Petcare specialist Liz Jacques provides unusual services for those who’ve gotten more than they bargained for when adopting a dog.
There are animal lovers, pet sitters, and dog trainers—and then there’s Liz Jacques. The 29-year-old Salem native and owner of Companion Synergy is something of an anomaly in her field. Armed with degrees from Wheaton College and Harvard, as well as a diploma in Advanced Canine Nutritional Sciences and a certification from Pet Sitters International, Jacques knows a thing or two about science and our four-footed friends.
With clients in Beverly and Salem, Jacques provides petcare services that include in-home and overnight stays, simple medication administration, dog walking, group play sessions, and socialization training. What sets her apart from her colleagues, however, is her aptitude for working with fearful and reactive dogs.
Jacques employs a positive reinforcement training method called clicker training, which she describes as a tool for creating a bridge between right behavior and reward. “As soon as they hear the click,” she explains,”they know they are doing the right thing and a reward is coming. Anything that gets rewarded gets repeated.”
Getting “No!” out of your repertoire is important, she explains. It interrupts, but it doesn’t give dogs useful information. “You want your dog to trust you, not fear you,” she says. Trust-building communication relies heavily on what are called calming signals—avoiding eye contact, turning sideways, yawning, crouching down—that are employed to put the animal at ease and reduce the likelihood of behaviors like lunging and biting, which occur when dogs are overstimulated and emotional
Jacques feels the “click and treat” method is infinitely more effective than tools used in Dominance Theory training. While punishing undesirable behaviors may yield immediate responses, the method doesn’t address poor behavior; rather, it suppresses it, making it likely to come back later, often unexpectedly. “With fearful dogs in particular,” she says, “you can create a state of learned helplessness.” She aims to redirect behaviors, not simply arrest them. “Animals,” she says,”will shut down and stop trying if they don’t have a clear idea of what they should be doing.”
Surrounded by her three Huskies, a retired Greyhound, three house cats, and an iguana, Jacques says,”It’s all about helping people understand and communicate with their [animals].” Hers is a mission that both clients and pets clearly support. companionsynergy.com
Recommended Reading: Jacques’s go-to tools for helping dogs live a harmonious life.
– Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog by Pat Miller (for those with new puppies)
– Bringing Light to Shadow: A Dog Trainer’s Diary by Pamela Dennison (for those with fearful dogs)
– Bones Would Rain From the Sky by Suzanne Clothier (for those wanting to build positive relationships with their dogs)
– WiggleBums! Dog-friendly Training and Behavior Consulting (owned by Jacques’s mother, Jo Jacques, a canine behavioral specialist), wigglebums.com
– Canine University (for private clicker training classes), canineuniversity.com