Dog behavior is something that Andrew Ledford has spent his life learning about and teaching to others. He has worked with many innovators and leaders in the field which set the foundation for him developing his own system of a “unified dog training” philosophy. The methods and philosophy have evolved over his more than 30 years of dog training. His theory and practices are a blend of learning theory, behavior modification, animal psychology, ethology, and a dash of traditional Chinese and Japanese philosophy.
In his book Dog Training – Best Friends Learning Together he reveals a seven point process that demonstrates what dog owners can learn about themselves through the antics of their not always understood best friend. “The human dog/model works so well because learning about dogs includes the complexities, the trials and the tribulations of self-governance, social responsibility, intellect and emotions. Best Friends Learning Together shows how human and dog behavior mix in a dance of responsibility, understanding and bonding. An insightful investigator and world traveler, part of Andrew’s observations are also based on studying the behavior and socializing of Taiwan’s street dogs, one of many stories he shares in his book.
Andrew’s training philosophy also encompasses his lifelong interest in Asian cultures, sparked at an early age when as a pre-teen he participated in the sport of Kendo. His special talent and desire to understand animal behavior was recognized at age 11 by Robert Dawson a family friend and owner of Thunder Bay Kennels in Paramount, California. Both passions eventually “developed into a synergistic approach to dog training and to life.”
In high school, Andrew also had the opportunity to work with one of the world’s most famous trainers, William R Koehler learning firsthand the work required to handle and train dogs. By age 18 Andrew returned to Thunder Bay Kennels, where he became an assistant obedience trainer.
Andrew later directed his attention toward protection dog training, managing a security and guard dog facility when he was 19 years old. He also gained the experience of selecting, working and training police dogs, under the direction and tutelage of the renowned Len LaSana, founder of International Police Dogs, where he states, “I really learned about dog training.” Because of his experience Andrew was recognized by the California Consumer Affairs Bureau of Collection & Investigative Services as an expert to testify in protection dog training cases.
In 1981, Andrew incorporated Learning Theory and Positive Reinforcement into his training regimen after reading B.F. Skinner’s Technology of Teaching, Science and Human Behavior, Contingencies Of Reinforcement, and Verbal Behavior, and attending seminars given by Glen Johnson. “I realized that an approach to training and handling different from the traditional methods I had learned was not only possible but necessary.” Though he received very little support from his colleagues for his newly developed programs, the use of positive reinforcement in training that Andrew had advocated in 1982 is now the standard model for dog training. Andrew explains, “At that time, other trainers and pet care professionals informed me that I could not and should not train dogs this way.”
With his growing interest in the human aspect of dog training Andrew shifted his attention to companion dogs and building rewarding relationships between families and their pets. Wanting to get his message out to a wider audience Andrew created and hosted his own TV show in the ‘80s Just the Dawg Gone Facts, in the ‘90s he developed and produced the Basic Obedience training video, designed the websites 101-Dog-Training-Tips.com and authored The Puppy Development Guide distributed by local veterinarians to their clients. At the start of the twenty first century he started developing a model for a nonprofit or social enterprise for people interested in how the human/dog experience can make the world a better place for all Earth’s inhabitants.”
As a behavior consultant/dog trainer Andrew’s expertise was also sought by many pet care facilities. He is responsible for developing and directing the Seal Beach Animal Shelter’s first dog training and rehabilitation program and also co-developed Pet Therapy programs for the Veteran’s Hospital in the San Fernando Valley, Del Amo Hospital, and Torrance Memorial Hospital.
It’s his dream that those who understand the human/dog experience can make the world a better place. As Andrew states, “To know about dogs is to know about life.”