dog training richmond

Holistic Dog Training in Richmond

We help your dog become a well-mannered, happy & healthy pup,

so your life with your dog can be easy, calm and fun.

Learn More…



Why Choose Us?

  • Method. We teach by the principle of LIMA – the Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive methods are used to train your dog in an effective, humane, dog-friendly way.
  • Knowledge. We know the difference between popular reality show fads, traditional trainers with outdated training methods, and modern, science-based, positive dog training that works. We can help you understand how to train correctly without sounding snobbish or demeaning. And we keep up with professional continuing education courses every year so that our clients benefit.
  • Experience. We have worked with puppies through seniors and all breeds, and we know how to effectively communicate with our clients and can lead you to succeed in your goals.
  • Excellence. We can’t promise to be the better than the rest, but we hold a commitment to being the best we possible CAN be for the sake of our clients.
  • Integrity. We know we are changing lives, and we take that seriously! Our client relationships, our professionalism, and our commitment to the latest in science-based training methods is our priority.
  • Partnership. We have relationships with other positive dog professionals, and if it’s not our area of expertise, we can refer you to a trusted professional.
  • We are people friendly! Not all dog trainers are, and that doesn’t make them bad trainers, but it can make it hard to work well with them.

Free Phone Consultation

Schedule a complimentary phone consultation to discuss your dog’s training needs.

Schedule Now


Richmond’s Dog Training Blog

Why Emotions Matter in Dog Training

Dog Training is a messy business. Anyone who claims that it is cut and dry is missing the beauty if not the stinging reality of the complexity that is Hearts and Dogs. You say I am complacent and permissive with my cookies and praises, and I say you’re downright cruel with those shock-collars and prongs around an innocent neck. But dog training is more than science and quadrants and pinches and pessimistic glances over the fence. Dog training should never even BE about “dog training” – it should be, and always will be, about Love. Because the only reason we’re all in this in the first place is because we love dogs. If love is what drives us to work with dogs, fear is what makes us abuse the system of behavior analysis. We all want to “think we know,” and that comes from our hearts. To believe that a shock collar or a clicker has equal power to bring a dog into greater harmony with our human world stems from a noble desire for a deeper connection with animals. But both beliefs stem from a desire for control. Clicker training drives the control freak crazy. It goes against every traditional teaching, every belief system, and every childhood memory of kids and dogs and long walks in fields and corporal punishment and ice-cream, all wrapped up in a nostalgic package. With a bow. Complex, isn’t it. Emotions and dogs. And ice cream. We don’t jerk our dogs because we’re trying to punish them; we use the aversive approach because “it works!”, because the punishment fits the crime, because it...

Earth-Based Spirituality & Dog Training

Dog Training Made Whole Together we have the opportunity to define a relationship between dogs and their families. That definition naturally is shaped by our relationship with earth. So to define earth-based spirituality in the context of our relationship with dogs and dog training, we must first understand who we are as spiritual beings on this earth. Understanding who we are in the bigger picture of the universe helps us to see how all beings are interconnected through nature. From the moment of conception we are connected with other animals on earth because we are by nature part of a larger ecosystem that we share with all creatures. Together, animals and humans share a similar pattern of thought and design that comes from the divine. All creatures have the ability to communicate through a universal language of patterns of thought. Animal communicators use this knowledge to connect with animals through signals which are patterns of thought identifiable by sound and pictures. Dog training applies this principal. Beginning with our relationship with other beings, we begin to see how the way in which we communicate can impact our relationship with nature. Our insight into relationships can help us define what we are meant to do in our sustainability of life and its protection of the planet. Life and its ecosystem is an essential component of spiritual practice in that it allows us to understand the delicate balance between ourselves, our world, and the creatures in it. This understanding leads to greater harmony between beings as it allows a fruitful relationship among creatures who would otherwise do harm rather than good....

Understanding Your Dog

First Paw Forward has a standard of excellence when working with clients and their “family members” (your beloved dog(s)) – here are some valuable tips to help you build a foundation: Learn some of the science of how dogs think and communicate. Animal Planet’s TV show “It’s Me or the Dog” provides insight into the language of dogs and demonstrates effective tools is an extensive resource for learning the science of dog language in a user-friendly forum “The Other End of the Leash” by Patricia McConnell is a suburb book on our relationships. Recognize that dogs don’t think like people. In fact, dogs’ cognitive abilities are not as great as ours – they are not capable of “feeling bad” or “guilty,” stressing over their day, having foresight into the consequences of their actions, or learning and remembering out of context. And they definitely aren’t capable of “knowing right from wrong.” Realize that dogs have evolved from wolves but do not act like wolves in the wild – they do NOT exhibit family pack behaviors that include concepts like dominance and submission, as popularized on reality TV. They ARE part of a complex social system that relies on patterns of behavior, contexts, socialization, conditioning, and a need for harmony. Dogs think in context – that means “sit” in front of a bowl is very different than “sit” in front of a door or “sit” at the curb at the end of your street. Each act must be trained separately. Dogs think in terms of patterns, particularly patterns of behavior. For example, your dog knows that you are going to...

