Is your dog your best friend or your biggest headache?
If the answer isn’t ‘best friend,’ it may be time to call professional dog trainer Cati Foss.
Foss is the owner of Arnicadia Dog Training, which recently opened in Seaside. Pet owners seek her help with problems that make everyone — including the dog — miserable.
“Training is often a last-ditch effort to keep the dog,” Foss said.
The most common issues are impulse control, timidity, anxiety, jumping, barking, mouthing, and reactive behavior.
“A reactive dog is a dog who is hard to manage in public,” Foss said. “The dog is overexcited, or it has mild aggression, or anxiety or fear.”
Her first job is calming the dog so it will be receptive to training. Most dogs have the emotional response and intelligence of the average 2½-year-old human.
“People either view their dogs as their children or animals,” she said. “Dogs give us signals we humans can learn to read.”
Foss relocated from Des Moines, Wash., to the coast in 2008. Her husband has family in the area. The couple live in Astoria and have two kids and a Sheltie dog.
After working as a manager at Safeway, Foss became part of the new management team building the then-new Petco in Warrenton.
“After a while, I was invited to move from management into dog training,” Foss said. “I quickly learned I had a strong passion for working with dogs who were reactive.”
During her time at Petco, the store went from near invisibility within the company to No. 10 in the country for sales in dog training.
Canine body language
But Foss was most drawn to working with dogs Petco ruled had to be turned away.
“I’m really good at reading canine body language,” Foss said. “I was bitten twice as a child and my response was not to be afraid of dogs, but to learn everything I could about their body language.”
She also studied canine physiology and canine emotional response.
Her training method relies on conditioned emotional response, the Tellington TTouch Training, praise, petting, treats, and force-free, positive interaction.
“I do corrections,” Foss said. “But not painful corrections.”
For a time, she was a mobile dog trainer, going to people’s homes. In 2016 she was offered the opportunity to buy Arnicadia, founded in 2008 by Erica Curtis.
“I took over the business from Pam Small, who bought it in 2013,” Foss said. “It had no physical location and no group classes; all work had to be done outdoors.”
In search of a space that would accommodate group classes and be large enough to have an agility and obstacle course, Foss lucked out when a client offered her a lease in one of his buildings, she said.
Foss offers clients a menu of trainings and activities. There’s individual and group classes for behavior modification, starting with basic manners and recall, as well as dog-to-dog and dog-to-human interaction, and training to address canine frustration, overexcitement, and mild-to-moderate aggression. Social protocols, she said, can be taught to dogs of any age.
Then there is professional-level training.
“I offer limited service dog training. I do public access,” Foss said.
She aims to be a certified therapy dog evaluator and already helps the Search and Rescue team, not as a trainer, but at their trail practices.
“I’m the person who gets lost they have to find,” she laughed.
She also works with dogs on rally, agility training, and tracking, as well as CGC, the acronym for Canine Good Citizenship.
“I help dogs and their owners become a team,” Foss said.
Training does more than give the dog a physical workout, she said.
“It’s a mental workout, too, because the dog has to think. Mental exercise is more tiring than physical exercise.”
Everyone agrees a tired dog is a happy dog and an easy dog to live with.
“I’m also working towards building a true community space,” Foss said. “A place where people can come with their dogs and play.”
Arnicadia Dog Training is the first facility on the North Coast to offer indoor agility to the public, as well AKC Trick Dog, and the CGCA and CGCU certifications.
For more information, go to Arnicadia Dog Training on Facebook or call 503-468-2559. It’s located at 2367 S. Roosevelt, right between Ruby’s and Motel 6.