Stephanie Williams’s journey from school teacher to dog enthusiast

May 13, 2023

The journey to becoming a dog trainer is unique. Stephanie Williams shares her story in OneMind Dogs – From the Dog’s Perspective podcast. She is from the United States and currently owns five dogs. She is passionate about improving dog agility and helping others do the same. 

Stephanie comes from a background in teaching—she used to teach music to middle school students. Around 13 years ago, she decided to take her passion for teaching into dog agility, and now she is thriving as a OneMind Dogs coach with five agility dogs living at home: a Border Collie, three Shelties, and an older Springer Spaniel who was her first agility dog.

So, how did Stephanie transform her life to pursue her passion for dogs? What inspired her to take the plunge from merely loving dogs to working with them as her career? 

Stephanie says that, first and foremost, it’s their intelligence. Dogs are so smart, and they have a unique mindset that makes them so different from human beings. 

Stephanie loves helping empower dogs and turn them into companions and partners. She loves showing them how to become more independent, how to achieve new things, and how to build confidence through meaningful activities like agility training. To listen to Stephanie tell her story, check out her episode of OneMind Dogs – From the Dog’s Perspective.

10 years with OneMind Dogs

Stephanie began her journey a decade ago with OneMind Dogs. She was working with her Springer Spaniel in the agility circuit in Connecticut. There were some OneMind Dog coaches who would give seminars, which Stephanie loved to participate in.

Stephanie was able to start taking classes from OneMind Dogs coaches and realized just how incredibly impactful and transformative the methodology was. 

Stephanie says that she had learned agility in a particular way and used to watch other competitors thinking, “We could never do that.”

She wanted to see her dog thrive and knew what he was capable of, but it wasn’t until she discovered OneMind Dogs that she realized she could achieve things like distance handling, independent weaves, and so much more. 

Stephanie’s success as a student ultimately inspired her to become a teacher, and now, she’s sharing her agility expertise with students around the world to help them and their pups thrive. 

The big “A-ha!” moment 

Every trainer has a moment in their career when they realize something that fundamentally changes the way they see dogs. For Stephanie, that came from the OneMind Dogs approach to body language.

She already knew that dogs show us how they’re feeling through their own body language. But it wasn’t until she got involved with OneMind Dogs how underused body language was as a communication tool for humans to connect with dogs. Using the dog’s natural language as a communication tool makes it easier to train in both pet dog manners and agility, and much easier to achieve the magical connection with the dog.

Overcoming challenges

Stephanie says she hasn’t had any major challenges, but she has had to work through agility difficulties, such as minor ring stress. She knew her now-retired Sheltie, Mika, loved competing. She was so good that they were even approaching the AKC Master Agility Champion title.

But her eagerness to win caused pressure for Mika, and this led to anxiety on the course. Stephanie realized that no matter how far your dog advances in agility, you have to keep it fun. Goals shouldn’t ever become more important than your pup’s happiness.

For Stephanie, teaching her rescue Sheltie to overcome dog reactivity and training her to overcome her own stress and fears helped her strengthen their bond. The work that she put into helping her dog overcome a problematic behavior ultimately gave them a strong foundation for competitions.

Exploring Stephanie’s highlights as a dog lover and professional trainer

Being an agility handler and OneMind Dogs coach has created many rewarding moments for Stephanie. One of her proudest moments is being able to compete in Westminster with Mika, who was once unable to even focus on her handler when other dogs were around.

She also trained running dog walk to her current agility dog Dash, who she’s currently taking to the U.S. Open, European Open Team Try-outs, and AKC World Team tryouts. She was given a spot as an alternate on the European Open U.S. team. 

Stephanie’s experiences with her own dogs have helped her see the potential in other people’s dogs, too. When she hosts her family dog classes, she feels a sense of pride every time people come in with behaviors they see as problems, which she helps them see as learning moments to better understand their dog.

Whether it’s teaching their dog to walk on a leash, getting them to focus on their handler, or mastering basic obedience, Stephanie’s journey has been filled with plenty of experiences that make her a more confident, compassionate handler.

By focusing on the everyday wins, Stephanie helps her students realize that no matter your dog’s age or training goals, you can always succeed with the right approach.

Learning to see life from the dog’s perspective

Stephanie realized that the OneMind Dogs approach makes people better teachers for their dogs. It encourages humans to understand their dog’s minds and link themselves with their most motivating activities. 

She always tells her students that everyone who has a dog is a dog trainer. Anyone who has a dog is their teacher and can learn how to work with them.

The greatest challenge for owners is understanding that shift in communication. Rather than trying to get your dog to understand you, it’s about learning how to understand them. 

When the concept of seeing the world from your dog’s perspective finally clicks, it will radically change how you train and live with your dog. Instead of thinking that treats will magically solve any issues you’re having with your pup, you realize that the real reward for them is getting to spend meaningful time with you.

Stephanie’s tips for new dog owners

When someone is getting their first dog or thinking of bringing a new dog into their home, Stephanie has a few tips:

  • Be patient. It can be difficult welcoming a new dog into your life, and there are a lot of challenges you’ll experience. It’s okay to struggle and feel frustrated. There are a lot of highs and lows with a new dog as you get to know one another. Remember that these are all natural behaviors you can overcome.
  • Start with the little things. Basic training is the foundation of any connection. Rather than try to “fix” your dog, focus on building positive skills that build their confidence and help them trust you.
  • Practice every day. Consistency is everything in dog training. Dogs thrive off routine, and you can incorporate training into regular activities, like mealtime and going for a walk.
  • Learn how to play with your puppy from the first day. Play is so important because it teaches your dog how fun it is to spend time with you. Productive play is also structured, so it stops your dog from getting too overstimulated, which can lead to problematic behaviors. Learn what toys your dog loves and how they like to play and start incorporating playtime into each day. 

By understanding how to think from your dog’s mind, you can learn to appreciate their own thoughts and emotions. Every day, Stephanie and the OneMind Dog coaches work to help people become better advocates for their dogs (and dogs around the world!) by learning how to understand them.

You can connect with Stephanie and other coaches by joining our community today!

Listen to the full podcast episode and sign up for OneMind Dogs – From the Dog’s Perspective podcast newsletter. 

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