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Dog and Animal Training at Hollywood Paws

Dog Training Is My Favorite

Whether we’re prepping in a classroom or shooting on location, working with animals of all kinds; at Hollywood Paws, training is our passion!  I would like to share some of my favorite parts of animal training with you.  In the beginning, working with exotic animals is what attracted me to animal training.  From pythons to baboons, over the years I've been lucky enough to work with just about every kind of animal out there.  The exotics are still a lot of fun to work with when the opportunity arises.  But after working with animals of all kinds, dogs have become my favorite!

In my opinion, dogs enjoy training more than any other animal.  This works out perfectly, as their training potential is unlike any other animal.  They want to work and they enjoy their job.  When you use the right tools (operant conditioning, proper communication, and positive reinforcement) the sky is the limit for training.  If you can imagine it, it can be trained!

Expert Animal Trainer Byron Wusstig & Diesel

Using Positive Reinforcement In Animal Training

Ever wondered how to get a dog to lift his leg on cue (without soiling the actor’s pant leg, of course)?  How about getting a wolf to do a complicated chain of behaviors with no apparent cue, or trainer in sight?  It is all about the training!  Operant conditioning is one of our biggest tools as trainers.  Whether we are using clickers, whistles or buzzers, these sounds are what we call conditioned reinforcers, and they help us to communicate to our animals.  A clicker is used to tell the animal the precise moment in time that it has done something correct.  Many obedience trainers use the clicker, but in Hollywood we use it for different kinds of behaviors.  One of my most memorable clicker training sessions involved a mountain lion in a cage.  How do you train an animal that you can’t physically touch?  The clicker told the lion when he did something right and when he could return to me for a treat.

Positive reinforcement is where most trainers find the best results.  Often, finding out what your animal values as reinforcement is the first step to achieving success.  A job that sticks out in my mind that demonstrates this well involved a hungry wolf, and myself as a stunt double for a squeamish actor in an attack scene. 

The action involved the wolf entering the scene, running in, knocking an actor to the ground and tearing at his flesh and clothing in a vicious sequence!  I don’t blame the actor for turning the job over to an animal trainer, it was an intense request!  We were working with wolves that had been conditioned not to attack people.  They knew us and did not want to be aggressive.  That was going to be a problem, but not an uncommon one for a studio animal trainer.  How do I get the animal to look like he is doing something that I don’t actually want him to do?  The answer was in the positive reinforcement.  This wolf loved chicken!  We knew he would do whatever it takes to find this favorite training treat of his.  So, to train it we found a way to hide bits of chicken under the fabric of my pants (but above the thick layer of protective padding).  After showing him the chicken a few times, he understood what was wanted, and would run in, knocking me down to get to the chicken that was hidden under the clothing.  It LOOKED terribly aggressive, and when paired with a couple of sound bytes it sounded aggressive too.  In actuality it was just a creative way of feeding a wolf his dinner, but it did the job!

"Animal training is a blast and never a dull moment"

Whether you are training domestic cats and dogs, or lions and wolves, training is a blast and there is never a dull moment!  A good trainer makes it fun for both the animal and the trainer.  Provided you have the drive and the time, if you can imagine a behavior, there is a way of training that behavior!

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