Interview with America’s Top Dog’s Nick White

This January, get ready for an epic canine competition of strength, agility and wit. Each episode, four police K9 teams and one civilian team will face off in this thrilling event. The winner will receive $10,000, as well as $5,000 to donate to their chosen animal charity. These top competitors will return for the gripping finale for a chance to claim the grand prize of $25,000, and the title of “America’s Top Dog.” We had the chance to speak with former US Marine and professional dog trainer Nick White for an in-depth look at what we can expect from the show.

Sarah Somerville: How are the obstacle courses created? What are some of the very real scenarios these dogs face on a daily basis that we can expect to see imitated in these courses?

    Nick White: The obstacle courses are created with a lot of thought given to challenges and obstacles that handlers and their K9s may face on a day-to-day basis. Just a few of the scenarios that handlers/K9s face on a daily basis that is replicated in our course are things such as jumping over fences and chasing suspects through neighborhoods, chasing suspects into thick brush, pursing suspects up flights of stairs, and jumping through car windows to apprehend suspects.

Sarah: Do you hope this series will help raise awareness for higher quality training for civilian dogs?

    Nick: Absolutely! Our show proves to dog owners that many of their dogs can compete at a high level with police dogs if they are willing to put in the proper time, training, and teamwork!

Sarah: Thank you for your service. Did you work with K9 assests while serving, or did your passion for working with canine companions blossom later on?

    Nick: I did not work as a handler while in the Marine Corps. My passion for working with dogs actually began as a child, we had a German Shepherd named, “Deputy.” When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get home from school and teach him new things. Then, while I was in the US Secret Service, I formally started my business, Off Leash K9 Training.

Sarah: Dogs being one of the oldest domesticated animals, do you feel a holistic sense of accomplishment when you work with a dog, or when your teachings help someone connect with their dog?

    Nick: I love the sense of accomplishment that is felt when I am able to have an owner enjoy their dog more! A lot of the time we hear, “You are our last hope, if you cannot fix/control this issue, we may have to get rid of the dog.” So, I feel like it’s providing a huge benefit to the dog, as well! We are keeping dogs out of shelters and in their loving home. As I say, giving dogs more freedom and confidence while giving owners more peace-of-mind.

Sarah: Many people seem to treat their dogs like burdens or responsibilities rather than partners, do you find that people who take the time and effort to train begin to see the animals in their lives in a different light?

    Nick: If people see their dogs as a burden, I generally find that it’s a time or training issue (or a combination of both). As I tell my clients, “My goal is to have your dog compliment your life, not complicate it.” Once people finish our training, they almost always appreciate and have more fun with their dog. We get photos/videos all of the time of owners having their dogs at the beach, taking them on vacations, and doing family outings with them! Again, putting time and training into your dog always make both the dogs’ and owners’ lives better!

Sarah: With certain breeds like the now popular Belgian Malinois and the classic German Shepard being more typical for police, military, and protection work, do you find any particular breeds to be civilian stars?

    Nick: I really like the American Pit Bull Terrier, they are very capable working dogs in a wide variety of things such as: protection, detection, dock diving, agility, weight pulling, and just about anything else!

Sarah: While training seems easier with puppies and adolescent dogs, in your experience, can old dogs learn new tricks?

    Nick: Older dogs can 100% do anything that younger dogs can do! As I joke, “If someone says you cannot teach an old dog new things, they either 1. Are not a dog trainer. Or 2. They are not a very good one!”

Sarah: While we expect so much of our pups, what advice would you have for the human element? Are there any challenges to being a good dog owner that you’d like to let people know?

    Nick: Do not expect more out of your dog than the time you are willing to put in! “America’s Top Dog” shows owners that their pets are capable of extraordinary things if they are just willing to put time and training into them! Unfortunately, I find that many owners have very high expectations for their dogs, but low expectations for themselves in training their dogs. You cannot expect a dog who performs like a police dog if you are only willing to commit a few minutes per day to their training.

Sarah: With more and more people having fur-babies, do you find people are working harder for their dogs with higher quality training, medical care, and diet?

    Nick: I do feel like I have noticed a positive shift in the standard of care for pets. We see a lot more people making training a first priority rather than a last resort, which is huge! This is a great benefit to the owners and the dogs! As I always say, dogs are like kids, it’s easier to start them off doing the right things vs trying to later fix the wrong things. Also, we now see much better and healthier selections of dog food, too!

Sarah: Do you feel people can overcome some elements of a breed with the right training or should both elements be considered when looking at adopting or selecting a breeder?

    Nick: This is a double-edged sword, training can certainly help overcome some elements of a breed; however, it’s easier to start a dog that matches your lifestyle. This is one of the biggest problems that we see, people start with high-drive and high-energy breeds, when they are not highly active people. So, this obviously creates a lot of conflict and issues. I always recommend for owners to get a dog (whether from breeder, rescue, or shelter) that matches their lifestyle. Do not get a low energy dog if you are a highly active outdoor family and vice versa.

Sarah: What is the most important aspect of dog training you would like people to know?

    Nick: The most important aspect of dog training is definitely consistency. As I say, if you are inconsistent, you will have an inconsistent and unreliable dog.

We thank Nick for his time, and he clearly knows a lot about what makes a dog well trained. Make sure to watch him and the dogs on America’s Top Dog when the series airs on January 8th, 2020 at 9:00 p.m.!

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