About Us

Tyler Rollins
I grew up in a small farm town in Mid Missouri. I had three dogs growing up, plus countless other animals. We never officially trained any of the dogs, but they were well behaved and didn't run off, except for a few times. Maggie, Sugar, and Smudge were their names. 

 Fast forward to joining the Marine Corps. That is where my interest in how dogs work, started. I volunteered and was chosen to go to a IED Detection Dog Handler's Course. Seeing those dogs work and find explosives around the farms of North Carolina really was amazing. Learning change in behavior, learning how their noses work, I became fairly obsessed you could say. Four months later I am in Afghanistan with a dog. Patrol after patrol getting to see these dogs work and find bombs day after day, truly amazing. The amount of lives these dogs saved is countless. Not only were they out there saving lives, they made things easier. It's hard to explain the amount of stress we go through over there, but even these rough and tough working dogs bring a sense of home every day. Balou, my detection dog shown below, was the comfort my platoon needed. We never really talked about it, but just going out back on our rest days and playing some fetch or showing everyone how he works, was the a gift Balou didn't know he was giving us. After our deployment, Balou went back to war a couple more times and then on to TSA. I'm not sure where he is now, but I know he did amazing work and brought smiles to everyone he worked with and came in contact with, unless they were a bad guy with explosives. 

 After the military, I went into the private sector working the detection dogs again. Nothing to fancy, or overseas. Just Bed Bug detection. Yeah, I didn't know that was something either until I went searching for a job haha. I had 3 dogs I worked with. Olivia, Ross, and Khole. I would consider these guys more like working pets, compared to Balou in the military. Though we weren't out saving lives or bad guys, boy did we bring some relief to a lot of people. These guys worked just as hard as the IED detection dogs. So there were a lot of similarities. 

 From there I took some dog behavior courses and spent a lot of time self studying. Finally after years of training dogs on the side and working full time in different jobs. I decided to go back to training dogs were I was actually happy. Now I am here, STL Dog School and helping people gain control of their dogs!  

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Our Methods
We use a truly balanced method when it comes to training dogs. A very simple explanation of “balance methods” would be that we use both reward based techniques and corrections when necessary. In other words, the trainer will teach them that their choices and behaviors can result in either something pleasant or unpleasant. This seems pretty basic and straightforward, but we need to understand the basics of dog training history. 

Decades ago, dog training was done very differently than it is done today. Dog training used to be pretty forceful and compulsion based. Realistically, this provided only one motivator for the dog to listen, avoiding lots of discomfort and stress. The biggest issue is that this force was being applied to the dog before they knew what to do. They had to figure it out while they got a significant amount of pressure and stress. Looking back, we can obviously see how ethically and morally wrong this was, but it also created lots of undesirable side effects in the dogs. 

In the 80’s, dog training pretty much did a complete 180. Trainers started using techniques from the exotic and marine mammal fields. In these areas, people are unable to use force, so they use reward based training. Keep the animal hungry, Get them to behave, do a command or trick, and reward them with a small piece of food. Tons of books have since come out promoting these methods and talking about how horrible “old school” use of force is. This started a trend of trainers only using reward based training without any sort of corrections. Of course no one likes to punish dogs with those old school techniques, and the idea of never having to do it again was extremely attractive to dog owners. This reward based approach has become extremely beneficial, and we can now accomplish far more than we used to, but in time, many dog owners and trainers realized that this “one way street” of training didn’t quite hold up in public. When it comes to problematic behaviors, maintaining a consistent response when rewards aren’t present, and where animal instincts to chase something, reward only training starts to fall apart. 

Over the last 15 years, a more balanced approach to training has evolved. A balance between shaping and rewarding correct behaviors, and correcting behaviors we do not want. Now, this does not mean we go all the way back 50, 60 years and bring back those methods. We still need to understand that these are living, breathing animals. Not some robot program. We have to be thoughtful and careful about when and how much pressure we use. 

With all of that said, we begin a dog's education through the use of rewards. Dogs learn new behaviors through goal driven learning that is both enjoyable and effective. The dog is allowed to gain an understanding of the training exercises without concern about making a mistake. As we progress through the training and more reliability is needed, we can introduce corrections carefully and at very low levels to ensure we avoid the problems associated with the crude techniques of the past. Before using any tools to “correct” a dog for disobedience, we must start with teaching the dog that they can control this pressure. They have the ability to turn it off with their actions. After many repetitions, the dog starts to understand these tools as just another way of communication which allows us to help them navigate the world and earn more rewards and praise. 

This may seem a bit technical. That’s because it is. Good dog training is complex. The concept of correction should not be approached carelessly. To say it as simply as possible, we teach the dog what to do in all sorts of situations, then hold them accountable to the standards we set. Although there may be other variations of this approach, this is modern balanced dog training that we use at St. Louis Dog School. It is a way of approaching dog training and behavior that is both fair and compassionate, while also creating real world reliability that is achievable for the everyday dog owner. 
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