About The Dog Masters

Our Company’s Purpose is to preserve the indomitable spirit of dogs by developing a stronger connection between dogs and people. We provide human and dog behavior consulting, education, and training that focuses on dramatic and unmistakable results. We have been extremely successful with teaching people and dogs how to co-exist. Much of our work is based on the scientific method, and is rooted in concrete information from the behavioral sciences.

We help people efficiently and safely set boundaries and limitation with all dogs. We want to help all people and dogs to have good manners, be respectful around other dogs and trust each other. We want all to communicate more effectively with all dogs and know how to recognize non-verbal body language and behavioral cues with dogs. Above all, we want people to experience a whole new world stress and anxiety free — a world built on the secret life lessons from animals which will help everyone understand how to protect and preserve our own, sacred and personal spaces

It is also our hope that, through our work , we can decrease the number of dogs being returned and/or surrendered to animal shelters and/or foster families due to leash reactivity, destructive behavior, aggressive nature, or inappropriate dominant conduct such as resource guarding and general bullying.

Our vision is to help more people and dogs then ever before. One of our projects is to start work on a Virtual Reality program that combines scientific and explicit knowledge of dog behavior into applied learning situations for children and adults. And someday we hope produce an educational TV series about our work in Canada and USA. We also plan on building a dog boarding, teaching and training facility in Colorado. 

ABOUT KIRK

I am the dog behaviorist. Dogs are my life. 

I grew up training sled dogs in Western Québec, Canada at the International School for Earth Studies. At age 11, my family decided to adopt a pack of Siberian Huskies as a new form of winter recreation — dog sledding.

As you can imagine, I spent most of my time growing up observing and working with these dogs. I got pretty skilled at understanding their behavior and their ways of relating to each other and to their human counterparts. When I was old enough, I taught international students of all ages how to manage sled dogs in our Dog Sled Management courses at Earth Studies, which included a hefty emphasis on dog behavior and pack dynamics.

Most kennels are characterized by loud and aggressive barking. Dogs are on chains and sled launches are uncontrollable. Mushers have shear panic attacks if one of their dogs gets loose. The musher may never see the wandering dog again. After 2009, my family’s Siberian Husky kennel had none of that. We overhauled our behavior techniques. The anxious energy level in the kennels dropped dramatically. 

This study in "natural management" methods radically informed my philosophy and approach as a dog behavioralist. I decided I wanted to teach the method to others, and started "The Dog Masters" in 2015 in Houston, Texas, where I went to marry the love of my life. In Houston, I worked as a veterinarian kennel technician, dog walker, and volunteered my time at the local rescue shelters, along with running my dog behavior business.

A year after marriage, we moved to the place of our dreams, Denver, Colorado. While in Denver full-time, I am committed to helping dog owners create more satisfying relationships with their canine companions. Here, I organize my own dog friendly hikes, group walks, behavior seminars, and social meet ups throughout the city. I am also still actively involved with my family’s nature education and sled dog training programs in Canada. 

We currently have 2 cats (Neeps and Clé) and 2 dogs (Papou: male, 2yr Siberian Husky and Violet: female, 5 yr black lab). They are all rescues from our time in Houston.

I love the indomitable Spirit of dogs. My parents empowered me with a deep sense of accountability and responsibility towards others, especially animals. I am inspired to be a better leader by learning from the many lessons that dogs teach us. I truly believe dogs help us understand unconditional love, how to lead others and respect other viewpoints. I want to make the world a better place by reconnecting people with nature through animals. 

Philosophy

The goal is for you to be a calm, assertive, and dominant leader and for your dog to be a confident, submissive follower. This doesn’t mean your life with your dog is all rules, though. There’s always time for fun and play as long as your dog obeys when you say “enough.”

It’s about mutual respect, trust and love

No matter your environment—from the sprawling countryside to the compact city—the principals of dog training remain the same: It’s all about mutual respect, trust, and love, in that order.

Respect

Your dog must respect you as an authority, and you must respect your dog as a follower. You have to prove to your dog that you’re qualified to lead him or her. Think of yourself as a new boss who must earn the respect of your employees. This comes through confidence and strong leadership. 

Trust

Once you’ve proven yourself as a leader, your dog will trust you as someone worth following. Honor that by trusting your dog will obey you.

Love

Love is good. Affection is good. Rewards, in moderation and at appropriate times, are good. Even excited love (when you find yourself cooing over your dog in a “baby voice”) can be done at appropriate times. But not all the time. Sometimes, your dog will need tough love. This is not to be confused with rough love. Tough love is when you put the baby voice away, enforce your authoritative role, and set your boundaries. Think of yourself as the parent of a teenager. If they were misbehaving, would cooing at them in a baby voice feel like the appropriate response? No. You love them, but tough love comes into play to set the rules.

Rules, Boundaries, and Limits

Just like children need to know what they can and can’t get away with, so do dogs. You must establish house rules with your pet. Some of your rules may be: no barking inside the house and no jumping on friends or family members. Do you want your dog to greet visitors at the door? Should your dog mind the family cat and view him or her as an authority figure? All of these decisions are up to you and are entirely under your control.

