Whole Dog Academy – Holistic Dog Training – Meet Taylor Sisk
Finding a Passion for Animals – Inspiring Taylor’s Work
Taylor Sisk says, “As a child I was the one who wanted to adopt a new dog, go horseback riding, or find the newts at the lake. So long as it had to do with animals, I was happy.” Sisk has used the love for being with animals as inspiration to research the human-animal bond and relationship. She has specifically been interested in the human perception of animals versus the animal experience and how to go about fostering a mutually beneficial and sustainable integration of humans and non-human animals together. Sisk is now working on a PhD that is integrating psychology, biology, and education that is building off of her foundation in animal behavior as an undergraduate, in finding ways “to explore opportunities for educational practices around the human-animal bond.
Sisk’s Work with the Human-Animal Bond
Sisk has a wonderful history of education, teaching, and research in the area of the human-animal bond. Her work with the human-animal bond consists of creating and building the Whole Dog Academy with co-founder Casey Newton. [The Whole Dog Academy] offers an approach to becoming a dog trainer that gives a holistic perspective based on the science of behavior modification as well as [the human-animal bond],” says Sisk. She was introduced to Casey Newton, the founder of Wonder Puppy , because they shared a passion for preventative interactions of building solid foundations with relationships in the early stages of puppyhood. Casey Newton brought experience in developing trainers and her expertise paved the way for expanding the vision of Whole Dog Academy. Whole Dog Academy has become a resource for the community that goes beyond the initial goals of the project.
Whole Dog Academy
Although Whole Dog Academy is just in the beginning stages it has grown from an idea into a reality. The ultimate goal in creating Whole Dog Academy was to improve the human-animal and especially the human-canine bond through understanding, awareness, and embracing the canine experience. This unique perspective sets Whole Dog Academy apart as their focal point is on the canine experience and how human interactions can continue to develop that bond, but remain supplemental. In the beginning, Sisk and Newton thought they would focus on training future dog trainers to help spread awareness for the human-canine bond. However, they have begun to include educational opportunities for all individuals – not just future trainers – for all those that participate they receive training in setting up success with canine companions through clear high quality communication and strong bonds.
There are five branches that sustain the Whole Dog Academy – education, community, rescue, standards, and research. First, education includes the school that facilitates training future dog trainers and offers pieces for current canine professionals as a way to continue education and building understanding and awareness as new research and information is made available. Moreover, the trainers expand their training by giving their services to rescue and veterinary communities as they train staff and canines about dog behavior and behavior modification techniques. Within the rescue branch there is a matching program that has been developed to tap into the human-animal bond in matching humans and canine companions and walks hand in hand with a neosocialization program. “Neosocialization program hopes to address the cycling of dogs through the shelter system,” Sisk says. The community branch provides seminars for community members, youth outreach, and includes a store for the resale of used dog products. Standards focuses on offering information to clients of dog services about the quality of service provided from various businesses or vendors. The standards branch is becoming a third party that is able to approve and different dog organizations that they can encourage communities to support because of their ethical or effective methods in providing dog services. Research keeps Whole Dog Academy current and up to date in the field and allows them to continue to bring in new knowledge and understanding and finding successful ways to communicate their research as relevant to the human-animal bond and the human-canine bond specifically.
WDA Works with You, Not Just for You!
“The Whole Dog Academy works with anyone; dog parents, dog professionals, aspiring dog professionals, youth, and even community members with discomfort with dogs that still hope to learn more,” says Sisk. They hope to continue opening conversations and building awareness about how to develop mutually beneficial human-canine bonds. Sisk says, “WDA strives to help the community by unveiling the misunderstandings about dogs and equip everyone with the tools to interact positively and effectively with the dogs in their life no matter the nature of the relationship – companion, neighbor, or otherwise.”
According to Sisk, communication and building strong foundations in the relationships between humans and canines are the focus of the Whole Dog Academy’s work with the community. They want to become a resource for any individual seeking a better understanding of the human-canine bond.
Education is one of the pillars of success for the Whole Dog Academy. It enhances the understanding of the human-animal bond and gives way to watching the mutual beneficial relationships begin to embrace one another as friends and family. It reminds people to be clear when communicating, but to do so compassionately to achieve great results.
Positively Impacting the Community through Human-Animal Bond Work
Training shelter dogs is a very important piece of ensuring successful relationships with their future human adopters – thus training both human and canine. By working to build trust and communication with dogs in shelters, they learn how best to integrate with humans and communicate their needs and desires. The trainers then convey all of the dog’s progress and what they have learned from the dog to the adopting companion who can then start off on a good foundation to grow the communication and build the bond. Every dog must be understood as an individual throughout this process – much like humans, each dog needs to have individualized love, treatment, and training. This improves the bond that they will form with their human through improved communication, empathy, and understanding. It also minimizes the opportunity for misunderstandings that can have negative impacts on the relationship.
Some of the biggest struggles for the work are disseminating information due to artificial barriers either in the form of societal structuring or independent resistance. Some individuals struggle with opening themselves up to new perspectives about nonhuman animals. Individuals can have strong views, and sometimes these can be grounded in misconceptions due to limited access to resources. It makes it all the more important to let there be an exchange of ideas between the scientific community and the general public and finding the best ways to communicate it so it can be effectively understood by all audiences that want to support human-animal bond work.
This profile was created with the assistance of Angel Tobey.