John Whittaker (owner) Naked Dog Training
My background with dog training started with falling in love with the Rottweiler breed in the early eighties. A neighbor worked with Rottweilers at a local dog training center. I started begging and pleading the owner for a job (I was 14 years old at the time) and finally after a year of coercing him he gave me a job. I later learned he thought it was the only way to get rid of me! That job led to a life-long obsession with dogs and dog training.
Apprenticing - United States
By the time was 18 years old I began apprenticing under what was considered to be the top trainers in the United States. What most of them had in common is that they had all apprenticed under top European trainers (France, Holland and Germany). The training was much more advanced then what was typical for American training at the time. Their insight into dog behavior, which determines training principles which in turn determines training technique was very insightful. The training produced far more impressive obedience when it came to style, motivation and off-leash control.
Apprenticing - Europe
By my early 20s I began traveling to Europe regularly (three weeks at a time three to four times a year) to train with the top trainers in dog sports (Schutzhund, French Ring, KNPV, K9 law enforcement and Industrial K9 Security).
Their flashy performance in dog sports was impressive but reliability decreased the further you went from a dog sport environment. The exception to European training was K9 law enforcement. In European K9 law enforcement they had a far greater level of functionality then their American counterparts (unfortunately still do) but their insight and approach to training was rather primitive.
The Need for Something Better
What I sought out to do was to then create a system of training based on correct behavioral principles but with complete reliability. My first step was to put my understanding of dogs and dog training aside. I just looked at what would dog owners most like for outcomes (regardless of whether or not it was possible).
Ultimately, I thought a system or approach where owners didn’t need to act like the “alpha”. After all we like to treat our dogs as members of our family. We would also like to be able to just speak to our dogs and have them respond (no need for strong physiology or authoritative tones). We don’t want to have to wear our dogs out with exercise just for them to be well behaved. Of course for our dogs to obey anywhere anytime regardless of the situation.
So with correct understanding of dog behavior, and this inspiring outcome, I set out to create a new system of training. It has been this approach that has led us to develop an international clientele for our craft.
Compassion to All Sentient Beings
While our training was unique from its inception we have also continually developed it. It has been many influences including our client’s needs and sometimes dogs themselves. The single greatest influence has been a client who happened to be a world renown author, retreat leader and more or less Buddhist guru.
It was my time spent with this Buddhist guru (over a five year period) that inspired me to further develop our training based on the Buddhist philosophy of “compassion to all sentient beings”. That philosophy basically means that dogs, like people, have an individual experience of life. No two dogs are experiencing life exactly the same way, even if in the very same situation.
As a dog trainer compassion for dogs means we must make their time with us, including each training session, as enjoyable as possible. I added to this understanding what I see as the essence of a dog. That essence is most seen, and I believe most experienced by the dog themselves, when he or she experiences freedom. Just watch most dogs when off-leash, and especially without even a collar on (naked) and you can see their joy when experiencing freedom. That freedom had to be a part of our training.
We always start with freedom. Enabling each dog to feel and experience freedom. Then begin creating exercises, manners and ultimately control within that freedom. The freedom doesn’t begin when taken off-leash, nor end when put on-leash or under a command like “down” which limit’s their movement. That “spirit” of freedom exists throughout all of it. That’s the heart of Naked Dog Training.