Our Dog Training Philosophy

Our Dog Training Philosophy

Our dog training philosophy is treating every dog like a fellow creature. We help them learn in the most fun and effective way possible.

Having a dog in your life is one of the most beautiful experiences. Like any happy relationship, it goes both ways. Your dog gives you unconditional love, loyalty, companionship, and much more. Your dog brings you joy, and happiness, and puts a smile on your face. In return, we must give our dog what it needs to be happy.

Great dog trainers have broad skills, not inflexible ideologies. 
– Ralf Weber

It’s All About the Relationship!

When you have a strong relationship, your dog feels safe and follows your lead. Not because it is made to, but because it wants to. It’s the kind of relationship where your dog listens because you are the center of its universe. Not because of fear. Most dogs do much better with a kind training approach. If a dog doesn’t listen, it isn’t necessarily disobedient.

In our dog training philosophy, there are only three reasons a dog doesn’t perform. First, your dog may be confused and is trying its best but just doesn’t understand what you want. Second, your dog may be unable to do what you are asking due to an ailment or physical limitation. Or third, your dog has no motivation to cooperate. In all cases, the fault does not lie with the dog. We can help you and your dog be in harmony, no matter where the confusion comes from.

Our Dog Training Philosophy - The Canine Model

The Importance of Genetics

The fundamental issue among knowledgeable animal behaviorists is that anthropomorphization with animals is generally the appropriate tactic unless you have reason to doubt it. Because there is continuity between animals and us rather than discontinuity. The idea that the anthropomorphization of animals is inappropriate is something derived from 1950s behaviorism. 
– Dr. Jorden B. Peterson

In our philosophy of dog training genetics matter! Dogs have emotions and are motivated by their preferences and desires. They are born with innate skills and learn and improve those through training. Dogs have strengths and weaknesses and things they are confident about and afraid of, just like we do. That doesn’t mean dogs are human, but it means we must acknowledge them as individuals. One-size-fits-all solutions rarely work.

In our work, we honor your dog. Not by pretending it is a person, but by understanding its nature and individual motivations. We always design the most effective training plan possible and work with you and your dog—not against you. Our dog training philosophy sees you as a team, not opponents. Yes, your dog needs you to be its leader in our human world. But it also needs you to be its friend, companion, protector, advocate, and partner. There is no conflict between being a leader and being kind. It’s one and the same. Our guiding principle is best captured by the following quote from a fantastic dog trainer:

If the dog does not perform well, living a good life, being well-fed, and with social interactions, the training system is flawed. 
– Ivan Balabanov

Our Approach Follows Our Philosophy of Dog Training

What method do we use? Whatever makes the most sense for YOUR dog. Our team is well-versed in learning science and skilled in using all appropriate training tools. We can work with your dog gently and effectively, regardless of breed, temperament, or age. You and your dog will be a happier and more harmonious team. Our trainers are very skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced, but we never rest on our laurels. Happy Dog Training’s philosophy of dog training includes that learning never stops. Ongoing education is mandatory for all trainers. We continuously hone our training skills further. Never hesitate to refine our methods as needed. And we are never afraid to try something different when a dog needs a fresh approach. Whatever your canine buddy needs, we can help.

You’ll love working with us. We explain in detail what training we recommend for your dog and how it is the best approach. While working with us, you gain a more profound knowledge of your dog’s psychology (hint: it’s not different from ours). You will understand your companion better, as well as critical concepts of canine learning that underlie all we do. Our training approaches are scientifically sound and based on the latest research in canine learning. This is how we train; we love sharing our thinking as we work. Here is another quote that factors into our philosophy of dog training.

Be firm in all you do. Be gentle in how you do it. 
– Chad Mackin (adopted from Buck Brannaman)

Including you in the training process is our preference, but we offer board and train solutions for the super busy. We love helping you understand your dog better. Learn how to speak ‘woof’ with us. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds.

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Services and Area

We are located in Southern California and train dogs nationwide. Happy Dog Training currently offers local dog training services in the following counties. Riverside County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County. In addition, we offer our board-and-train program nationwide and all virtual training services worldwide.

