Who are you, Nicole Forto?

Business Name: Alaska Dog Works
Location: Willow, AK available to train within the Anchorage Bowl and between Willow and Anchorage
Phone: 907-308-0033
Email: nicolebforto@gmail.com
Website: alaskadogworks.com

Years in business: 

Alaska Dog Works has operated for roughly 10 years and before this I was established with Denver Dog Works for about 5 years. I have been around dogs my entire life and have actively been assisting to train/training dogs since I was 9 years old.

Personal training philosophy:

My personal training philosophy is to Always have fun while training, don’t make it a chore or a hassle. Training your dog should be a point of calm and bliss, for me picking up a leash and doing a quick routine puts my mental state at ease and the energy within me and within the dog flow together smoothly.

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How long have you been in business and what types of services do you provide?

I have worked with/ around dogs since I was 9 years old, I have experience with children and adults of all ranges and abilities. As I have grown as a dog trainer I have focused my services on puppy and basic obedience to create a solid foundation to go on through Canine Good Citizen testing and move on to more advanced programs and dog sports.

How did you get started?

I started dog training as a kid because my parents owned/own a dog training business, I was always there to assist other kids to learn to confidently work with their dogs and give them the tools they needed. I have stuck with it and always gravitated back to dog training because it is where I feel the happiest and the most successful within life.

Are you involved in any dog sports or activities?

Currently, I am not, but I have participated in mushing, bikejoring, cannicross, and I have a small minimal experience in agility work. I am hoping to get more into nose work in the future because I find it an excellent job for my personal breed of choice.

How do you get business, and what is your relationship like with veterinarians in your community?

Currently, I promote business through word of mouth and through Alaska Dog Works via Facebook. I have a close relationship with vets at the VCA hospital near UAA here in Anchorage. They were with me every step of the way as my 13-year-old German Shepherd went into the last months of his life and still continue to have a relationship if I run into someone needing recommendations this is where I send them, everyone is friendly knowledgeable and understanding of any and all behavioral spectrums for dogs.

Do you belong to a trainer network group or otherwise consult with/refer to other trainers in your area?

I have a very close-knit relationship with lead trainers at Alaska dog works as well as trainers within Alaska that offer other programs/ideas that I am not as knowledgeable on because at the end of the day the goal is for you and your dog to have a comfortable trusting relationship with your trainer. I am not afraid to admit when I am unsure of something and am more than willing to refer you and work with you to find a trainer who can bring more knowledge to you and your dog’s needs.

What do you believe are the three most important things to teach a dog?

I believe the 3 most important things to teach your dog are respect, boundaries, and trust. Dog training is much more than just sit and down. When teaching the basics you are building the foundation of respect, you are showing and demonstrating the boundaries you have laid out in your home/everyday life, and with those two follows the building of trust between you and your dog-they need to trust you to direct them and to give them the tools to succeed and you must trust your dog to follow your lead and direction for success.

What type of cases do you find the most challenging and why?

I would say the most challenging part of dog training is to teach the owners that consistency is key. Because teaching the owners the techniques is easy but the follow-through is the hard part because your dog could do everything I as the trainer say and then at home, it’s allowed to do whatever it wants, and then the owner never sees results.

What advice would you give to other trainers about working with dogs and their owners?

To always demonstrate patience with training, no one learns a skill perfectly overnight and a dog and owner are no different, so remember that just because today was a struggle doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t be better.

Can you offer a specific tip or trick for working with dogs or owners that other trainers might find helpful?

I have worked in the mental health field for about four years and taking what I have learned here to be patient and understanding of behaviors has pushed me even farther in dog training because people just like dogs have good and bad days understanding that a bad behavior stems from something either in their past or from their own personality is key to finding the best ways to work with your dog rather than against. So my tip would be that every dog is an individual and should be looked at and approached as such, so training is never the same for each dog some may need more time to learn, some may need a happier ‘baby talk’ method, and some require a firm assertive demeanor or they walk all over you.

What was your scariest moment with a dog or client?

As minimal as it may seem and I have definitely experienced scarier things, a moment that has stuck with me forever is when I was much younger maybe 12 I was assisting training for a puppy and teaching/working on the dog allowing itself to be cradled and it’s feet to be touched, this puppy leaped out of my arms as the second he hit the floor he let out the most awful cry—a vet trip later the poor puppy had broken its leg but was going to be okay. I just remember being so scared that I caused this puppy pain and the owners to be scared for their puppy. To this day if I am practicing cradle work with a puppy I always start on the floor rather than having them up in the air.

What would you say are the top three things you have personally learned as a trainer?

The top 3 things I have learned as a trainer go hand in hand with my top 3 things to teach your dog. Dogs teach us so much about patience and trust, they show us how to have confidence within our own abilities and to trust the guidance of others when given. So when it boils down to it, it’s not even a top 3 things it’s solely that one of the most important things you can take away from dog training is that your relationship with your dog is just like a relationship within your life with other people. It takes work, patience, forgiveness, and trust to build each other up and overcome obstacles that are thrown your way.

What was the last training-related seminar you attended?

Though it was not a seminar by definition I just completed the class and test to become a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator which means I am now qualified and registered with the AKC (American Kennel Club) to test your dogs abilities of basic obedience and to demonstrate appropriate behaviors around people and other dogs. I am also on the road to being a certified dog trainer through the Certification Council of Professional Dog trainers.

Are there any specific books, authors, DVDs that have influenced you as a trainer?

I would say one, in particular, is Tamar Geller she is the author of The Loved Dog and her training starts with a basis of building a foundation of communication with your dog. I train and approach dogs a lot from this mindset because dogs are individuals and they each require a different approach and means of direction.

Anything else you would like to add?

My goal for dog training is to assist families and their dogs have a better functioning relationship together through discipline, consistency, and understanding behaviors/personalities.

How can folks find you online or follow you if they are interested in learning more about you?

Find me online through the Alaska Dog Works Facebook page or on Instagram @n.akdogtrainer to follow my journey and see tips along the way