By Danny Baggott @DAN_BAGGIE
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Videographer / director: Howard Shack
Producer: Danny Baggott,
33-year-old Mikkel Becker, uses reward-based training programmes to help stressed owners gain more control over their best animal buddies.
With the help of her own expertly-trained dog, Indiana Bones, Mikkel works her magic in veterinary and rescue centres, client homes and ‘doggy resorts’ across the United States.
Mikkel gained her qualifications as a youngster, graduating from the rigorous San Francisco SPCA Dog Training Academy - and hasn’t looked back since.
Mikkel, who resides in Seattle, WA, told Barcroft TV: “When it’s all said and done, my favourite thing about being able to work with animals is that it just makes me really happy.
“I’m particularly good at being able to adapt and being able to understand where a person – and their animal - is coming from.
“The hardest animal to train, and the one I have had the hardest time with personally, is men.
“But we have to remember, there’s no perfect pet – my real goal, is making that pet perfect for the owner and their household.
“I think that trust with my clients comes through transparency and being open and honest with them about their training. The truth can be ugly, but I’d much rather have an ugly truth than a pretty lie.
“There’s no perfect recipe on how I’m going to help that person or that pet – I just bring lots of positivity to my work.
“I see transformations, not only in the animal, but also in that person. It’s a huge honour for me to be able to help change both of their lives.”
Mikkel understands the importance of getting to know her clients and gaining their trust before she starts work with their animals.
“Doing what I do, while it’s such a gift, it’s also a huge responsibility,” she said.
“So for me, I love working with the animals, but it’s essential that I work with the people and have that connection with them too.
“I encourage my clients to show me their entire lives, you know, do you really take your dog out for three walks a day for 15 minutes?
“I need to know those details, and if you don’t, that’s totally okay. Life isn’t perfect, I get it. That’s where I make my training and the behavioural advice that I provide, very doable for people.
“Rather than saying they have to go and exercise their dog for two hours a day, I suggest ways it can fit into their lifestyle.
“Because unfortunately, a lot of behaviour issues end up with a pet being relinquished to the shelter and that increases rates of euthanasia.
“That’s where I come in, before that happens, and I help to build those bonds and remember the positivity.”
Mikkel works with all sorts of animals and admits that she never has a ‘typical’ working day.
She said: “Every day is totally different for me.
“Training is just adapting. It’s survival for animals, something that happens naturally.
“Dogs hands down, or paws down, are the easiest species to train. Dogs are so in tune with people, they just understand us genetically.
“Common issues that I see with dogs, are jumping up on people and reactivity on their leash.
“But I have to say, I have the most fun training a pig. I love pigs. I have come to realise how intelligent they are.
“It’s also just so great to see a pig walking down the street with their owner.”
Mikkel grew up in a family that loves animals – particularly her father, Doctor Marty Becker, who is a veterinarian and well-known media personality.
“My love of animals started from my earliest memories,” Mikkel continued.
“I knew from the earliest age that I wanted to be either an animal trainer or broadcaster.
“My family are all absolute animal lovers! So it was normal for me to be going into the vet hospital and to see my dad helping different animals.
“After I graduated college, my dad talked me into going to the dog training school in San Francisco.
“I was there for a six week programme and I couldn’t get enough of it!
“After graduating from there, I graduated from the Karen Pryor Academy and I got different certifications through the IAABC as well as the CCPDT.
“I am now the co-author on six books and I have written all of them alongside my dad.
“We show that with love and respect for animals, regardless of what species they are, they all have value. And that is the kind of family I grew up in and the message I carry on today.”
Whilst Mikkel loves every animal, her outright favourite is Indiana Bones – her very own Puggle bestie who helps to keep her and her nine-year-old daughter, Reagan, company at their home.
Mikkel said: “Indie is part Pug and part Beagle – he’s a very social dog who loves to play.
“I would adopt pretty much any animal into my home, but Indiana was special and I knew it from just seeing his first picture as a puppy.
“He makes me take life not so seriously and that’s the best thing about him.
“He’s also well-trained and does what I consider as really valuable in a pet.”
Mikkel has amassed quite the following on social media, which she sees as a good platform to promote her work and spread positivity with regards to animal training.
“My growth on social media really has been organic”, Mikkel said.
“It’s been a natural evolution over time, with me sharing stories that have touched my heart and helped others out too.
“I feel like there’s a such a shortage of good information out there on ways that we can help improve our pets and their lives.
“I want to be the voice to be able to do that now.”