A Divine Partnership Between Species

Understanding your dog’s behavior is essential to a creating a partnership between species. Your dog has its own way of perceiving its environment, which includes your words, smells, body language, and reactions to the dog and your own environment. Stressors in your environment can impact a dog in ways that only canines can recognize. These stressors can impact your dog in a variety of ways that ultimately manifest in behavior changes, including changes in the way your dog responds to you. Your dog is your mirror. Many of our stresses manifest in ways that only our dogs can see. Sometimes we can look to our dogs to notice the areas in our life where we are exhibiting stresses, because those stresses have a direct impact on our dog. The relationship you have with your dog can inspire you to shape your world in a way that allows you to express yourself in new ways without the confines of language and allow for the possibility of change and freedom for your dog. Just as you can shape your world in a way that allows you to control your environment, you can shape your world and your emotions to impact your dog’s environment and behavior. Our environment is a creation of our perception, and our dogs invite us to see the world through their eyes. It’s only when we take a look at the world through their perception that we are able to recognize that everything we have is just tools to help us survive a world in which we rely on other people to provide for us, care for us,...

A Harmonious Relationship in Dog Training

A harmonious relationship in dog training The earth is a complex natural environment where things co-exist in harmony. Dog training is a complex relationship between two species who don’t understand how to co-exist without adapting their communication methods. Continuing our understanding of dogs must begin within, as the relationship between people and dogs cannot rely on misunderstood concepts of training that inhibit a dog’s natural response to its world and stimuli. Belief that a dog is more or less tied to its wolf roots can both help and hurt us. Modern science should allow for a deeper understanding of both science based training and the natural harmony that exists in the world and is evident in nature. That said, a dog can only relate to the world to an extent through the eyes of its human. So our relationship with our dogs is key to both existing in harmony with their species and existing in harmony with nature. – Guest Writer, Zach Wilson, Wildlife Biologist   Sponsored by D.I.C.I.P.H. (Dogs Impacting Change in People’s...

Harmony in dog training

Harmony in dog training as in life Success in dog training depends on the relationship between the owner and the dog. Many dog owners seek help from a professional dog trainer in order to ‘change an undesired behavior,’ typically because their own attempts to change this behavior have been met with resistance. Resistance occurs when there is a lack of harmony in the relationship. Dogs naturally want to live in a state of harmony with their people and will choose to do so when given the opportunity. When there is tension between dog and owner, like a deliberate pushing and pulling of wills, disharmony occurs. Harmony can be defined as a state of grace – an ease and suppleness in communication that comes from a place of considerate and thoughtful understanding. Dogs can teach us many things – including the ability to breach barriers of language and culture and come to true understanding and harmony. We only need to take one first step: Intention.     Sponsored by D.I.C.I.P.H. (Dogs Impacting Change in People’s...

Ask the Coach! Your Questions Answered Here: On coming when called

  Question from Ruth S.: I have a 3 year old doberman. She is highly intelligent but when she gets of the leash that’s it, she is running here and there and not even regonizing that I am constantly calling to her to come to me. What is the problem? Dana’s Response: Your smart girl sounds like a typical Dobie with her high prey drive. Once they have the opportunity to get off leash, it’s not uncommon for many breeds of dogs like Dobermans to get an adrenaline rush as their natural instinct to hunt prey takes over. And adrenaline puts her in that ‘zone,’ making it hard for her to even hear you. 🙂 Here’s a tip: Make sure your dog has plenty of opportunities for exercise, both physical and mental, so that the excitement of having that ‘forbidden’ freedom is not quite as intense. Examples: There are many quick and easy training games you can play at home to give your dog a mini brain workout The game of Tug, taught correctly, is great physical exercise Most dogs can be taught outdoor games such as retrieving and herding that are more physically exhausting for large dogs than a simple walk. Also, work on a training a solid recall – first at home and then in public places (controlled), making the act of coming to you **highly** rewarding....

Remembering the Joy in Training

As a trainer, I enjoy being a student for a number of reasons, and one of them is the simple joy of bonding with my dog. My one year old, Seven, is taking her first agility class. And there is something about the nervous excitement of tackling the obstacles that leaves her all giddy. The food rewards, the frequent cheers for her incremental successes, and the blissful joy of “Oh my gosh Mom I just figured something out! Didya see? I’m learning!” That’s what I love about clicker training – the absolutely giddy, wide-grinned, tongue-hanging-out joy of learning. And that is something we can always use a reminder of. 🙂...

You are an amazing trainer, I have not been nipped nor my shirts got more holes in it since you left. Bear still tries to nip on me and shirt/pants/towel…but I am able to distract him before he succeeds. I know Bear still has long way to go, but oh, boy, my life is so much better now.. I did not have trouble to put his leash on this morning. I could not thank you enough for your training session.


Q. Lee

I want you to know that Bear found his new home. Thank you so much for you help. You truly played the most important role in his wonderful transformation. I cannot imagine how this foster experience would be without your help. Thank you!

Q. Lee

Tino is a different dog since you starting working with him!

B. Todd

Dana has a unique gift. Her insight is amazing and dead on accurate. I wholeheartedly recommend her services.

D. McMullen

author & certified dog behavior consultant

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Your source for expert tips, news and resources in RVA for your dog’s balanced world.

Sign Me Up