New year, new pet? Local expert says reading doggy body language is the key to happy pooches, humans

CINCINNATI - Bringing a pet home comes with growing pains, especially with children in the household. Fear not: One dog trainer believes she has the right formula for training new family members of the canine persuasion.

Lisa Desatnik of So Much PETential creates an environment where children and grownups learn how to communicate with their dog.

“For long-term, what we want is to have really strong relationships and we want an animal that really just loves to learn. When you train with positive reinforcement, that’s how you get that,” Desatnik said.

It started with a bird

Desatnik has been studying animal behavior for 13 years and became interested in training after she got her third bird.

All Barnabie would do was scream, and Desatnik tried everything to make it stop. Then she discovered Dr. Susan Friedman, a psychologist at Utah State University, who introduced her to applied behavioral analysis for animals and animal training.

The key is train pets in their environment, where both human and animal can focus on clear criteria and positive reinforcement.

"We can really go a long way in setting our pets up for success in our homes, and that’s great for everybody,” Desatinik said.

The cute factor

A new year is prime time for adorable balls of fur arriving in homes with children.

“Of course puppies are so cute and adorable, and there are a number of people that have gotten holiday puppies or holiday dogs," Destanik said. "I just really want to help them to get them off to a really good start.” 

Nancy Chafin found herself with a doggy dilemma when a five-month-old puppy joined her family in December. The Anderson Township mother of four has had some challenges with the new puppy: like "accidents" in the house and nipping at her seven-year-old son.

“The nipping that she is doing is when Ben’s playing and that would scare him. But my husband thinks that she’s going to bite him and I don’t think she’s going to,” said Chafin. “I think she’s playing and she has to be trained not to do that kind of stuff.”

Doggy body language

This is where Desatnik comes in.

“Every single day we’re alive, from the day that we’re born until the day that we die, we’re learning from the consequences of our behaviors and so without even realizing that," she said. "Our pets are learning from us based upon what happens after their behavior."

Desatnik focuses on teaching children and adults how to be a positive influence and understand their canine companions.

“They speak to us with their body language, and that’s when their happy or when their uncomfortable, when they need time to themselves,” she explained. “We need to learn how to recognize that body language so that we can intercede when it all is really uncomfortable before it gets to the point where the dog is needing to growl and even more worsen.”

Chafin, who never liked the idea of physically punishing a dog, has watched videos of Desatnik teaching others how to train dogs without pain.

“I hate taking a newspaper and I don’t think that you want to smack a dog or whip a dog. Her training doesn’t seem to include anything like that,” Chafin said. “My parents, we stuck the dog’s nose in it and that was how you broke them. It worked, but I don’t remember liking it.”

WATCH: The "Go Get It Game" (Story continues below) ;

Chafin has considered taking Ben and the new dog to see Desatnik in March, when she plans to give her class, "Me & My Best Friend." It's a seminar designed to help children and grownups learn how to train and communicate with a new pet.

“I had dogs growing up, but this is obviously the third dog I’ve had since I’ve been an adult. And it seems harder than I remember as a kid," Chafin said.

Desatnik teaches children how to be a positive influence on their dogs.

“Kids a lot of times want to pet dogs on top of their head or give them big bear hugs, and that can make a dog really uncomfortable,” Desatnik said. “So we’re going to walk through that with the kids. Really teach kids about responsibility, about how they should be the giver of all good things to their dog and so they should never take anything.”

Connect with Lisa Desatnik

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