An Interview with our Dog Trainer in the Making!

Mariah with our adoptable dog, Darius

Mariah with our adoptable dog, Darius

What made you think about going into dog training?

Many people who know me know my passion has always been with dogs. I grew up owning dogs and worked at shelters for many years. There are many reasons I decided to become a dog trainer, but these are my two main reasons:

1)  KING! King was my beautiful Pitty baby that I adopted from Valley Animal Center. He was a sweet dog to humans, but he came from a very hard past and the way he was raised before he was rescued left some behaviors that caused him to be very aggressive towards other animals. I tried everything to help King, but I had no idea what I was doing. I felt like I let him down. He was the main reason I wanted to become a dog trainer! I want to help dogs with behavior issues to live a long, happy life and be that resource for owners like myself who didn’t know what to do.

2) For the majority of my young adult life, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I wanted to be around dogs. My current position definitely allows that, but I decided it was time to do more for my community by advancing my career into something that will further help people and their dogs have a better life together. I didn’t want to stop at just finding homes for dogs.

Where are you getting certified at/through?

After training with Kit, our former volunteer/dog trainer, she highly recommended Victoria Stilwell Academy. Its a year-long program but my goal is to finish a lot sooner.

What’s one of the most interesting things you have learned so far?

The most interesting thing I’ve learned is how much structure and enrichment dogs really crave. Dogs are much smarter than most people give them credit for and a lot of behaviors that are unwanted stem from a lack of structure, enrichment, and even socialization. Working with our shelter dogs with what I’ve learned so far has already benefited their behaviors and lives in some way, shape, or form!

How are you utilizing your dog training on the shelter dogs?

I utilize what I’ve learned and continue to learn every day, as much as I can.

I know that every dog is different in how they learn so I focus on the dogs that need the most help. Since starting the program, Darius was one of the first dogs I focused on. Darius has a wild temperament and has been known to nip when feeling cornered or stressed and that’s not a behavior we hope for when adopting a dog out. I discovered he was very food driven and so by using treats, capturing cues like sit and wait came very easy for him.

It took a while, but he and I stayed patient with one another. After Darius became more comfortable with me, it was time to start introducing what he learned with me to now learning with new people. He’s had a fear of new people from even before our training but now he has become my go to dog when training our new level two volunteers! Darius gets so happy and excited to see new volunteers because he knows he gets to have a lot of attention and treats.

Just like Darius, I’ve been working with dogs that need more behavior and enrichment. Here are some examples below!

  • Kilowatt now knows how to sit and stay and we’re working on decreasing her door-bolting tendency.
  • Sora, another dog, is learning how to use her mouth less on my hands and clothes and instead use toys to get that energy out.
  • Mandy, with the help of another staff, is learning to walk with physical therapy.
  • Goat is coming out of her shell little by little with socializing!
  • Ralphie, a dog that has been adopted, came from being a forgotten dog in a backyard to learning new tricks like sit, down, stay, and how to walk on a leash.
  • Ace is our hearing-impaired dog and training a special needs dog is still new to me. He doesn’t have any behavioral issues that would disqualify him from going to a good home. Just like our other dogs, my goal is to learn how to approach a dog with special needs.

My goal is to work in some way with all our dogs and learn exactly what they need!



Mariah Prudhume is an Animal Care Associate here at Valley Animal Center. She’s been with Valley Animal Center since June of 2021 but has been in the animal shelter field for about seven years. She’s always had a passion for animals for as long as she can remember. She would take strays home constantly as a kid to care for. She believes taking care of animals is what she was born for and she knows she will continue to work with animals for the rest of her life. Her current goals are to grow her skills in dog training, educate the public on the importance of spaying and neutering their pets to lessen the stray population in our community, and teach proper communication and care between owners and their pets. On her free time, she loves to foster bottle babies.

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