Tricia Sverre loves animals. This is one thing we can say with complete and absolute conviction. Founder of Canine Align, Tricia is a young female entrepreneur with a compassionate soul, a kind heart, and big goals to bring positive reinforcement training to the forefront of all animal training. In this interview, we discuss her entrepreneurial spirit, the ups and downs of the rescue shelter world, the science of dog training, and of course, everyone’s best friend: dogs.
On what inspired Tricia to train dogs
Back in Alberta, Tricia worked at the Calgary Humane Society to gain experience in their various departments, “I have always loved animals and I just found myself dreaming about wanting to work with animals.”
As she worked her way up, Tricia realized that she was most passionate and curious about behavioural science and became a behaviour counsellor, which meant taking on responsibility for 80-100 dogs at any given time. She was given the opportunity to train under Barbara Walmer, “the top trainer in Canada for aggression and reactivity.” All this inspired Tricia to get her training certifications through Karen Pryor Academy’s Professional Dog Training Program.
On working in a shelter
Although every animal shelter experiences this, it is a sad reality that animals do get put into the wrong homes, or don’t fit in with owners in a behavioural sense, resulting in returns to the shelter. At Calgary Humane Society, they’ve adopted a policy that has seen a drastic decrease in return rates: anyone who adopts a dog from their shelter has to attend training classes with the behaviour counsellors, who teach owners how to properly train their dogs and get results, “Eventually I’d like to be working with the shelters to help dogs stay out of shelters or help new owners learn what they can do to help that dog be successful on their own.”
On positive reinforcement training
Tricia specializes in positive reinforcement training. Her methods focus on teaching a dog what’s “good” rather than reprimanding them for “bad” behaviour. Traditionally, humans train their pets by punishing them, which according to Tricia, “there actually is no science backing all of that up, but, unfortunately, it has become a more popular train of thought.”
The more effective and nicer way of training is through positive reinforcement, an idea that has been around since B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov conducted their studies in behavioural science, however, it is unfortunate that these methods didn’t reach the mainstream quickly enough, which is what Canine Align aims to do.
On her business, Canine Align
It’s a wonder how some proper training can go such a long way. “Working in a shelter, I saw so many dogs come in for behaviour issues, that with a little bit of training, they wouldn’t need to end up in shelters and need to be re-homed.”
From private sessions to group classes and young pups to old, Canine Align is everything you need in one place. Tricia’s private sessions are special because she does house calls! As the home is the most neutral environment with the least distractions. “It’s the best place to start behaviours and then work towards more distracting environments.” While it’s not necessary to start with private classes, it’s great having the option for shy pups or those who don’t socialize well with other dogs.
A large part of Tricia’s work is also dedicated to training pet owners: “Owners need to understand what they’re doing, and dogs need a lot of repetition. Owners are the ones that are home all the time and they need to be the ones that are providing that repetition.”
On what's coming up next
If you’re in need of training services, Tricia will be teaching new sessions and group classes starting this month at Wesbrook Community Centre at UBC: Kinder Pup for the young, and Polite Paws for dogs that are 5 months or older. She also hopes to start corporate training for owners who bring their dogs to work, providing lunch hour classes.
We highly recommend training your dog with Tricia, and it’s not just because we worked on her website. You may know our HR Manager, Bernie from our website and Instagram. Since working with Tricia, Bernie has really calmed down and we’ve seen huge improvements in his behaviour. Click here to sign up for any one of Canine Align’s classes!