Wednesday, 23 March 2011

interview with a dog trainer: Jonas Valančius

Ok, let us make a tour in Lithuania:) Do you have Problems in the sector of dog behavior? Here you have “the specialist” John Valančius , He is using the latest U.S. dog behavioral approach to the problems posed by the resolution of the owners of dogs and teach owners to communicate with a pet. He participate in training workshops in Lithuania and abroad , He also organized seminars and conferences in Lithuania. The one who can Correct dog behavior with workshops and consultations.
Good reading :)

First of all some warm up questions
Do you think that is enough to sleep 4 hours a day?
Only in case you write your personal blog :)

How many hours do you sleep normally?
7 – 8, I’m not a sleeper.

Last mp3 you downloaded?
Miles Bonny - Sing Your Song

Last time you watch TV (What)?
It was last Christmas and New Years Eve :) I don’t actually remember most of TV shows and series.

Ok , I think is enough , let's be more serious begin with the interview
could you tell our readers a little about yourself
My name is Jonas. I was born in a city near the Baltic Sea called Kretinga. Later I moved to the second biggest city of Lithuania - Kaunas. Now I live here.

I dreamed to have a dog and to create music while being a kid. I feel happy because all my dreams were completely fulfilled. Now I’m a professor at the university (I teach basic and advanced music software courses), I help people create and record music. I also started working as a dog trainer. Missing other info? :)

How did you get started in dog training?
It is a long story, I’ll try to make it shorter. I’ve rent a room and lived together with Airedale Terrier dog owners in Kaunas. I loved this dog, so I started teaching her basic obedience commands. Dog’s breeder recommended me to attend the dog school “Reksas”. The school’s head Egidijus showed me the dog training methods. At that time in comparison with other Lithuanian dog training schools “Reksas” teaching looked modern: R+ combined with easy P+.

Some time had passed, I’ve got involved into “Reksas” activities, shows. I’ve started to deepen my dog training and behavior knowledge. Because the methods I learned sometimes worked with my dog, sometimes not. I had a big interest to know why have this happened.

In Lithuania there is no school for dog trainers, each dog trainer learns from other trainers. My start point was “Reksas” trainers experience. At the same time I started ordering the newest information on dog training and behavior. I shared that found information with “Reksas” trainers and we started applying these new methods to dog training. I’ve red a lot of interesting articles, books on dog behavior and problem solving. I used them successfully in practice with my and other owners’ dogs. Finally I was asked if I would like to join “Reksas” trainers’ team. I agreed.

Some time has passed. I felt a great wish to know more and entered APDT - the biggest organization of dog trainers, scientists and veterinarians. I finally have got what I needed --- professionals, resources and support. There I’ve met good dog trainers like Pamela Johnson, Casey Lomonaco, Grisha Stewart and others. They are outstanding R+ field professionals. Their viewpoint and methods made us all finally understand the value of positive reinforcement. We are successfully spreading these methods in Lithuania.
So 4 years passed from my first own training session. Now I assist Egidijus in basic obedience dog training sessions. I am a consultant for problematical dog owners and a speaker of dog training lectures.

Can you explain what is REKSAS?
Hmm, Reksas means Rex in Lithuanian. A name of a very clever dog, maybe you’ve heard TV series called Commissar Rex? :)

What training techniques do you use when training your dogs?
I really appreciate Positive Reinforcement techniques. I put them to the first place among the techniques I use. Clicker/marker training? Yes, sure, but clicker is only now starting his journey in Lithuania. It’s not so popular here as in US.

For behavior correction I use only positive techniques. I love using BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training), LAT (Look At That) and some other famous protocols, what are based on counter-conditioning the behavior chain. 

Tell us all about your program.
Our field of interest is dog behavior. So our training program is oriented to social dog development rather than to dogs sport or dogs work. We are the school who teach early, basic, advanced dog socialization programs and exercises for home pet (not sport, working) dogs.

I’ve just mentioned above the protocols and techniques we use in behavior modification sessions. Mostly we work with problematic household issues. We also pay the big part of attention to teaching owners’ responsibility: we write and translate articles on our website . We feel happy that “Reksas” became the No 1 dog training resource on Lithuanian web.

You live in Lithuania, as you see the dog scene there? (Agility, working dogs…)
I see this scene similar to our country: small, but cozy. In Lithuania we have good trainers who may prepare a dog to for IPO competitions; working dogs are popular among police and customs officers. We have good dog sport clubs. E.g. we have some agility teams who conquer every year for taking part into World’s agility championship. We have good dog breeders who take first places in World’s dog shows. Maybe I could feel sorry for lack of therapy and assistance dog schools. But I heard that some dog trainers and owners are starting to work with children and they have reached stunning results. I would also like our government to support such activities.

As owning a dog in your country what are the laws like?
Dog’s owners in all cities of Lithuania use very similar rules: all dogs over some height must wear a muzzle. Only in the capital of Lithuania – Vilnius – there are made improvements and people are invited to take obedience exams. If one passes the exam he is allowed to walk your dog in a public place without a muzzle.

Besides being a dog trainer what else do you do in your life?
I also run a jazz radio station Gaudeamus ( . It is a very important job to me, because there I can help people to find the most modern today’s music. I have some other hobbies, but let me keep them in secret :)

What mistake do you see owners commonly make?
The most common mistake in dog training I see is never ending food luring. I understand that dog show people can’t think different, they are addicted to lure a good exterior view from dog’s first day at home. And it’s difficult for them to understand that you cannot lure obedience with food all dog’s life. I think this is a commonly mistake at R+ obedience schools.

Talking about house behavior training I feel sad that our people are in a hurry to punish a dog. The reason is that lots of owners aren’t interested in new methods of raising a dog before they get a puppy. Punishments often deepen dog’s problems till the level when even we can’t help.

What are the three most common reasons dog owners come to you?
70% of the owners usually come with adolescent dogs over 6 months old. Only a few of these dogs usually have no problems. February top three problems were: pulling on a leash, peeing at home and not coming when called.

What are your views regarding Cesar Millan and his dog training techniques?
I don’t like choking and beating dogs neither we do this in our school. Maybe I’m wrong but I think that the most dogs corrected on TV show can be handled only by Cesar. Our experience showed that it is impossible to become a different person as Cesar tells dog owners. It’s hard to expect something from a dog’s owner who didn’t exercise his dog for all life. Usually such owner can’t change his life and can’t dedicate it to his dog. We leave the show for TV miracle lovers.

Do you have some plans for the future?
My future plan and dream is to attend APDT conference in US. It’s expensive, sure. But it’s not forbidden to dream :)

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Best wishes to all dog lovers in Europe !


all photos are a courtesy of Jonas Valančius


Sheldon said...

I would have to agree on the mistakes most commonly made by owners as I've made that mistake too myself.

Good that I now know the difference between rewarding and food luring, which was actually only part of what I read from a dog training advice given to me from other members involved in the discussions.

Oh and I save the best for last, I'm not a fan of "tapping" a dog too. So cruel if you ask me!

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