Interview with Sandy Addona, Head Trainer for HI-BK Doggy Daycare

Sandy Addona, Head Trainer for HI-BK Doggy Daycare, fosters science based and force free training. Graduate of Animal Behavior College and Pat Miller’s Peaceable Paws Level 1 & 2 Academy.

HI-BK: How long have you been working with dogs? Tell us a bit about your experience.

Sandy: I started training seven years ago. I was living and working in Singapore at the time and in my free time, I go to a rescue and walk dogs. While there, I realized that if dogs had more training, they’d be more adoptable, so that’s when I started with my studies. I did animal behavior college and graduated with a certificate in dog training. Back in the US, I mentored at the town of Hempstead animal shelter on Long Island. I worked with shelter dogs. After that, I did Pat Miller Academy. I did level 1 and level 2, but I wanted to be well rounded in dog training, so I did work with PetCo for a while teaching classes. I also worked with two veterinary behaviorists because I wanted to learn more about behavior. I worked for a rescue, Last Hope, on Long Island for six years working with rescue dogs and then I opened my own business training dogs in people’s homes. I’ve worked with a lot of fearful dogs because I do work in rescue. I’ve ran a lot of plays, I’ve worked with puppies, I’ve worked with all types of behavior cases, even aggression.

HB: What is your philosophy and missions for dog training?

S: My philosophy is humane training. That is training with no fear, no force, teaching dogs how to think. Basically, building that bond between an owner and a dog and teaching the owner how to communicate with their dog. Dogs are incredibly intelligent so we don’t have to use fear or pain to train them. 

S: To be honest with you, to see how incredibly intelligent they are. When you work with dogs and you see how quickly they learn and how eager they are to learn. It’s about finding motivation. When you’re working with positive training, you’ll hear rumors about ‘all we use is treats.’ The reason we use treats sometimes is because it’s something that doesn’t have to be conditioned. Dogs love food, so we use food. But it’s not just food. It’s everything that motivates your dog so if they like toys, if they like food, if they like going for walks, if they like going for car rides, anything they like to do, that’s what you use for training. Basically, finding reinforcement that they enjoy. 

HB: What would you say are the most important things new dog owners need to know before they get dogs or once they get them?

S: I think the most important thing is that when owners get a dog, they have to start training them immediately. You hear some myths that the dogs have to be six months old to start training. No. Dogs at eight weeks can start learning. There are certain windows that are particularly important. Early socialization windows. There are preventatives that you can do for training, so I think once you get the dog start right away with the training.

HB: What’s your view on puppy socialization?

S: Puppy socialization is a window for socialization in the early stages. I think it’s super important. You have to do socialization carefully. You have to create positive experiences. It’s not about just shoving your dog into every situation. It’s about carefully doing it so that the experience is positive and it’s not just meeting people and dogs. It’s basically everything that your dog is going to encounter in life that’s what you want to expose them to in a positive way without pushing them. I think socialization is one of the most important things for puppies because teaching them to sit down, you can teach them at any point but the socialization window you can’t get back. So that window to teach a dog to be stable around all different things in the environment is super important. 

HB: Any misconceptions people have about doggy daycare?

S: The thing with doggy daycare and play is that you just want to make sure that when play is run it is run appropriately. If you have a dog that doesn’t enjoy doggy daycare and you’re sending them to doggy daycare everyday and you’re causing anxiety that’s not good either. But if you have a dog that loves play, doggy daycare should be an area where they have fun and are enjoying themselves. I think the most important thing about doggy daycare is to make sure you’re taking them to a place where they’re running play appropriately so they’re matching dogs appropriately to play.