Do you want your new puppy trained right from the start? Are you looking for help for your fearful dog? Do you need to resolve a severe aggression problem? You came to the right place! We are experienced, professional dog trainers. Ralf has trained over 1500 dogs in over 18 years, and Sarah has trained over 1200 dogs in over 11 years. Consequently, we can help you with any dog training goal.

What We Offer

For many of our clients, we train their dogs from puppyhood, getting them off to a great start. However, we also have extensive experience training rescue dogs from all imaginable backgrounds and circumstances. Our Board-and-Train program is our most popular.

We can help you, regardless of your dog's challenges or training goals. Being a professional dog trainer means having experience, knowledge, and skill. Further, we developed a highly effective training program to specifically help fearful dogs gain more confidence and become the best possible version of themselves. Building Confidence is our second most popular training program.

Last but not least, we are experts in dealing with all types of aggression in dogs and are often the trainers of last resort after many other programs have failed. Most of our aggressive dog clients previously spent significant money on half-baked solutions without much improvement. This is different from us. We will give you an honest assessment of what goals are realistic for your dog. We will tell you what can be resolved reliably and what likely needs to be managed before we start.

Our flagship product is our board and train program. But our virtual dog training and coaching services have become quite popular over the last couple of years. Our setup enables us to deliver online dog training services from our indoor and outdoor training areas. This allows us to help clients worldwide.

Other Resources

Also, check out our Free Dog Training tips on Separation Anxiety in Dogs, Potty Training aka Housebreaking, and Leash Handling for expert solutions to common challenges.

Additional Services: Presentations and Q&As on Dogs | Professional Service Dog Training

Contact Us and Start Training

Finally, once you're ready to move forward, please use our dog training contact form to schedule a free phone consultation or book a paid, in-person consultation.

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About Ralf and Sarah

Happy Dog Training is the pet dog training business of Ralf Weber and Sarah Gill. We are certified professional dog trainers in Southern California. We are specialized in advanced obedience training, all forms or behavioral challenges and service dog training. For behavioral training, we are known for our work with aggressive and fearful dogs. Our service dogs, through Total K9 Focus, have a nationwide reputation for their reliability, longevity and performance.


Certified Professional Dog Trainer Ralf Weber is lead pet dog trainer of Happy Dog Training. Ralf is a long-time dog owner of German Shepherds. During his career, Ralf has worked with over a 1500 dogs of many different breeds. Moreover, Ralf has a thorough understanding of all aspects of canine training. This includes evolutionary psychology, ethology, and, most importantly, learning science. Ralf is specialized in resolving dog behavior challenges—especially fear and aggression. Apart from this, Ralf trains dogs in basic and advanced obedience, service dog tasks, and GRC Dog Sports. Ralf is further certified in a broad range of other canine training areas. Last but not least, Ralf is the author of the behavioral book If Your Dog Could Talk: Understand Your Dog Like Never Before.

Ralf loves helping people have a better relationship with their dogs. He is a certified professional dog trainer in the Training without Conflict™ methodology by Ivan Balabanov (TWC CPDT). Ralf is also a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and also holds their basic and advanced dog trainer certifications (IACP CDT, CDTA). In addition, Ralf is an AKC-approved evaluator for the AKC Puppy Star, CGC, and Advanced CGC programs and is also certified in canine first aid by the Red Cross.

Sarah Gill, Certified Professional Master Trainer

Sarah Gill, is a professional service dog trainer and handler. Sarah entered the world of professional service dog training after a car accident. As a result, she had to use a wheelchair for almost two years, trying to maneuver in a house not designed for it. No one expected Sarah would walk again. This opened her eyes and became a driving force behind pushing herself to defy the odds. When she regained some stability, Sarah attended a dog training school and learned how to train service dogs. Sarah completed her Master Trainer Certification and gained further experience by training new trainers. However, the school wasn’t accommodating to those with physical difficulties and PTSD. Hence, Sarah moved home to Dallas. In 2019, Sarah teamed up with Ralf and moved to California.

Sarah started this journey because she had a trained dog to mitigate her disabilities. But Sarah needed additional tasking for a new diagnosis. The only option she could find was getting a second dog for the new diagnosis. She knew there had to be a different way to address this. Sarah's passion is changing the ways of the service dog training industry.