Dog Training with MJ​
Train your dog before your dog trains you.​​​
MJ Morris, A.P.D.T.
Accredited Professional Dog Trainer
Hi, I’m MJ. I started dog training when I got my first dog about 20 years ago. My dad grew up on a farm and didn't want any animals around our house, so I wasn't able to get my first dog until I was an adult and out of college. I spent over a year, while I was working at a company in the IT department, researching dogs so that I would pick the one that would be right for me. My preferences were pretty simple. I wanted a dog less than 20 pounds so that I could travel with him in the cabin of a plane and one that did not shed. I came up with a number of breeds. Maltese, Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise, Toy Poodle and some others.  

I started going to pet stores, since I didn't know about breed rescue clubs, and soon found out how expensive they were. I didn't know at the time (it wasn't general knowledge then) how many of these pet stores were nothing more than what we today call "puppy mills." After going to a number of them, one day a dog found me.  

I was in a pen with three dogs, a Shih Tzu, a Westie, and a Bichon Frise. The other two dogs seemed very young and all they did was sleep, but the Bichon Frise was lively and picked me to take him home.  

I wanted to give him some training, so I went to the library and found some books and videos and started training him myself. The first thing was to house train him. I used the crate training method and had some problems because he would poop in the crate. I was baffled because I read that dogs will not do this. I was taking him outside 5 times a day, but that didn't help. I had an idea that maybe it was his food. I changed it to a higher quality brand and he was fine from that time on.  

The training went well as he picked up on commands very quickly. He learned to sit by the old method of pushing his butt down, and one day, after a few weeks, I said sit and he sat before I got my hand on his butt. He got the command from that time on perfectly. At the time I used a very hands-on approach with a lot of the commands and it did work for him well. I was always gentle and patient and always gave lots of praise and affection and used very little food. He responded better to affection than food and so that was the method that I used with him.

He became so well trained that other neighbors and friends started asking me to train their dogs. This is when it all started for me. I found that I had a real affinity with dogs and they responded to me very well. I was finding that my hands-on method was not working with all of the dogs, so I had to figure out another method. This is when I discovered what we call Positive Reinforcement. 

About 7 years ago, I retired from my day job and began training dogs as my new career. However, another lesson I learned was that dog training was just as much about teaching people as it was about teaching dogs. Luckily for me, the day job I retired from included teaching children and adult education, so I had much of that base covered.  Over the last decade I have worked with many adopted shelter dogs with various behavior issues and find much satisfaction helping those people keep their dogs in their home and not taken back to the shelter. I am an American Kennel Club (AKC) Approved Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Trainer/Evaluator and also train with some rescue groups.

I have studied with many trainers in the field, read books from numerous experts and viewed many hundreds of hours of training videos to get the best methods from various trainers.  Along the way I graduated from the PetSmart training program where I teach dog training classes, and found that although they may be a good way to socialize a dog, it is far from the best environment for a dog and their owner to learn basic obedience. I base my training using a balance of Positive Training, Rewards and gentle Corrections so that your dog learns the YES's and NO's of acceptable behavior.  What is referred to as Balanced Reward-Based Training creates an environment for your dog to easily pick up on what you want of him without the stress and frustration that can come with communicating with a dog.  I also like to incorporate Games which I find useful to get a dog to focus and respond to its owner in a fun and loving way.  

To this point I don't know how many dogs I have worked with, but I can tell you that each dog, while it may be the same or similar breed, have a personality all their own. You must take time to make a connection, find what works with a specific dog, stick to the basics and make it fun, and you will create a loving and life-long companion.