It’s hard not to feel warm and fuzzy when you walk into Fuzzy Logic Dog Training.
Immediately you’re greeted with pear green walls, lots of dog toys and many ribbons showcasing awards. It’s a happy, friendly, fun place for both humans and dogs.
Merissa Kreidler, a Lake Anna resident, opened Fuzzy Logic about five years ago in Beaverdam. Just last year, she moved the location to the town of Louisa.
She has many loyal followers who have been with her since the beginning, some traveling from as far away as Richmond and Charlottesville to attend her training classes.
Throughout her career, she’s helped hundreds of dogs learn basic skills and overcome behavioral challenges. She’s also helped many humans become better pet parents.
In her classes, she teaches dog owners how to better communicate with their pets and how to set them up for success by teaching them a variety of skills using positive reinforcement techniques.
Kreidler is a Karen Pryor Academy graduate and a certified professional dog trainer and canine massage therapist.
She has trained many dogs who have competed in dog sports including obedience, rally, agility and barn hunt. A couple of her dogs have competed at the Westminster Dog Show.
For each dog that comes through her program, Kreidler focuses on uncovering the root causes of behavior. She believes nothing is ever “out of the blue.”
“It’s not uncommon that, somewhere along the way, warning signs were missed and triggers went unnoticed,” she said. “It’s important to teach them basic skills early.”
To train dogs, Kreidler prefers to use a clicker combined with small treats to get the dog’s attention and reward the good behavior. This type of positive reinforcement is a form of operant conditioning and uses rewards to increase the desired behaviors.
A clicker is a small handheld device that makes a clicking noise when a button is pressed. It’s used to get the dog’s attention and does not cause harm in any way.
She often hears excuses from owners that it won’t work for their pet, but believes that, with patience and persistence, it’s the best way to train dogs. She compares it to driving a vehicle with a manual transmission.
“It’s uncomfortable at first — it doesn’t feel natural. You stall out, and may stall out a couple more times, but eventually you get it and it becomes second nature,” she said. “But many people give up too quickly.”
From what she’s experienced, many dog owners don’t have the confidence or desire to keep going if the results aren’t immediate. It’s something that requires constant practice and continued use to be effective.
“Dog owners must give dogs a reason to pay attention because they’re always looking for reinforcement,” she said.
A common problem that Kreidler sees is people applying human emotions to dogs. One example is that dogs don’t have the capacity to feel guilt, but they can pick up the emotions and energy of those around them.
A classic example is a dog getting into the trash.
After his owner comes home, that “I-did-something-wrong” face isn’t guilt. It’s their ability to sense their owner isn’t happy. By the time the owner arrives, the dog has forgotten about digging in the trash. So it’s not guilt, it’s that the dog knows the owner is upset because there’s trash all over the place.
The reason why, she believes, is that dogs live in the moment and want to please the people around them. They are highly sensitive to people’s energies.
To overcome a challenge like this, Kreidler believes in setting up dogs to succeed, not to fail. Whether it’s getting a new trash can that can’t be easily opened or crating the animal while the owner is away, it’s important to help create an environment that facilitates good behavior.
The advice she often gives clients is simple: “Stop thinking about what you don’t want them to do. Instead, focus on what you want them to do,” she said.
A great example of success is Penny, a rescued pit bull, who was adopted by Pam Baughman, general manager of the Louisa County Water Authority.
Baughman came to Kreidler with concerns about Penny’s anxiety. The pit bull was fearful and tended to act out to protect herself and her owner. After many training sessions, Penny’s behavior changed significantly.
“While she was never dangerous or aggressive, she just needed to learn to trust and relax. Her owner did the hard work, I just gave her the tools to work with,” said Kreidler.
Another example is Chloe, a five-year-old border collie dog show champion Kreidler adopted about a year ago. Even though Chloe trained competitively, she didn’t know many basic commands. Kreidler has been working with her diligently to teach her the basics as well as more challenging skills to keep her calm during stressful situations and focused when they are in crowds.
Many of the skills Kreidler teaches her clients are simple and can be built upon, like her favorite skill to each: The hand target.
Hand targets teach dogs to touch their nose to the handler’s hand. They are used to help keep the dog focused in distracting environments. Owners can use a series of hand targets to navigate their dog from one area to another without breaking concentration. It’s particularly helpful for keeping dogs calm through stressful situations like a moving through a crowded room or walking down a busy street.
These are just a few of the many skills Kreidler teaches her clients and their dogs. For her, the goal is to help dogs reach their full potential.
Classes are offered on an ongoing basis, making it easy for people to attend when it’s convenient.
There is no set progression like many classes, so if someone wants to put their dog through a certain class a few more times, it’s perfectly okay.
With her packages, pet owners pick the time that works best for them without having to miss out. Whenever participants would like to attend, they simply schedule an appointment online.
To learn more, visit fuzzylogicdogtraining.com.