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Your puppy trainer & coach

Daša Lipovšek, PhD, KPA-CTP

Daša is a graduate of the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers, a graduate and Certified Training Partner of the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior, and a certified instructor for Puppy Start Right socialization classes. She is a Full Member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. Daša has trained her dogs for obedience competition in the U.K. and the U.S., and for wilderness and urban search and rescue.

Daša has been helping others train their dogs for over twenty years. A veteran of numerous dog-training classes and workshops herself, she has observed first hand the glacially slow progess many pet owners make in a large class, as opposed to when coached individually – as well as how quickly behaviors learned in a quiet environment fall apart in presence of other playful dogs. To avoid these pitfalls, The Puppy Project approach combines individual, in-person and online, instruction with classes that are small enough to tailor the currriculum to each individual participant. In our experience, two to four puppies per class strike the right balance.

Like many up-to-date trainers, Daša uses positive reinforcement exclusively. In particular, she is a strong proponent of clicker training, which opens the clearest communication channel with the learner animal. She specializes in starting such positive training at the earliest possible age, before the puppy has learned undesirable behavior by accident. Finally, Daša is aware that people, too, learn best when taught incrementally and with positive feedback. She strives to create a safe, supportive, and stimulating learning environment for both species.

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Case study: Frida the First Nation Puppy

Frida had a rough start in life. Her single mom was a village dog near James Bay, Canada, who at first fended for her litter with little human help. At four weeks, Frida and three of her littermates were rescued by the International Fund for Animal Welfare Northern Dogs Project. They were fostered, first locally and then in Toronto. At ten weeks, Frida got on a plane to join her forever family in Cambridge, MA.

Frida signed up for weekly training with The Puppy Project immediately, and took to clicker training like a lab to water. Within days she learned to keep her needle-sharp teeth off people, and instead focused on kissing everybody within reach. When still a baby, she learned to heel off leash and to keep her paws on the ground when greeting people; also, she developed an exuberant recall that is still her hallmark in adolescence. As it became clear that she would grow into a tall dog, we helped her discover that the most lucrative thing to do in the kitchen is lie down in her corner and look soulful.

Since the age of eight months, Frida has been attending the Graduate Adolescent and Young Adult class. She is developing her drop at a distance and an impressive focus in face of rolling toys and running dogs. Her hobbies include wrestling with her friends, swimming in the local pond, and playing her toy piano. Her next training challenge: keep her tongue to herself when greeting people who object to being licked.