Dog trainer finds a passion at Powder Paws Veterinary Clinic | ParkRecord.com

Dog trainer finds a passion at Powder Paws Veterinary Clinic

Traci Madson is the dog trainer at Powder Paws Veterinary Clinic. The clinic included a large area for dog training in a recent expansion of its facilities, and Madson says Parkites have appreciated her positive reinforcement style of training. (Bubba Brown/Park Record)

Three years ago, Traci Madson was unhappy in her job. She had recently discovered what she believed to be her life’s passion, but she felt certain it would never be possible to pursue as a career. She was stuck.

"I thought, ‘I’ve been in Park City for 14 years, and I have retirement and insurance and stuff here,’" she said. "If somebody would have told me, ‘A few years from now, you’re going to be doing it,’ I would have never believed it."

These days, Madson said, she is a changed person. She eventually began pursuing her desire to train dogs, and it led her to Powder Paws Veterinary Clinic, 2780 Rasmussen Road. She is now the clinic’s full-time dog trainer.

The clinic recently expanded, adding more exam rooms, grooming facilities, an underwater treadmill for dog physical therapy — and a large training area for Madson to work.

The space allows Madson to teach obedience classes for both puppies and adult dogs; courses that prepare dogs and their owners for the therapy certification process; and private sessions. She also plans to soon offer classes designed to get dogs acclimated to being around other dogs, as well as "field trips" that teach dogs to behave around distractions.

"This is like my dream," she said.

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But it wasn’t always her life’s goal. She admits to being afraid of dogs as a child. It wasn’t until her 30s, when she got a German shepherd and began assisting local law enforcement with search-and-rescue operations, that she got her first taste of dog training.

That experience led Madson to adopt dogs that had been mistreated. She began working with a positive reinforcement trainer to help the dogs overcome the behavioral problems stemming from the abuse they had suffered. It was then that Madson began thinking about training dogs herself.

"Being so involved with that, one day I asked (the trainer), ‘Do you think I would be any good at this?’" she said. "I asked, ‘If I started doing this, would you mentor me?’ She said she would."

More than 300 volunteer training hours later, Madson earned her qualifications from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.

Like her mentor, Madson’s training is based on positive reinforcement. She uses a clicker and praise to direct behavior rather than choke chains or shock collars. Dogs are rewarded for good conduct and ignored when they do something undesirable.

"When they do something like jump up, we don’t knee them in the chest or yell at them," she said. "Instead, if a dog jumps on me, I just turn my back and ignore them. Then I praise them when they have four paws on the floor."

Madson said she has been overwhelmed by the response from dog owners in Park City.

"People love their dogs, and the thing I love about Park City is people don’t want to do aversive training," she said. "They don’t want to hurt their dogs. My whole philosophy in training is strengthening the bond you have with your dog. So I train through leadership and trust, not fear and pain. People around here really grasp that."

For a full list of the dog training services Powder Paws offers, visit powderpawsvet.com.

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