Santa Barbara Pet Services is now Nathan Woods, Dog Trainer™1
“Everyone is capable of greatness. It’s the same for dogs.” — Nathan Woods
Santa Barbara Pet Services, provider of superior dog training services and consultations in Santa Barbara since 2001, will now offer them under the name Nathan Woods, Dog Trainer™. The new name reflects Woods’ emphasis on his personal dog training expertise and philosophy—summarized in the tagline “Unleash your dog’s full potential—and your own.”
“My purpose in life is to help people bring out the best in their dogs,” he says. “As part of the equation, I’ve found that a well-trained dog also brings out the best in you.
“Most people settle for far too little from their dogs,” Woods continues. “But because I’ve produced champions and trained dogs to the highest level, I know that it’s not something special in the dog; it’s something special in the training. I see the potential in dogs that their owners can’t see—simply because they’ve never experienced it before.
“My experience has convinced me that virtually all dogs are capable of performing at the responsiveness level of show dogs. Moreover, they enjoy responding at this level; it gives them a sense of purpose.”
Woods also believes that becoming a better trainer for their dogs helps clients become happier, more fulfilled people.
“Humans tend to live in their heads,” he says. “Dogs live in the present moment. When you’re training your dog, you have to come into the present moment with them—which can be a great relief—a great anti-depressant. Spending quality time with your dog is almost guaranteed to lift your spirits.”
By way of example, he cites a shy and introverted client who adopted a very extroverted dog. Her dog’s interactions with others dogs and their owners forced the client to become more enjoyably sociable, too. Other qualities developed by dog training include patience, consistent communication skills, better focus, and empathy. Of course, you also get to enjoy a happier relationship with the creature with whom you share your home.
“It’s no secret that dogs enhance our lives,” Woods says. “That’s why they’re used in nursing homes, as therapy for troubled kids, as a way to reach withdrawn or depressed patients, and so on.”
Woods even says that the major events in his own life can be traced to the relationship he had with a boxer, who died just a few years ago. “People saw how well-trained she was and hired me to train their dogs,” he explains. “That business put me through college. I also met my wife as a result of my dog.”
A lifelong passion for dog development
Woods has been training dogs since he was 10 years old, when he asked to train his family’s new dog, a miniature poodle named Mindy. “I’ve always been attracted to animals and nature,” Woods says. “I played soccer as a kid for eight seasons, but sports never held the appeal for me that being with animals did.”
Ben Johns, owner of the Richmond (Virginia) Dog Training Center, believed that kids often made great dog trainers, and allowed Woods and Mindy to enroll in a training class. Woods loved the experience so much he immediately enrolled in a second class and eventually trained Mindy to the highest level: Utility.
Soon, the 12-year-old Woods was teaching dog-training classes to adults. A year later, Johns gave Woods a boxer puppy and Woods started training and showing Boxers and even created his first home bred AKC Champion.
When he was 16, Woods went on the road with a nationally recognized Doberman and whippet handler, showing dogs at competitions and meeting all kinds of trainers and their animals.
“It was great training,” Woods says, “because Dobermans are among the most competitive breeds to show. This means the trainer, the handler, and the dog all have to perform at their very best.”
At 19, Woods apprenticed with the handler of the #2-ranked boxer in the United States. “We traveled in a 50-foot bus and did nothing but show boxers at shows on the East Coast,” he says.
Although not all dogs would be happy as competitive show dogs, Woods believes that dogs who are successful at it, love it.
“That’s why they win,” Woods says. “They’re enthusiastic and responsive. Their drive to perform is what the judges look for.”
Happy as he was as an apprentice handler, in 1999, at the age of 20, Woods “got the idea to move to paradise,” although he didn’t know where that was.
He got in his car in Virginia and started driving west. He drove for two weeks, stopping at various relatives’ homes along the way. When he got to Santa Barbara, he stopped for the day…and realized “I was in joy. It just felt so good to be here, I felt like this was where I was supposed to be.”
Two years later, he founded Santa Barbara Pet Services, which offered numerous pet services including fish aquarium maintenance which he had accounts all over town.
“I created a flyer for dog training —and every single person I handed it to hired me.” Dog training ultimately put him through college.
A training philosophy based on choice
Central to Woods’ dog-training philosophy is the belief that, rather than force a dog to do their bidding, owners should present the dog with a training situation and reward the dog for choosing appropriately.
“Dogs are creatures of habit,” he says. “They will habitually do and expand on whatever works. If you praise your dog for choosing the desired behavior and correct him when he chooses otherwise, he will habitually repeat the desired behavior.”
Woods also believes in training a dog around as many distractions as possible. “The key to all training,” he says, “is to teach your dog to perform despite distractions. The more challenging the environment, the more reliable your dog will become. For example, you can’t train a dog to become a seeing-eye dog by only practicing in your backyard.”
New package, same services
Under his new business name, Woods will continue to offer all that clients have come to expect from Santa Barbara Pet Services: private, self-paced dog training; group self-paced dog training; and VIP dog training, in which Woods first trains your dog, then trains you.
In addition, Woods will invest more time and energy in creating educational resources—regular dog-training tips, an e-newsletter, dog-training films, and eventually dog-training DVDs. Woods also offers dog consultation and individualized training programs, as well as advice on choosing an appropriate breed for your home and lifestyle.
“Breeds vary in their need for exercise, interaction, challenge, and attention,” Woods explains. “If you live in a small apartment and work 40 hours a week, you shouldn’t adopt a dog that needs a lot of exercise and stimulation. You’ll both end up frustrated and unhappy, ultimately sending your dog to the pound, which happens way too often in our country.”
Nathan’s client dogs widely range in age, breed, temperament, and issues. After experiencing several thousand dogs and owners over his successful career, he has developed creative techniques to efficiently and effectively get dog and owner working on the same page as a team.
One Montecito client, Patricia Selbert, has brought four of her dogs to Nathan. One—a yellow Labrador—is so reliable he was recently certified as a therapy dog and can now visit patients at Cottage Hospital.
“Nathan has been our dog trainer since 2008,” Selbert says. “He is a highly skilled, caring, and passionate dog trainer. We were thoroughly impressed by the excellent job he did with our dogs—two Great Danes, a Labrador, and one mixed-breed. They now follow commands, are happier, and love Nathan. We highly recommend him.”
Another Montecito client, Susanne and Gary Tobey, agree that Nathan seems to have a special chemistry with canines. “I don’t know how he does it, but dogs just seem to fixate on him. He gets their undivided attention.” The Tobeys are the owner of Keeper, the golden retriever in Woods’ new branding video. He does, indeed, keep his eyes on Woods despite passing cars and pedestrians on a busy State Street corner.
Woods smiles at these compliments, but says he can train owners to be just as effective with their dogs. He notes the difference in training a brand- new puppy versus an older dog is that owners notice more of an improvement in the older dog simply because they have something to compare the behavior to. A young puppy, however, is generally a clean slate and, with training, starts out making the right decisions.
Often Woods finds that owners unwittingly reinforce the very behavior they’re trying to correct. He recalls a couple whose dog bolted—away—at the command “come.” Woods quickly discerned that the owners had unknowingly trained the dog to respond to the command as if it meant “chase” because, anticipating his non-compliance, that’s what the owners would do. The dog loved it; the owners, not so much.
“If I can help a dog transform her greatest weakness into a source of strength, that’s hugely empowering—for the dog, and for her owner,” Woods says. One gathers that it’s also emotionally rewarding for Woods, who says:
“Everyone is capable of greatness. It’s the same for dogs.”