Randall Elbrecht began working with dogs when he was just a child.
“I’d like to say I’ve been training all my life,” the Lakewood resident said. “As a little kid I used to sneak into people’s yards and play with their dogs. I’d jump into backyards with mastiffs, German shepherds, rottweilers and Dobermans that initially wanted to attack me as I’m walking down their fence, but eventually they learned I wasn’t a threat, and I’d come in and play with them.”
Elbrecht began training dogs professionally about five years ago after he graduated from the National K-9 School for Dog Trainers in Columbus, Ohio. He founded Double Diamond Dog Training after moving to Colorado.
“I’ve had various jobs before dog training, but I was never quite as happy as when I was with my dogs,” he said. “It’s been the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Now Elbrecht works with dogs and their owners to correct behavioral issues, teach obedience and much more. One of the most common issues is the dog not knowing how to properly walk on a leash and pulling while on a leash, he said.
“I mostly train the owners to train their own dogs,” he said. “It’s much better when the owners build the bond and work toward the goal of obedience themselves because then they earn the reward of their dogs learning.”
Most dogs show progress within five or six sessions, Elbrecht said, but it’s the owner’s responsibility to maintain the work and work with their dog each day.
“The real progress will happen over the course of the week,” he said. “I show the owners what to do in one session, and they follow up throughout the week doing the exact thing that we worked on.”
Once the dog masters one skill, such as properly walking on a leash without pulling, Elbrecht can show the owner how to train the dog another skill — to sit on command, for example.
“It is entirely on the owner to maintain the work,” he said. “A dog is an animal — it isn’t a computer or a machine. You can’t just take out the broken parts and replace them with the things you want. It’s consistency that really makes them obedient. That’s the key factor.”
Elbrecht uses a combination of positive and negative reinforcement coupled with motivation; the balance is different for each dog, depending on the animal’s personality, he said.
Positive reinforcement is praising the dog when it does a correct behavior and saying “No” when it performs an incorrect behavior.
Motivation is in the form of making it fun for the dog, like a game of Simon Says, Elbrecht said.
“Once it becomes fun for them, they’re interested in it and they’re happy do to the obedience,” he said. “Every dog is different, and every dog’s approach is going to be different.”
Double Diamond Dog Training also offers a program called “Outward Bound with the Hounds” to clients whose dogs have reached an advanced level of obedience and are capable of walking for a long period and able to deal with multiple distractions.
As part of the program, Elbrecht takes a group of dogs on hikes and walks to areas such as Olde Town Arvada, Red Rocks, Capitol Hill, Washington Park and the mountains.
One of the dogs in the program, Blossom, was rescued from a breeder and had spent her whole life in a barn. Before Elbrecht began working with her about a year ago, she was so fearful that she was scared to walk out the front door, he said.
“Now she’s one of the most excited dogs that I have in the group,” he said. “When she sees me, she starts grinning and she’s excited to go out. She’s shaking to get in the car and say hello to everyone in the car. Everyone loves it, but she really, really shows how much she likes it.”
In-home obedience training sessions are about an hour per week and begin at $50 per session, depending on the owner’s location. Elbrecht works with owners throughout the metro area.