Three dogs crouched at Carissa Hofbauer’s feet during while she talked. Each of them held their “down, stay” position throughout the nearly 30-minute conversation. Each sat patiently, waiting for Hofbauer’s signal that they could rise and return their normal activities.
For the animals, obedience like this is a rather new trait and it is one that Hofbauer is proud of. After all, as the owner of Golden Standard Canine Training, she taught them this behavior and others specifically requested by their owners.
“Golden Standard Canine is designed to provide every-day dog training to people in the area,” Hofbauer explains. “We do everything from just basic obedience that makes a dog a more enjoyable companion to behavior modification.”
Hofbauer says the Carbondale facility has been open nearly four years, but she has been training dogs for a decade, first as an intern with another area dog trainer while a Carbondale Community High School student.
“I grew up in the show dog world – my parents showed Rottweilers when I was little, so I was exposed to dogs working in the obedience ring and having well-behaved dogs in our household. This has always been a passion,” she says.
But it was a dog named Cowboy that really put Hofbauer on the path to a career in canine training.
“He had a lot of really bad anxiety,” she recalls. “He was a great dog overall, except he just never would settle down. If I were to take him out in public you would think he was having some sort of panic attack.”
Cowboy was too high-strung for group training sessions, so Hofbauer opted for private lessons. Her own participation and knack for training Cowboy impressed the trainer and led to the internship.
“My perspective of ‘how to train a dog’ completely changed,” she explains on her website about working with Cowboy. “I learned how to train a dog by building a relationship between dog and owner based on respect and understanding. I learned how to train a dog by reading dog behavior and understanding why they do what they do … how to train a dog by presenting information to dogs so they could choose to listen and cooperate instead of being forced to perform.”
After a few lessons, Cowboy behaved like a different dog. That is Hofbauer’s goal with all of her training.
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“I work really hard to customize the training for the specific needs of the dog and owner,” she says. “I’m going to make sure that the dog is given the opportunity to learn in a way that makes sense to them and I try to make certain that for each owner we’re addressing the issues that are important to them.”
Hofbauer holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing and worked as a nurse following graduation.
“I was a nurse for a couple of years, but I really felt God pushing me like, ‘Hey, you know you have a knack for training, you should go for it,” she shares.
She says she began offering training on a part-time basis, but sessions quickly filled Hafbauer’s spare time and then some, leading her away from nursing and into training full time.
“I never dreamed it would become a full-fledged business, but I am so thankful and I am loving it,” she adds.
She says she does believe there are similarities between dog training and nursing.
“Often with dog training, it is as much about training the people as it is the dog,” she says. “You are not going to change the dog’s behavior if the owner can’t reinforce it. You also have to be able to explain everything clearly and be compassionate whether it is in dog training or with a patient.”
Hofbauer says she offers lessons both at her facility just east of Carbondale and in-home sessions.
“I only do individual lessons because I feel that it is the easiest way to the get material covered without distractions,” she explains.
Golden Standard Canine Training also offers “boarding training” where dogs live with Hofbauer for up to two weeks. She says training for puppies can begin as early as 8 weeks of age and she’s trained dogs as old as 12 years, dismissing the adage about old dogs and new tricks.