Matan Shaibi is a professional dog trainer serving the Los Angeles, California area. Originally from Israel, Matan has a background training working dogs, more specifically, personal protection dogs and trained them for both the Israeli army, police as well as various security organizations. Shaibi specializes in “animal communication and animal body language”. He also utilizes “the healing qualities of animals to help teenagers and children with social impairments,” Shaibi has big dreams of opening a “treatment center for both people and animals, bringing healing and happiness to all.”
Today we sat down and interviewed Matan, to hear his point of view with regards to the main challenges professional dog trainers and their pet parents deal with.
What was the most bizarre dog problem you encountered as a trainer and how did you deal with it?
I once had a dog that was aggressive and would often just freeze. Like she would be walking or obeying in the middle of a command and just get stuck in a movement. Nothing, no sound, treat, distraction could get her out of her frozen pose. I had never seen anything like it. Sometimes we would give her a treat and she would just leave it in her mouth not even chewing or swallowing. We had many theories that we thought were causing this issue, first we thought that she was just really stubbron then we thought maybe she was insecure but just didnt show it the same way most dogs did then we thought maybe she had a mental handicap. We followed through on all theories with the appropriate methods but none of them panned out and nothing worked! Eventually i took her to get k-9 acupuncture and energy work, and it was amazing, it really worked! It might not seem so bizzare but You know you see a dog frozen in mid sitting position, its a little stunning, she was the only dog that ever really confused me. In the end i gained a real respect for holistic therapies and the importance of training personalization and thinking outside the box when it comes to choosing a technique.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for dog owners these days (as opposed to decades past)?
Dog owners today are facing so many challenges but in recent decades the mind shift of dogs going from being “dogs or in other words animals that are not humans” to something more similar to “children” has created a lot of confusion for pet owners. People start to personify dog behaviors, faces, emotions and treat them accordingly as they would another human. And on top of that Tv, media, and marketing in an attempt to create business help build and strengthen the image that dogs are like humans which make it really hard for dog owners to know the difference. This in turn creates a lot of behaviors that are either really hard to deal with or even dangerous and could turn a cohabiting love story into a nightmare. Some people have to worry about their dogs all the time and it mostly stems from this error in thinking, and thats just not the way its supposed to be.
Have you ever dealt with an aggressive dog? If so, how did you handle it?
Yes, I’ve dealt with quite a few and none of them are the same. Every dog needs different “handling” so to speak, but there are a few basic steps that are always there. First, it’s important to evaluate what is the cause of the aggression, is it stemming from insecurities, dominance, a high prey drive, etc.? The next step is to build trust with the dog. If the dog is insecure i move much slower than usual and usually work on letting the dog get to know me and feel safe with me before any real training begins, having other dogs that are balanced really help in these situations because they can show each other that i’m trustworthy and safe to follow. The third basic step is to introduce the dog to lots of new positive experiences regarding dogs, animals or people, whatever may be the object of their aggression. Each case is so individualized and specific that the training has to be just as unique and individualized for these dogs, and there is no specific way to handle it, you have to use your intuition and listen to the dog… they always tell you what they need.
What’s your philosophy regarding dealing with dog owners? How should they be treated?
Dog owners and I have something very big in common… we LOVE dogs. But It’s a big transition for most people to change the thought process behind their everyday interactions with their dogs, yet it’s absolutely necessary for harmonious living. The hard part is that a lot of them are frustrated because they don’t have good communication with their dog. I want to give the dog owner the tools and awareness necessary for them to really understand their dogs behaviors, attitudes and moods, and i want to give it to them in the most fun way as possible.
Simply put, dog owners need to be treated with the love and respect that they show these amazing animals, and also like students who will be teaching what they learn their whole lives. Every owner i meet knows upfront that the work is up to them, they need to follow through and they need to be willing to change their ways until it becomes second nature, i’m just here to hold their hand and guide them through it. A dog isn’t trained in any number of sessions with a dog trainer, it’s trained in the hours upon hours it spends with it’s owners in home or outside. And what i’ve noticed is that for the most successful of my clients, dog training becomes something like a hobby for them, and thats because our training sessions are built to be fun and exciting for everyone involved.
The last component of my philosophy, is that In my mind, i’m creating a family, every person and dog i work with is a part of my business, my community, and my life. I feel close to my dog owners and more often then not we become good friends. I like also like to connect them to each other, either it be through meetings at the dog parks or events i plan on doing in my new upcoming facility. In this way we are always here for each other, and training becomes a life style for the dogs and their owners.
What is your advice to someone looking to become a professional dog trainer?
Spend tons of times around dogs! Get in touch with nature and your instincts and spend a ton of time around all kinds of dogs, no one can teach you about them they way that they can. Good luck! I hope you’ll love your work as I do.