Grisha Stewart, MA, CPDT-KA, CTP
Grisha Stewart is the owner and founder of Ahimsa Dog Training in Seattle. She was voted as Seattle's Top Dog Trainer by the readers of CityDog Magazine. Grisha presents seminars to dog trainers around the world. Click here for Grisha Stewart's seminar schedule.
Grisha has been an active member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers since 2002 and a Certified Pet Dog Trainer since 2004. She is also a Certified Training Partner from the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior.
Grisha developed Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) for working with behavior problems in dogs, including fear and aggression. She is the author of two books and several DVDs, including "Behavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs," "The Official Ahimsa Dog Training Manual: Force-Free Problem Solving and Training," and "Give Your Puppy a Choice: Modern Socialization and Training."
Grisha takes continuing education very seriously and attends several training and behavior workshops each year including the national APDT conferences in Orlando, Denver, San Jose, Portland, Oakland, Atlanta, San Diego, and Cincinatti; Karen Pryor's ClickerExpo in Philadelphia and Portland; The Woof! European Dog Training and Behaviour Conference, and several specialty workshops on clicker training, adolescence, aggression, and fear. She also attends seminars internationally, in order to get a broader perspective on dog behavior and training.
Grisha earned her Master's degree in theoretical mathematics from Bryn Mawr College in 2000. In 2001, Grisha's master's thesis was selected as the best "Physical Sciences, Math & Engineering" thesis on the East coast in the previous 3 years by the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools (see a published version of her thesis here). Grisha's problem solving and critical thinking skills serve her well as a dog behavior counselor, where every dog presents a unique set of challenges.
For her undergraduate degree, Grisha graduated summa cum laude from the University of Puget Sound with a double major in mathematics and German and earned the right to become a member of the Phi Beta Kappa & Phi Kappa Phi honor societies. She was also the valedictorian of her high school.
Grisha has volunteered at the Humane Society for Seattle/King County. At the Humane Society, she trained numerous shelter dogs, assisted with dog training classes, helped out with fundraisers like Tuxes and Tails, and has been a foster parent.
Peanut and Spoon (who Grisha has joint custody of) are Canine Good Citizens. Peanut has competed in agility and has always run better/faster than Grisha does, but he keeps her as a partner, anyway. Videos: Standard [8 mb, 800kb], Standard [9 mb], Jumpers [6 mb, 600 kb] Grisha has worked hard to help Peanut overcome his various fears and he now volunteers as a therapy dog at an assisted living facility.
In 2004, Grisha was invited to present a half-day workshop on training and behavior to the volunteers at Pasado's Safe Haven, where she brazenly claimed that any animal on the premises could be trained using clicker training. To prove it, she got to train one of the goats! Since then, she's also clicker trained several cats, a chicken, an alpaca, herself, and her wife.
Grisha has always enjoyed teaching, from humans to cats, goats, & dogs. Her (human) students have commented that her classes are creative and fun and that she gives clear explanations that they can follow. They especially enjoy the small dog training classes at Ahimsa (usually around 6-8 dogs).
Grisha founded Ahimsa Dog Training in the summer of 2003, although she was a tenure track math faculty member at the time. Click here for an interview with NPR on Grisha's transition from mathematician to dog trainer. [click here for mp3] Why the switch to dogs and their humans? Because training dogs and puppies is meaningful to her. It enriches and can even save their lives. If the dogs and humans in a household can't communicate, it's always the dog that loses.
He tries to find his own way to communicate with them and ends up in a shelter, alone, because he jumps on people, pulls on the leash, or digs holes in the yard. Or maybe he was a barker, or he growled and snapped when they came near his food dish. The humans go on with their lives after that visit to the shelter, but his might be over. It's not that his guardians are evil people or that he is a bad dog. While there are genetic problems out there, it's most likely just a lack of training or socialization.
There are a lot of different dog training styles, which can be very loosely grouped into two main categories: reward-based ("positive training") and correction-based ("compulsion training"). Reward-based dog training can be split further into lure-reward and clicker training. Grisha is a clicker trainer who uses luring when it is useful, but utilizes shaping with the clicker as her primary means of teaching new behaviors.
Grisha is not a permissive trainer, just a positive one. She does not use force, yelling, squirt bottles, or shake cans to get rid of problem behaviors, because of the other unwanted behaviors that pop up in their place (among other reasons). Instead, she uses our main tool, the human brain, and finds ways to prevent the dog from practicing the behavior and rewarding itself, while teaching the dog something else it can do. Because the dog-human relationship is so important, force is simply not part of Grisha's dog training toolbox, although she has used it in the past.
Years ago, Grisha attended a training class that was a hybrid of reward-based methods and traditional methods, although it was billed as a positive dog training class. Research shows that such a combination is actually the least effective way to train dogs.
The instructor told her to lure the dog into a sit and praise her for sitting, but when her dog sniffed around in class, Grisha was supposed to give her dog a correction on the prong collar.
At the time, Grisha was impressed by the control that the prong collar offered for her super-puller. It was like power steering. She was reluctant to use a prong collar at first, but her instructor assured her that it was humane. It didn't take long for Grisha to realize this wasn't her style of training. Leash corrections work because they hurt or otherwise make the dog uncomfortable. Period. She couldn't do that to her dog any more, especially since there are plenty of alternatives to train leash walking, like head collars or the new style of body harnesses. Grisha put the prong collar away and never looked back. Peanut, the agility dog in the pictures on this page, was training exclusively with clicker training.
In the "positive" dog training class described above, the trainer said she didn't use the clicker because it was silly, just more baggage. She also had the mistaken notion that you had to use the clicker forever. The instructor clearly hadn't learned much about the clicker, or she would have known that the clicker is only for teaching new behaviors, anywhere from a day to a few weeks. Once the behavior is on cue, you don't need the clicker. [update: We're happy to report that other dog trainer now uses the clicker, as well].
Grisha didn't want to buy a clicker because it was such a silly notion, but she kept reading about how useful it was. So she took the lid of a juice bottle and experimented a bit. The sound was soft but her dog didn't take long to learn that the pop of the lid meant a treat was coming. Within about five minutes, Grisha had trained her dog to look at her friend on cue. Wow! She then took the clicker on a walk and rewarded her dog for every glance in her direction. Soon she had a dog that wasn't pulling - it's very hard to pull when your head is facing back to your human. That's when Grisha decided it was time to jump in to clicker training with both feet.
Grisha uses clicker training in her classes because it's fun and effective. Dogs think it's a wonderful game, so you can 'play' at training any time you want. It's something to do with your dog, not to him. You put the dog in the driver's seat; he gets to feel like he has some control over his environment. Brain research in humans shows that we learn faster when we perceive that we have control of the learning situation. Dogs are not so much different.
For more on our training philosophy, click here.
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