My name is Daniel Josselyn and I am the owner/trainer for Golden Rule Dog Training, and this is why I became a dog trainer.
This picture is of me and my 19 year old cocker spaniel named Kayla, it was taken December 31st, 2007. Less than 24 hours later, she died of a stroke, on New Year’s Day, 2008. I’ve never had children, but for nearly two decades Kayla made me feel like a dad. My mom even used to send me Father’s Day cards every year and sign them “love Kayla.” I didn’t know a lot about dog training then, but she was a very affectionate and well behaved dog and we were very close. We went everywhere together and she liked to travel. We also spent a lot of time wandering through a huge park directly across the street from our condo. My relationship with Kayla changed the way I viewed animals. She wasn’t “just a dog” to me, she was my family, and she was my child. When she died, I was heartbroken. Just a few weeks later, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I was also unemployed at the time, searching for work and not having much luck. I decided to switch careers and dedicated the rest of my life to working with dogs. My spouse and I also adopted an adorable Shih Tzu/Pomeranian puppy named Buffy.
I entered a local dog grooming school and learned to groom. I got off to a slow start as a groomer. I was very uncomfortable with the handling methods that were commonly used and I did not feel like I properly understood dog behavior. In retrospect, it probably would have been better to learn how dogs think and learn first. I was trying to raise a new puppy, working part time in retail, studying grooming, and also traveling to Massachusetts to visit my dying mother as often as possible. It was a stressful period, but Buffy gave me one of the best memories of my life during this time. I took her with me on several of my trips to Massachusetts, and the first time I was terrified. I did not know how well she would handle travel, I did not know how she would handle meeting a lot of new people. I did not know if the presence of a puppy might be too much for my mother, who knew she was dying and was bedridden and in a lot of pain at this time. As soon as I arrived, Buffy ran directly to my mother’s room, jumped on her bed, crawled up on her chest, and started licking her face affectionately, prompting my mom to howl with laughter. I went from sad and fearful to joyful in just a few seconds. It was a beautiful moment, for all three of us. My mother knew how much I missed Kayla, and I know she was relieved that I had a dog in my life to love again. My mother did pass away from cancer months later, but Buffy came with me for every trip, and I will always be grateful for all the affection she showed me and my mom, and for helping me cope.
After a few years working as a groomer and daycare supervisor, I started to read about the science behind dog behavior and took my new dog Buffy to a positive reinforcement based school in Toronto. Buffy loved it and so did I; I was immediately hooked and wanted to learn more. I started reading books and articles by world renowned trainers like Turid Rugaas and Ian Dunbar. I discovered that despite the many important differences between humans and dogs, the way dogs learn is basically the same as the way we learn; by association, and trial and error. They also feel many of the same emotions we do, including love. When a dog looks at their owner, their brain gives off the same chemical that our brains give off when we look at someone that we love. Our dogs truly are family, and they deserve to be treated with love and compassion, just like we do. I frequently encountered experts like Karen Pryor and Sophia Yin asking things like “how would you prefer to be trained if you were a dog?” Every time I saw a scared or frightened dog, I stopped asking questions like “how do I get this dog to see me as the Alpha?” and started asking things like “how can I help this dog?”
As a groomer and day care attendant, there was a limit to how much I could do to help the dogs I cared for. Many groomers and daycare attendants do an amazing job, but most are not dog trainers and have a limited understanding of dog behavior and training. I wanted to be able to help other dog lovers (pet owners and pet care professionals) strengthen their relationship with their dogs. I wanted to help people solve problems in a manner that did not create new problems. I wanted to let everyone know that the best way to care for your pet is with patience, consistency, and love. I entered the Karen Pryor Academy’s Dog Trainer Professional Course and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I already knew the basics behind the science of dog training, and the Karen Pryor Academy gave me the tools I needed to apply the science to a variety of potential situations and also how to teach these methods to others. My classmates were all like-minded people that I still keep in touch with, the instructors were knowledgeable, experienced, and wonderful people. I did have a little scare just a couple weeks before the end of the course with my beloved dog Buffy. Buffy was the dog I was supposed to work with to demonstrate what I had learned, but she stopped performing several of her behaviors unexpectedly. We finally figured out that it was joint pain. She never limped, she was too stoic, so it took a while to figure out what the problem was. She had a problem with her right elbow and was developing stiffness in both front legs. We got her on some pain medication and glucosamine, and also took a week off from training so she could rest up. We had VERY little time to prepare for the final presentation, but with a little patience and a lot of love, she flew through our final exam with flying colors. I was the one who was being tested, I had to be able to prove I had successfully taught her a variety of different behaviors. But I still felt like she deserved at least as much credit as I did. I was moved by the fact that even when she was in pain, she was still trying to please me. I was also impressed that we were both able to get through everything despite losing over a week of training time to joint pain.
Not long after that, I also took a Low Stress Handling Certification course offered by Dr.SophiaYin.com. Dr. Yin was one of the world’s great dog care experts, and she became world famous for teaching handling methods that were more effective and less stressful than those traditionally used by dog care professionals. I loved both of the certification courses I passed and enthusiastically recommend them to anyone interested in pursuing a career with dogs.
Now I train people and their dogs. I have worked with other trainers in Toronto since being certified, and I keep my skills sharp by working part time at a local doggie daycare and reading as much as possible by the top trainers and behaviorists in the world. I have had many ups and downs over the years since I switched careers and began working with dogs, but it is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. I miss Kayla, my beloved companion of 19 years very much, but seeing other people share the same kind of bond with their pets is an incredibly powerful experience, one I look forward to sharing with you and your pets someday.
Many people are reluctant to take their dog to a professional because they are afraid their dog will either become frightened or misbehave in some way; 26% of all dog owners get stressed just thinking about taking their dog to the vet. I have no doubt many people feel insecure about problems they may be having with their dogs, and fear that they will be judged. The reason I call my business “Golden Rule Dog Training” is because I want people to know they do not need to fear this from me. Dogs don’t come with an easy to follow instruction manual, they don’t share our language or even our DNA, so you should expect to have some problems. I will never assume that if your dog has a behavioral problem that it’s your fault, and I will not judge you or criticize you if you are making some mistakes, because we all do. But if you give me a chance to work with you and your dog, I can promise you these 4 things:
1) I will help you solve problems you may be having with your pet.
2) I will help you to better understand and strengthen your bond with your pet.
3) I will never advocate anything that will intentionally hurt or frighten your dog.
4) I will treat you and your pet the same way I would like to be treated, with dignity and respect.
I would be honored if you give me an opportunity to work with you and your dog.