Balanced Dog Training

Here at the Asheville Dog Company we believe in a balanced approach to dog training.  I tell people this a lot and have noticed that many nod their head and smile but it occurred to me that a good number of those people probably have no idea what I am talking about.  So here goes…

Balanced dog training, in simple terms, means that we assess the overall picture of dog and owner and try to use a variety methods to ensure us the best chance of getting lasting results.  Trainers started using this term several years ago partly in response to the “All-Positive” training fad that was emerging and gaining strength.  This group of All-Positive trainers claim that you can achieve the same level of success in training by only using positive reinforcement (treats, praise, and toys in exchange for behavior).  True or not, the problem with using this approach to training eliminates half of the experiences ALL animals learn from.

You see, learning in all animals works the same up to a point.  Operant Conditioning is how animals learn from interactions with their environment.  In simple terms, if we do a behavior and it leads to a positive outcome, we as animals are more likely to do this behavior in the future.  I totally agree with this statement and it is the foundation of how we train behavior at the Asheville Dog Company.  However, I also understand that this is only half the picture.  You see, if a behavior consistently leads to a negative experience this same science tells us that this behavior will happen less often.  To ignore this fact is ignoring the science of how animals learn.

Balanced dog trainers understand that although the foundation to good training is through the use of reward, we also acknowledge that consistency and harmony in training can only be reached when a dog understands not only what behaviors are good and worthy of reward but also understand that certain behaviors are off-limits and can have consequences.  Through this process we raise a well-rounded member of the canine community; dogs that are happy while having a healthy respect for leadership.  We are helping owners to raise dogs that understand how to deal with negative experiences, persevere and come out the other side stronger and smarter.  After all, isn’t that what life truly is all about.  Mistakes are a crucial part of the learning experience, but this only holds true if these mistakes lead us to future success.  Take, for example, the student who acts out in class.  If the teacher ignores this behavior, because if not reinforced it should go away, but students in class giggle and snicker, the teacher will find the behavior does not go away.  If, as a dog trainer, I try to merely ignore unwanted behavior, then I don’t give the dog a clear message, I will get mixed results.  You must understand what is motivating behavior in order to correctly address it. It can certainly seem confusing and overwhelming at times to know what to do but one thing for me seems clear….leaving half of my tools at home because the word punishment doesn’t sound nice is not in my client’s or the dog’s best interest. There is no one right way to train a dog but there can be ways that are faster, smarter, and more effective.

success stories



We just returned from a walk with our dog Nittany and what a pleasure it is to take her out into the neighborhood now. We adopted Nittany 2 months ago and were not prepared for such an out of control dog. After suffering our own physical problems from just trying to control Nittany on walks and outings, we quickly realized the we were going to need training help from a professional.

Nittany pulled to the extreme on walks, barked to the point that we had to keep her inside most of the time and essentially had control over us instead of us having control over her. Todd Slepakoff came to our rescue! Through his dog training expertise and ability to relate well with us, we felt like we would be able to have Nittany in our home and that she could be a positive part of our family.

– Barbara and Bill Crownover

schnauzer lying down


Unknown breed, Male

Todd, I am just writing you this small note as a thank you for the extra time you spent with me and Max this weekend. I know you didn’t have to, but you did anyways. It means a lot nowadays when a business is willing to put in that special effort to make sure that their clients are satisfied.

– Elaine Boswell

Todd and basset hound

Daisy Mae

Basset Hound, Female

We’ve had four dogs in our many years of married life… all of them Bassets, all of them stubborn, but lovable characters. Of the four Bassets, only the current one, Daisy Mae, has been blessed by formal training. Knowing what we know now, after our experience with Todd, all of our dogs would have given us fewer problems had they been introduced to this capable trainer. Soon after the training period passed, we fell into a much more pleasant relationship with Daisy.

We enthusiastically endorse Todd, his ability to address issues-both the dogs and the dog’s owners and his creditable experience as a professional dog trainer. You will find his services well worth everyone’s efforts.

– Bob & Gwen Higgins

Golden retriever


Unknown breed

Pegi and I want you to know how appreciative we are of your expert training-of us, of course-during the program recently concluded with Jake. When we contacted you, we had just adopted this 90 pound, six year old, who-knows-what-all mix who was afraid to ride in the car and had no concept of proper canine manners.

You brought us along one reasonable step at a time and now we have a well mannered 88 pound sweet old mess who’s a joy to have around. On a recent three day car trip, Jake was a dream; we had no problems at all.

He comes to the front door when he’s called or whistled, a real triumph since we live on the edge of the Pisgah National Forest. And he goes to his “place” when we’re eating without being told.

We would have had no idea how to do this without Todd’s help, no matter how many books we read or how much Animal Planet we watched. The cost of your program is a bargain considering we had budgeted for a new fence for this year and now realize we don’t need one.

– Pegi and Bob Pike

profile of a dog


Unknown breed

Thank you for the freedom of walking my dog instead of my dog walking me. Thank you for teaching Jet manners at the door and when someone else is at the door. Thank you for giving Sherry and I the understanding and confidence to allow Jet to have the freedom to run. Thank you for teaching all of us an easier and more fun way to be with Jet. And most of all… thank you for your professional manner in which you came over and spent quality time with us and Jet.

May you always be at the end of the leash with someone who respects and loves you as much as Jet.

– Pam Southerton and Sherry Morris

St. Bernard and flowers


Saint Bernard mix, Male

At age six, My dog Judo decided that he didn’t want anyone new coming over to our house. I discovered this fact when he bit my soon to be mother-in-law in the rear.

Todd came over to do an initial interview and to meet my precious doggie. Judo growled at him non-stop for a full hour. Todd continued with the interview and was extremely optimistic and very friendly about the situation. He actually stopped a few times just to laugh about the continuous rumble from beneath the table where Judo lay. He was very confident as he explained to me the basic obedience that Judo would learn over the next several weeks. At that point, I stopped to laugh because I truly did not believe that my unruly beast could be as well behaved as Todd promised.

As the training began, I was very nervous. I had visions of gruesome attacks on the new dog trainer, but what actually happened was… Todd came to our home once a week for six weeks. As each week went by, I watched as he gained the trust and respect of my dog and taught me and my fiance how to do the exact same thing. We followed his instructions and daily practice sessions vigorously and magically my dog transformed. It was definitely me who needed training more than my dog did. I learned techniques that will last a lifetime of owning Judo and any other dog to come. At the last session, not only was Judo no longer growling at Todd, but he was following commands from him completely off leash, in our home, and enjoying every minute of it. I am thoroughly satisfied with the results we achieved through the training program and look forward to continuing Judo’s progress.

– Brooke Stewart