Dog Savvy founder Anne Wolff Nichols has been drawn to animals all her life. As a child she was fascinated by the animals she discovered around her Minnesota home. She spent hours observing animals and many of them made their way home with her to become part of her bedroom menagerie. As a young teen, she volunteered at the Minnesota zoo giving public demonstrations with a wide variety of animals and reptiles. She also became involved in the rehabilitation of wild birds and mammals. Anne was already a keen observer of animal behavior by the time she began formally training dogs at age 14.
Anne earned her first AKC obedience title in 1976 with her Cocker Spaniel, Samantha. Between 1986 and 2005 she trained and handled three of her dogs to number one obedience rankings in the US within her breed. Two of those dogs she bred herself. She has also bred, trained, and handled three generations of Bernese Mountain Dogs to AKC championships and group placements. In the past, Anne also trained her dogs in protection work through the sport of Schutzhund, a pursuit that gave her an understanding and appreciation of dog aggression and how it can be unintentionally brought out by owners. She continues to breed, train, and show her own dogs while working professionally as a dog trainer and behaviorist.
Anne has worked with dogs professionally all of her adult life. As a groomer, Humane Society manager, and boarding kennel manager Anne honed both her people and dog skills. Giving private and group lessons for over 20 years, she has worked with upwards of 80 different breeds representing every AKC group. Anne has trained and helped others train dogs for AKC conformation and obedience as well as for hunting.
In 1993, Anne entered a three year apprenticeship with Guide Dogs for the Blind in California. After passing her oral, written, and practical skills tests for the State Guide Dog Board of California, she became a licensed trainer for Guide Dogs for the Blind in 1996. As a trainer for Guide Dogs for the Blind, Anne taught hundreds of dogs and people to work together seamlessly under real life circumstances. This experience with a variety of dogs and people added another dimension to Anne’s already large store of knowledge about dog training and behavior.
After four years as a licensed trainer, Anne left Guide Dogs for the Blind to open her own training business. Her time at Guide Dogs for the Blind had been rich and she had grown tremendously as a teacher, but she was ready to put the training revolution she was experiencing with her own dogs to work for a broader group of dog owners. While developing that business in Washington State, Anne also published articles and gave seminars on dog behavior and training, focusing on what are, in her experience, core issues for successful training: considering things from the dog’s point of view, fairness to the dog, and challenging the idea that the dog “knows what he’s supposed to do.” (Click Learning to Listen, Anne’s personal story of her evolution as a trainer.)
In addition to training, Anne is a skilled adult and puppy temperament evaluator, and has been assessing dogs since 1985. For much of that time she has evaluated puppies and dogs for breeders and potential puppy or dog buyers. Most recently she has begun doing temperament testing for her local Humane Society. The shelter sends dogs with complicated temperaments to Anne for evaluation before deciding what their training and placement needs are.
Anne’s many years of experience with her own and her clients’ dogs have taught her that good health is key to successful training. Throughout her career she has worked with vets to learn about canine health issues and nutrition and to apply that knowledge to her training. Working closely with vets, Anne is able to assess potential health issues that might impede training and direct her clients to resources to achieve wellness for their dogs. In turn, Anne’s unique, positive training method is endorsed by vets. (View Vet Endorsements of Savvy Dog training.)
As Anne’s training career has grown, she has also pursued a parallel career as a professional dog photographer. Anne’s striking photographs reveal her subjects’ essence while showcasing her deep understanding of dogs and her ability to make them want to work. Anne’s photographs have been published in print and on the web and can be seen throughout the Dog Savvy website.
All of these various professional threads began to come together in the summer of 2005 when Anne returned to her native Minnesota to develop a truly holistic dog behavior and training service. That initial idea has evolved into Dog Savvy with Anne Wolff Nichols. With Dog Savvy, Anne continues to grow as a trainer while bringing her knowledge about dogs to a wider audience through lessons, DVDs, seminars, articles, and books.
Anne currently lives in Minnesota with her three Bernese Mountain Dogs, an assortment of shelter dogs and puppies in various stages of rehabilitation, 2 cats, and a whole bunch of chickens and ducks.