m pretty sure we can teach domesticated dogs without those as well. There’s just no need to use punitive or aversive methods and dominance theory has long been debunked. We have better ways. Science says so. Let’s use them!

Q: What is a simple trick every dog can learn?

JT:  Here’s a big reason I LOVE positive training. You can teach a dog to do pretty much anything! Shaping (breaking a behavior into tiny steps and rewarding for successive approximations towards the final behavior) is a technique that I use a lot with my dog Reuben to teach him new tricks — he’s learned to spin in a circle, bow and paw like a bull, roll over, and a lot more using shaping. There are different types of shaping, but I love to do free-shaping with Reuben. It involves him throwing novel behaviors at me to see if they’ll be reinforced and I never get tired of watching it. You can really see a dog thinking. This is a department where punitive training can’t possibly compete. A dog that has been rewarded for various behaviors will try new behaviors to see if those too will be rewarded. But a dog that has been punished for doing the wrong behaviors will be very reluctant to offer new behaviors for fear of being punished.

Q: You have started teaching classes to humans can you tell us about that and the reasons behind it?

JT:  A big goal of mine with my work is to reduce the number of dogs in shelters. I think there’s a lot being done to help dogs get OUT of shelters, which is great. But I personally believe that in order to tackle our pet overpopulation problem, we need to start doing more to prevent dogs from ending up in shelters in the first place and I think educating people is a big component of that. Nobody should be buying dogs from pet stores or on the internet, but people don’t understand that those dogs come from Puppy Mills and the industry that purchasing a dog from those options supports and perpetuates. I want to give people the information that they need to make a responsible decision when getting a dog, and I also want them to know what owning a dog entails. That way they’re either set up for success or can re-evaluate if they’re really prepared to own and care for a dog. People don’t know unless you tell them! I also think there are many challenges that city-dwellers face that make dog ownership more difficult, and I want to provide people with information that can help them with that as well.

Q: When training a dog what is the most important thing to remember?

JT:  That dogs are an entirely different species with an entirely different set of social norms, ways of communicating, etc. How many times have you seen a person say “sit” over and over and over to a new puppy or dog and the dog just stares back blankly. Dogs don’t come equipped with that vocabulary. You have to give those cues meaning. They also don’t understand why you don’t want them on that really comfortable thing everyone else sits on (by the way, your dog getting on your furniture is not in order to take over the world or increase their rank in the household...they get on it the same reason that we’s comfortable!) or why when they have to go to the bathroom, it’s not ok to do so on your carpet that feels an awful lot like grass. That’s all on us to teach them. If you look at us from a dog’s point of view...we’re a little weird...and they are very tolerant.

Q: What are your favorite "treats" for training?

JT:  Anything soft (easy to break into tiny pieces) and smelly! I like PetKind’s Tripe treats. They come in a stick form which you can stick in your pocket and break off pieces as needed. They’re great for those that want to take treats on a walk but don’t want to wear a treat pouch (but come on, treat pouches are super cool. Really trying to get people on board with the treat pouch)! I personally use food roll the most because I can buy a large roll and it lasts me a while — dogs seem to really like it as well. Chicken and frozen meatballs are another go-to for me!

Q: What types of harnesses do you recommend and why?

JT:  My favorite is the Freedom Harness by 2 Hounds Design. It has a front and back clip, so you can use whichever one is most appropriate for your dog, or they make a leash that attaches to both the front and back. It’s a secure harness and it also has velvety fabric on the belly strap to prevent chafing which is great and I imagine a bit more comfortable for dogs!

Q: What are your goals for the future of your business?

JT:  I’m really hoping to expand Force Free JC to grow the trade-in program and continue to educate Jersey City dog owners on how to better co-exist with man’s best friend. I also hope through the educational programs and being a resource to the community that we can reduce the number of dogs being surrendered to our local shelter and really make Jersey City a truly dog-friendly place. I hit my 100 client landmark last year which was huge — that’s 100 dog owners that chose positive training for their dogs. Each new client is a new person to educate and another person to get the word out about positive training. Maybe some day we can have a completely Force Free JC J!

A BIG thank you to Jenna for taking the time to sit down and talk with us! Also, check out our blog post on how we train our walkers at Colorfuldogs.