ART HESS—the Dog Guy

A Profile by Kay Davis



Do you want a dog that jumps up on people? Do you want your hand bitten if you reach for the food dish? Some dog owners bear bruises or scars on their arms from well-intentioned animals. Other owners may have been pulled down the street with the dog clearly in control, or worse, down onto the sidewalk. Not fun.

We want our dogs to be loving companions with good manners. And at Lakeside there is one professional who has worked with both horses and dogs all his life. He can help.

In training the basics, there are five primary areas of concern: 1) pulling on the leash, 2) digging, 3) chewing, 4) barking, and 5) nipping and biting. The answer is discipline – for the owner and the dog. How do we get there? It takes time and commitment. The dog is willing and is happier once it understands what we want. So how do we communicate? Step by step to keep it simple for the dog. For us, too. We don’t need language at all, it seems.

Remember whales and dolphins at Sea World? Trainers use whistles and clickers with fish for reward. That positive approach is what Art has perfected. He says the old methods for dog training were too rigid and more people-oriented than dogs comprehend easily.

All we need is a positive attitude and attention to the dog. Dogs know when we are tense. But when we are happy, it becomes fun. We communicate by motivating and teaching one step at a time, then rewarding the dog, including praise like “good dog.”

Art uses hand signals instead of words, a “clicker” to indicate the dog has executed a behavior right and treats as motivation for success. The most immediate thing to learn is that the dog doesn’t understand human language. They will, over time, learn some key words, however.

Where did Art come from and what makes him qualified to train dogs? High River, Alberta, is about an hour’s drive south of Calgary. It’s a small town situated in farm country and one of the key people in his life was a grandfather who trained dogs. He said, “Art, watch your dog…she’s telling you stuff. Pay attention.” Art did.

For many years he worked with dogs and horses, his two passions. But he also had to make a living. At one point he was a Canadian Horse Show judge. He was also an American Quarter Horse Society judge, director of a race track, and vice president of a very large real estate company in Calgary, Alberta. Along the way he developed business sense while continuing to work with the animals he enjoyed. Meanwhile his wife Barbara was online with a lady who had lived in Ajijic, Mexico. When they were ready, they headed south.

At Lakeside, Art trained horses, including those at an organization located in Ajijic where horses are now rented out to the public. He worked with both handicapped children and the animals they learned to ride to improve their sense of balance. That was before Pasos Milagrosos. He also worked with dogs at the shelter.

Art has a column that runs in this magazine. In each, he addresses a problem and tells how to resolve it. For more information, he also has his own website at You might find it easier to work with one idea at a time, bookmarking the website, and once that idea works for you, move to the next.

“I’m a full time trainer who handles over 100 dogs a year including dogs in my classes and individuals in one-on-one training. I don’t believe a dog is trained until he will perform all the basics off leash in public places. My training days are filled with young dogs (my favorites) and problem dogs (whose main problem is usually at the other end of the leash).” So says Art Hess, whose column in the Ojo del Lago is very popular with its readers.

Art is a gentle soul which is why he can walk up to a strange dog and gain that dog’s respect as he leads the animal through a lesson he is teaching, and the dog has fun the whole time.

Art Hess, a real modern day Dog Whisperer.


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