We had the good fortune of connecting with Ash Miner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ash, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
My success is largely dependent on my specialty training. I’ve always been a teacher, from when I was in middle school helping my teacher with beginner ballet classes, to high school when I taught horseback riding camps and lessons, into college when I taught music. I’m highly motivated to master a skill and share it with others in a way that is easy to understand and fun to learn. I double majored in my undergrad, getting Bachelors of Music Education and Music Performance. The education degree definitely helps me train the human end of the leash, which I would say is actually the most work! The dogs tend to pick up on things very quickly, then the rest of the time I help teach the owner to do the same. I teach people with patience and compassion, but my clients call me a “real dog whisperer” all the time. I have a knack for reading dog body language, and that gives me an edge with fear and aggression cases. Dogs give incredibly subtle cues, such as a simple tongue flick, to indicate stress before erupting with an aggressive display. I have great success working with therapy, emotional support, and service dogs, because I have CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder). Clients are relieved I can relate to them, because I’ve trained my own dogs to help mitigate my disability. My education degree helps me understand a wide variety of disabilities, which gives me the opportunity to help potential clients discover tasks a dog can do to help them. Most of the time, people with disabilities are “prescribed” a service dog by their doctor, and they don’t realize the extent of the possibilities that a service dog we train can open up for them. I obsess when I’m studying something, so I’m largely self-taught through watching dog training videos, but I’ve attended seminars, trained at a local facility, and studied under someone I highly respect. I feel very strongly that if someone does anything, they need to be well-trained to do it properly. Sadly, the dog training industry is not regulated in any way. There’s no mandatory certification process in the USA to become a dog trainer. I’m a Certified Trick Dog Instructor, which really fit my view of dog training. That every behavior is just another trick. That’s how I trained my rescue puppy to get her Novice Trick Dog title by just seven weeks old. In order to earn that title, she had to perform 15 basic behaviors such as sit, shake, down, go to her crate, etc. She holds the record as the youngest puppy to earn the title. I chose to use force-free methods, and I think that high standard of ethics really attracts clients. They are excited to learn a new way to work with their dog that doesn’t really involve much in terms of what we think of as punishment. I don’t use any corrective training tools like electronic, choke, or prong collars, and I focus a lot more on rewarding dogs for the right answer. Interestingly, many clients accurately notice and point out these methods work on other people as well! It’s all about setting everyone up for success. When you motivate a dog to work with treats or play, they understand so quickly — they really want to please and keep learning more. For me, the ends don’t justify the means. If a dog behaves superbly because they are afraid of what happens if they don’t, I don’t believe harsh methods are acceptable. I’m so happy to be part of the revolution in dog training to see dogs as the incredibly intelligent, sentient beings that they are, and to use kinder methods that are just as effective. I suppose that’s the biggest factor behind my success: I just love dogs so much.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Pursuing music for me was challenging, because I have tremendous performance anxiety. While I am definitely proficient in making a good tone on the violin or when I sing, and I have perfect pitch when I play, I struggle with severely debilitating anxiety prior to and during a solo performance. I was initially not accepted as a Music Performance major at Eastern Michigan University, but was able to re-audition and be accepted after my first semester. One of my [unnamed] private teachers had scared me out of private lessons for a couple years in high school, and my college audition was behind as a result. I think this helps me be nicer to my students than that teacher was to me. Going into dog training has been an interesting challenge, because while I don’t have the performance anxiety aspect, I do have the constant criticism that I am a force-free trainer from people who are more traditional or what we call “balanced” trainers, people who use both punishment and rewards. The dog training world is heavily divided, so standing my ground and believing in my positive approach has been a tough path to take at times. But my conviction has helped convince clients, who previously trained using punishment in some capacity, to be open to trying this new way. I’m in it for the dogs, and that’s a big win.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh gosh, if I could go anywhere in Orange County, I’d take my best friend hiking and to the ocean. But if I could branch out a little bit, I’d go to Sequoia or Yosemite National Parks. I love to spend time in nature, it recharges my entire being. The breathtakingly beautiful views, peaceful sounds, and intoxicating scents bring me present better than anything else I’ve ever tried. With quarantine, I’m less interested in dining, and I don’t really drink.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate my Shoutout to my parents who supported my musical endeavors and paid for my college education. I dedicate it to Margaret Jarvis, my fifth grade orchestra teacher who tragically died in a car accident. She inspired me to pursue music and make her proud. I dedicate it to my other incredible music teachers after her: Elizabeth Paddock, Merlyn Beard, Martha Windscheif, Kevin Miller, and especially Daniel Foster. They were the team who helped me overcome tremendous obstacles to become a teacher. I also dedicate my Shoutout to Pamela Johnson of Pam’s Dog Academy, the woman who helped me become a force-free trainer for tricks and sports, as well as a force-free behavior specialist. She took me under her wing, and I can never repay her generosity. Finally, I dedicate my Shoutout to Nova Reed and Jen Hoy, without whom I would not have survived all that goes with having CPTSD. They have become my California family, and I owe my life to them.