In September, underdog Presley was named Greatest American Dog on CBS’s hit summer reality show of the same name. He and his owner, Travis Brorsen, bested 11 other dogs in the competition to win the title and the $250,000 prize.
But Presley had another helper in his path to the crown: trainer Steve Allen. Before the show, Allen worked with Presley for a week, getting him prepared for the show. However, even Allen himself didn’t expect Presley to triumph as he did. “I really pictured dogs that were already trained to be the Greatest American Dog. I pictured dogs that knew everything, really sharp showdogs.”
Allen describes Presley as a “child prodigy” for having learned as quickly as he did. Allen’s training programs are typically 3 weeks long, but he gave Brorsen and Presley a one-week intensive. “All I did with Presley was taught him a bunch of tricks and taught Travis the foundation… and then I left it up to Travis to train his dog.”
Allen credits Presley’s success to his energy and enthusiasm, as well as the strong bond between Presley and Brorsen. “Presley and Travis had the best relationship… They built the bond over the show. He didn’t use any force… Every show was a positive message for reward-based training.”
Reward-based training is one of the pillars of Allen’s training program. “It’s a lot more fun for you and the dog. And you can take things away as a penalty, rather than correcting.” This ideology is the major principle that separates Allen from dog trainer Cesar Millan. Millan uses punishment techniques in his training. However, “I really don’t have to do that and I can get the same result,” says Allen.
According to Allen, there are four commandments that all dogs need to learn. First: come when called. Second: don’t pull on the leash. Third: stay. And Fourth: “no” means “stop”. With these four commandments, “you can override any problem,” says Allen.
To get your dog to be the next Greatest American Dog, Allen offers this advice: “You have to have a great bond, a great relationship, be the perfect role model… You don’t want to force a dog to do tricks but a trick can be a lot of fun. So get the foundation and then start working on the tricks.” If you train your dog well enough, you might just win the next season of the show!