They say that dogs are man’s best friend, and the saying is usually true. When people love dogs, they truly LOVE them, and for good reason, too: they’re cute, playful and extremely loyal. However, when a dog acts out, it can be a little… too much for some people. Enter Timi Cissna, certified dog behaviorist. As someone who feels such an affinity towards the beloved domestic pet, her way of charming them into obedience has earned her the title: Kuwait’s very own Dog Whisperer.
“As a young child, when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always answer with ‘I want to be a dog!’” laughed the Californian ACK student as she affectionately scratched her beautiful 6 year old Brindle Nala’s ear. Nala, the Cissna family dog is as well mannered as she is adorable, trotting along by her human’s side and patiently performing the many tricks she has up her sleeve. From “sit”, to “shake hands” and “play dead”, Nala is a pro, which goes to show that she was raised properly by the best – and it doesn’t hurt that Timi is expertly trained in the field!
Timi received her certification as a dog behaviorist from the British College of Canine Studies in 2015 – she certainly knows her stuff when it comes to doggy discipline. “I’ve always loved dogs and felt inspired by Cesar Millan, the actual dog whisperer, and the way he would rehabilitate different dogs’ issues. He led me to believe that when a dog has an issue, it’s usually people and their environment who create them.”
What environment would that be? It’s all about energy, according to Timi. This is what she explores in her services as a Dog Behaviorist. She starts the process by visiting her clients’ homes to familiarize herself with both the dogs and their humans. “I go to their house because when a dog is in its environment, that’s when they’re at their realest. They’re more likely to act a little different when they’re outside of that environment, and by visiting their home base, you can understand what type of energy is usually feeding their behavior.”
Her interaction with the dog’s “parents” also tells a similar tale, as she can pick up on the errors people make when it comes to handling their dogs: whether it be wrongful discipline, such as shouting or whacking them on the nose with a newspaper when misbehaving – actions that would likely fuel a dog’s aggression rather than nurturing them towards the path of good behavior; or neglect. “I get it. In Kuwait, the weather tends to get extremely hot and we don’t have the luxury of giving the dog a lot of exercise. In Arab culture, dogs are also not usually allowed in houses, which can also make them feel neglected. These factors contribute to the dog’s acting out, which is why most dogs in Kuwait have the common issue of being hyperactive or aggressive.”
But it’s all fixed when Timi comes into the picture. She likes to teach the dogs’ human counterparts about energy and intent – how to stay strong and stern when it comes to letting their dog know right from wrong. She deals with the issue at hand, and has the human watch and interact with the dog so that they learn how to address the issue so that it doesn’t happen again – or at least as often. But the key boils down to energy. “If you discipline a dog with the proper energy of sternness, letting them know who’s boss, and you do that 19 times but on the 20th time your energy changes, then all the progress goes away in a millisecond. The dog won’t remember what happened those past 19 times, you have to stay consistent to keep them well behaved.”
Other than energy and consistency, what else keeps your dog disciplined? “Eye contact and the Touch.” The Touch is a more researched, fool-proofed method to get your dog to listen to you. Taken from a biological standpoint, you touch (and actually, gently touch) between the shoulder and behind the ear of the dog to let them know when they’re doing something wrong.
In Timi’s world, dogs are complex creatures to understand, but simple to connect with. “They’re like children – you have to teach them right from wrong, but when they get it, they will always behave! Just remember to be gentle and stern, and don’t forget that energy is key.” So when your dog starts to act out, The Dog Whisperer is only a phone call away.
Having trouble with your unruly dog? Follow Timi Cissna @kuwaitdogwhisperer for more information. Help is just a click or call away!
Photography by Muneera AlKhulaifi.