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Natural Awakenings San Diego

Beckman's Dog Training: After Training Killer Whales, Dogs Are a Breeze!

Jul 28, 2011 09:34AM ● By Linda Sechrist

Few individuals ever take the initiative to satisfy their fantasy of interacting with wild creatures such as lions, wolves, dolphins or whales; instead, they live vicariously through trainers at an animal park or zoo. But Liz and Joel Beckman, owners of Beckman’s Dog Training, had no intention of sitting out their dreams in the bleachers while others did what they longed to do: train exotic animals. Independently of one another, the two seized their dreams. Joel enrolled in a three-year Exotic Animal Training and Management (EATM) program at Moorpark College, where graduates typically land jobs at wildlife sanctuaries, zoos, animal shelters and research facilities. Liz began training animals at SeaWorld Orlando. Eventually, the animal lovers met while training killer whales at SeaWorld San Diego.

“Generally, new marine mammal trainers start out working with sea lions and otters, but I believe my strong swimming background made me a good candidate for working with dolphins and killer whales,” says Joel. For five years, the Beckmans were not only responsible for the daily care, feeding and maintenance of the whales, but also for developing and training animal behaviors and performing in animal shows for the public and educational shows for school groups. Their plethora of animal and people skills provides the cutting-edge difference in the Beckmans’ Positive Reinforcement program for dogs. “After training killer whales, dogs are a breeze,” say the couple, which opened their training center in 2008.

To train man’s best friend, the duo relies upon their animal behavior experience in relationship building, body language and positive reinforcement—three aspects that are also important in the training of killer whales. “So much of a trainer’s work with whales is about learning to read their body language and looking into their eyes to make a connection,” explains Joel. “Whales, like canines, are very intelligent and quickly learn to read their trainer’s body language and hand signals.”

Joel enthusiastically shares his six keys to successful training: consistency, confidence, repetition, reinforcement, relationship and exercise. “We can solve any problem, including serious problems like aggression, separation anxiety or nervousness; or less complicated problems such as jumping or training basic obedience, using these six things,” advise the Beckmans, who begin every client relationship with a free in-home consultation.

The Beckmans accept a maximum of four dogs for their Board & Train, a stay of 14 days at their one-acre Ramona facility that includes a doggie pool. Afterward, clients receive unlimited follow-up sessions; the ability to board dogs in the future; and group classes at one-third the price, for life. “This program establishes a lifelong relationship with us,” says Joel. “Our Board & Train dogs have a home away from home with us, and we treat the dogs like they are our own.”

The In-home Training option allows Joel to do a free in-home consultation and work with clients to design a program that includes sessions at their home or the Beckmans’ training facility. “I often take along Bosco, our calm and confident Doberman, to help with the training,” he advises.

Visit for information on group classes offered throughout San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside counties. Call 760-877-9866 or email [email protected].

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