The origins of What Dogs Want, LLC
Our professional experience working with dogs started in shelters trying to increase adoptions and reduce euthanasia. We were constantly seeing dogs being given up by their families because of "behavior problems". Most of these dogs were ridiculously under-stimulated and lacked any kind of training. While rescue work was rewarding, it felt like we were just putting band-aids on a much bigger wound. Wanting to be more proactive at keeping dogs in their homes, we began thinking about What Dogs Want.
In 2008 we rescued Indy from the county shelter. The plan was to foster him until he was healthy enough to adopt out. Months later, we knew Indy wasn't going anywhere. He was attached to us, attached to our two other dogs and we were equally attached to him.
Indy was incredibly smart. He could figure things out, was creative and knew how to communicate what he wanted. We had to find things for him to do, create games out of mundane tasks, even tossing his food out into the yard so he could "hunt". Indy became our inspiration! What if all dogs had "jobs" to do in their homes? This physical and mental enrichment could help them become better companions! They would become mentally active (which can be much more tiring than physical exertion), learn manners and polite behavior in a fun way... Plus when people have fun with their dog, it creates a stronger bond between the two of them.
In 2008 we started What Dogs Want LLC, providing in-home enrichment for dogs and "homework" for their people. We worked with puppies, under-socialized dogs, fearful dogs, 'normal' dogs, etc. and they all benefited from this one-on-one exposure to new activities and opportunity to think and figure things out.
In 2010, we co-founded Edu-Care for Dogs, a dog "school" providing activities that helped dogs learn "life skills". Using fun activities, a lot of feedback, and gentle guidance, we helped fearful dogs overcome anxiety, hyper dogs learn self-control, impulsive dogs learn to think about their behavior, and incredibly smart dogs use their intelligence towards being creative. In 2017 we started our own Enrichment Center in Central Phoenix, expanding on the Edu-Care for dogs model to provide even more good things for dogs and their people!
Stefanie Strackbein, owner What Dogs Want!
Stefanie started working with animals when she was 7, always finding the stray dogs in the neighborhood and helping them find their way home again. In high school, she started volunteering at the "pound", providing enrichment to dogs and cats who were waiting to find a home. After earning a degree in Psychology from ASU she used her knowledge and interest in behavior to learn more about dogs and the way they think and interact with the world. She started working with dogs professionally in 1993, working for Maddie's Projects, an organization committed to increasing adoptions and reducing euthanasia in shelters. Since then, she has worked in/with the behavior departments of the Arizona Animal Welfare League, The Humane Society, and Maricopa County Animal Care & Control. Stefanie has also worked in humane education, teaching dog-bite prevention classes to kids ages 4-12 and she recently received a letter of recognition from the City of Phoenix, acknowledging her vocational skills class, teaching challenged students about dog care and training.
Stefanie continues her education in dog behavior and has completed coursework in dog daycare operations, group dynamics, aggressive behavior in dogs and enrichment for dogs. She holds certifications in temperament evaluations for the Core Behaviors Assessment and Emergency Animal Management through FEMA. She has helped develop several daycares, implementing procedure and protocols that benefit the dogs in their care. She co-founded The Canine Connection, a rescue organization dedicated to saving dogs that were scheduled to be euthanized at county shelters. In 2008, she started What Dogs Want! in hopes of starting a dog revolution-helping people appreciate their dogs' needs and wants in a fun and effective way. In 2010 She co-founded the program Edu-Care for Dogs, bringing mental and physical enrichment to dogs in a group setting.