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Lucy Wilks shares dog training tips and experiences

Lucy Wilks, a senior fine art major with a painting and drawing emphasis, is an animal lover at heart. Wilks spends their free time training four-legged friends of the canine variety, both as a hobby and professionally, depending on their school schedule.

Wilks said they officially finished their training apprenticeship this fall, but they have been working toward this goal since adopting their dog, Bailey, nearly four years ago. 

Quinn Winter, Wilks’s roommate and junior communication major, said Wilks is very focused and intentional about making sure they’re being ethical in training animals.

“There are so many different ways to train dogs, and there are a lot of ways that are questionable [when it comes to ethics,]” Winter said. “We’ll sit in our living room and have discussions for like an hour about ‘is this tiny thing that they did ethical,’ because they care so deeply about that, which I think is great.”

Winter said Wilks is not only passionate about dogs, but about all animals.

“There are cats that live on our street, and if a cat is in our driveway, we’ll be late to wherever we’re going because they want to make sure the cat is safe,” Winter said. “And, you know, they’ll have a couple extra dog treats on them and hand them to the cats. Any animal, regardless of what it is, [Wilks is] very intentional about being kind and showing care.”

Lucy Wilks, a senior fine art major, demonstrates proper leash technique with their dog, Bailey, in the field by Nunemaker Place Sept. 28. Leash training is just one of the many ways Wilks helps dog owners train their pets, according to Wilks. Photo courtesy of Maddie Cushing.

The following interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: How did you get started training dogs?

A: I got started in dog training my first year of college. I adopted a dog with the intention of making her a service dog. I took some group classes from other trainers in the area, and I wanted to learn more. I instantly got hooked on it because I’ve always loved animals. About a year and a half ago, I started more seriously training myself to be a dog trainer, starting with online resources. Then, in spring of 2021, I started a dog training apprenticeship, which I completed in the fall [of 2021.]

Q: Do you train dogs professionally or as a hobby?

A: I currently would say I only train dogs as a hobby because I don’t really have time for multiple full-time jobs while I’m in school. Outside of the school year, I would say I do train dogs professionally.

Q: What would you say has been the biggest benefit of training dogs?

A: The biggest benefit of dog training for me has been watching my relationship with my own dog grow over the last couple years.

Q: What do you think is the most important thing someone can do when they get a new dog?

A: When you get a new dog, it’s really important to spend time away from that dog. A lot of people get a dog and they want to spend every second with it — I did the same when I got my first dog. But it’s really super important that [the dog] learn[s] independence and that they can be alone. I would recommend you spend at least an hour away from your dog every single day.

Q: What advice do you have for those who are hoping to get started with dog training?

A: Find trainers to mentor under. They don’t have to be local, you can find trainers to mentor under anywhere and do Zoom calls with them. It’s obviously easier if they’re local, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the area, you can go elsewhere. I also would recommend that [they] mentor under multiple trainers and don’t just think one mentorship is the end-all-be-all of dog training. It’s important to continuously grow and learn as a trainer, no matter how long you’ve been training.

Bailey Wilks pants mildly after dog training demonstrations with her owner, senior fine art major Lucy Wilks, on the field by Nunemaker Place Sept. 28. Wilks said adopting Bailey was the reason they got into dog training to begin with. Photo courtesy of Maddie Cushing.

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Maddie Cushing is a senior at Westminster College studying communication and psychology. When she’s not busy cracking down on her schoolwork, Maddie can be found exploring spooky spots around the Salt Lake Valley and trying out new coffee shops with her dog, Arya.

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