Stacey Modica

Mariner Watersports Judge

Stacey Modica has always loved and trained animals.  Her first childhood dog was a German Shepherd-Collie mix named Bear.  Stacey remembers intuitively  using positive reinforcement and her dog’s desire to please to motivate and train Bear. She had a great life with Bear.

As an adult, she let go of her childhood ways and she strayed from the path of positive training.  She was under the mistaken notion that she was learning from those who knew better than she did and she stopped training for a cooperative relationship and began training for obedience.  Many of her dogs thereafter were trained using “traditional” methods.  It wasn’t until she and her husband added their second dog, a German Shepherd Dog named Sasha, that Stacey realized her compulsion based training methods were negatively impacting her relationship with Sasha and increasing Sasha’s display of fear-based aggression.  Stacey bravely sought help from a professional trainer who showed her how to use a clicker and convinced her to return to her natural ability to connect and support her dogs with positive reinforcement based training methods.  Beginning again with Sasha and a clicker opened up a whole new world for Stacey.  She developed a more loving and close relationship with Sasha, an achievement that also benefited her next dog. 

By the time, Codi, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, came into her life Stacey discovered
how much fun exhibiting in  dog sports brought her .  With Codi, her first competition dog, she found a channel for her love of dogs, training, and socialization with others who shared her passions.  Today, Stacey trains and competes in Rally, Obedience, Agility, Carting, Canine Watersports.  Future plans include herding and tracking. 

In 2004, Stacey became the owner and manager of a dog grooming business, Pride N Groom, in New Jersey.  While this new business presents different challenges from her pervious corporate job, she has a greater degree of satisfaction at the end of the day.  She feels her approach to training works as well for grooming and she often finds that those canine clients who come to her as puppies are more comfortable and happy about being groomed, than adult dogs who come in with a different history with other   



“By using positive reinforcement methods I can develop my dog’s desire and drive to perform based on our relationship, rather than using force and punishment.  I find that teaching my dogs to THINK by shaping behaviors and capturing them as they happen, my dogs have more drive and desire to please and it challenges me to be more and more creative in my training.  This not only raises the bar for me, but it also keeps those training session fun for both myself and my dogs and it strengthens our emotional bond.  This is very important to me because I feel that if its not fun for either of us, its not worth doing.

Being able to interact daily with many different breeds on a daily basis as well as owning more than one type of breed has greatly improved my training as well as my understanding of dogs in general.  Living with and primarily training a herding breed is a lot different from training a working or a toy breed.  I’ve learned that while all dogs benefit from a positive approach, different breeds think and respond at a different rate and are motivated by different rewards.  I utilize many different tools in my  trainer’s toolbox besides using food or toys and praise as reinforcement.  The Premack Principle, shaping behaviors, daily exercise are just a few that have helped us earn titles in Rally, Agility and Canine Water Sports.

I found that training for water tasks has been different than other sports.  A strong obedience foundation is needed in every venue, but the drive and adrenaline that helps us build distance in agility didn’t apply during watersports that required distance.
  You can’t be successful in the water without a firm foundation of trained behaviors and putting these behaviors in the water helped me build a more creative approach to training.  But what I love the most about watersports is the deeper connection that has developed between my dogs and I.  The level of trust and communication that passes between us swimming together at eye level in the water is amazing.  Already being the center of all my dog’s world, water training has deepened our relationship and emotional connection to a whole new level.”  Stacey groomers.

Stacey Modica lives in Califon, New Jersey with her husband Keith and four dogs, German Shepherd, Sasha (b.1999),  Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Codi, (b. 2002), Australian Shepherd, Gwen, (b. 2004) and Australian Shepherd, Zach, (b. 2006).

Stacey was appointed a CWS Judge in 2008.

  Canine Water Sports
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