Techniques

Modifying a dog’s behavior may feel impossible. After all, you and your dog don’t speak the same language. Yet.

The trick with behavior techniques is that you both do come to understand the same language, and you’ll feel it out with your dog as you go.

  • Being calm and assertive: If you want your dog to believe that you’re the boss, you need to act like it. Think about a leader you respect and trust. What qualities do they have that make you feel positively about them?
  • Body language: You can use body language to tell your dog that you’re in charge. Use your body to establish space and push your dog away from whatever thing—the front door, a shoe, the kitchen, etc.—you claim as yours.
  • Verbal corrections: Verbal corrections can be as simple as sounds like “shht” or “ehh-eh.” Acknowledge your dog by his or her name.
  • Rewards: Treats are a fun way to pamper your dog, but rewards in behavior correction aren’t necessary. Constant excited rewards can lead to anxiety or overexcitement in dogs.

 

Testimonials

We had our initial session with Kirk just after getting our 4 month old puppy. I thought we would just have to “put up” with all the unpleasant puppy behaviors for a year or so, but Kirk helped us understand why we were seeing certain behaviors, how to manage them and how to set boundaries within our home. He was especially helpful with our kids 9 and 7 years old, helping them understand how their energy levels and responses affect the puppy’s behavior. Kirk worked with all of us as a family, teaching us the importance of understanding what our dog was thinking and how to build a relationship with him. I was shocked at how quickly our puppy responded to Kirk’s methods. We continue to utilize the tools Kirk gave us and saw huge improvements with in a week!

I would highly recommend Kirk. His teaching methods are amazing!
— Melissa, Highlands Ranch, CO — Dog Behavior Client
“As soon as I met Kirk it was obvious that he truly has a special understanding of dog behavior. My dog is normally very nervous, anxious and reactive with strangers, but Kirk was calm and confident in his first interactions with my dog, Sophie and was able to gain control of the situation instantaneously. Over the course of the next 90 minutes, Kirk was very personable and patient with both Sophie and me. His experience and knowledge of dog behavior is apparent and he does a great job of addressing problem situations by empowering you with the knowledge, the tools and most importantly, the confidence to do it on your own.

It has only been a few days from our initial session but I am very pleased with the results thus far. I am much more confident in my ability to manage Sophie’s less than ideal behaviors (barking at the door, reacting on leash at other dogs, etc.) This in turn has had a noticeably positive effect on her behavior and energy. I look forward to continue working with Kirk and continuing our progress.

I absolutely recommend Kirk if you’re looking for insight into dog behavior and are seeking assistance with your own pup.”
— Christine, Houston, TX
Kirk is awesome. We have 2 dogs and a cat. All was well in our universe until we introduced a new rescue kitty. One of the dogs is very curious about anything or anyone new entering his environment and wanted to inspect the kitty; which of course scared the kitty, who responded with a hiss causing the dog to snap. We kept them separated for a while but made no progress with their behavior toward one another. Kirk spent ONE hour with us and we followed his advice to the letter. His training style is based on his deep understanding of how dogs think therefore there is no need for e-collars or punishment based training. I am happy to report that not only are we all living together peacefully but some of the dogs’ less desirable behaviors have been corrected i.e. barking maniacally when someone rings the bell, pulling on the leash and jumping on people when over excited. I highly recommend Kirk for any of your canine needs. His fees schedule is very reasonable and he is very trust worthy.
— Shannon, Houston, TX
I was totally blown away with Kirk’s natural ability to work with my A.D.H.D dogs. I completely trust his judgement and have seen incredible results in a matter of hours after hiring his services. I’m so fortunate to have The Dog Masters in my circle. I also really enjoyed talking with him about his life in Canada. He is the real deal.
— Mark, Denver, CO, Dog Behavior Client
My confidence around dogs has always held be back from living in the moment. Kirk Cushing accomplished what I thought was impossible. I know consider myself a “savvy dog person”. I remember him saying, “whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” He was absolutely right! It didn’t take long to learn to trust him. I have always had issues with strangers in my home. But after asking him a few questions, I knew he was a real professional. My dog seemed to fall in love with him at first sight. I’m very satisfied with working with him. I can now take my dog to the dog park and is good mannered around other dogs and friends (total behavior change!). His gift with dogs and people is truly remarkable. I keep his business card on me to share with coworkers, family and friends! If you have any doubts or questions, just call and talk to him. Thanks again for everything! You’re the best!!
— Sophie, Boulder, CO — Dog Behavior Client
Kirk is very impressive who knows what exactly dogs and people need to like each other. All my clients can’t speaker nicer things about the man, his sense of character and personal experience is pretty damn impressive. I’ve been rescuing dogs from the streets my whole life. I know what to look for in any “animal lover” and people who really cares about animal welfare. He’s always calm and collected and commands attention. He reminds me of a younger Dog Whisperer and Crocodile Hunter. I know he’s going places. And he’s going to help a lot of dogs and people along the way. May God Bless his work!
— Kyle, Houston, TX — owner and operator of an animal shelter