We Talk to Trainer Annie Phenix About Her New Book, ‘The Midnight Dog Walkers’


Annie Phenix has always loved animals, but it wasn’t until her senior year of college that she finally got one of her own — a Rottweiler named Wylie. Between a full course load and working three jobs, Annie admits that Wylie didn’t get the training he needed (or deserved). She used a prong collar on him, even though she hated it, because Annie didn’t know of any other options back then, and he was a little wild, to say the least.

After attending a Schutzhund-based dog training academy and learning how to “properly” shock a dog using a shock collar, she never used that tool again, and became a “better trained and better educated trainer.”

Annie using positive reinforcement strategies to work with a client. Photo Credit: Tica Clarke Photography
Annie using positive reinforcement strategies to work with a client. (Photo by Tica Clarke Photography)

Fast forward some number of years and Annie is now a certified, positive reinforcement dog trainer who runs her own dog training business, Phenix Dogs, in southwestern Colorado. When asked about her training style, Annie says, “I am a loud advocate of training without force, fear, pain, or intimidation. There is NO PLACE for that when training a person or an animal. Science backs up my opinion, over and over again. Besides, unless there is a pathological problem in the dog, I can literally get any behavior I want or need from a dog and do so without causing pain or fear.”

Besides being a nationally recognized behavior expert, an AKC Evaluator, and a nose work competitor, Annie is a resident dog trainer and writer here at Dogster. She was an English major in college, and while she did end up becoming a journalist and publicist, her “heart and soul wanted to help dogs and people who loved them.”

Annie has also had a lifelong dream to become an author, so it was only a matter of time before she wrote a book that would help dogs and their people. In the spring of 2016, that dream came true. The Midnight Dog Walkers: Positive Training and Practical Advice for Living With Reactive and Aggressive Dogs from Dogster parent company Lumina Media, is for “frustrated, worried, or embarrassed dog owners who share their lives with troubled dogs.”

midnight dog walkers

She was inspired to write this book because “I wanted to give them in plain English an easy-to-use guide of how to get started TODAY helping their own dog BY THEMSELVES. I do strongly advocate in the book working alongside a competent, certified behavior expert, but in many cases, there are no trainers with those qualifications where the dog owner lives.”

Often told that these dogs need a heavier hand, or need to be shown who is boss, Annie gives real examples and practical advice on how to help these dogs using positive reinforcement.

“Aggressive human behavior (such as hitting, choking, rolling the dog on its back, biting the dogs’ ears, spraying the dog with water, or using painful collars, etc.) ruins the human-canine bond and only creates a fearful, distrusting dog. It does not help the dog learn a more peaceful way to exist in the human-run world. What does help most dogs is teaching calming behavior through counterconditioning, and de-sensitizing and changing the dog’s internal reaction to its triggers. We need to show a dog he can be calm in the presence of what concerns him instead of punishing the dog for telling us with his actions that he is concerned,” says Phenix.

Annie working with a dog on an agility course. Photo Credit: Tica Clarke Photography
Annie working with a dog on an agility course. (Photo by Tica Clarke Photography)

Because Annie’s main goal is to support the pet parents who really want help, she has also created a Facebook group for readers to share their stories, ask questions, and support one another. Annie wants her book to help people understand that a “shut-down dog is not a well-trained dog – she is a terrified animal afraid of making the wrong move because of harm caused to her by a human” and she also wants to help “readers to gain back confidence that they can help their dog –even the troubled dogs”.

All of us at Dogster are so proud of Annie and her book, and we highly recommend that any pet parent with a dog who has reactivity or aggression issues pick up a copy. The Midnight Dog Walkers: Positive Training and Practical Advice for Living With Reactive and Aggressive Dogs is available on Amazon. Also be sure to follow Annie on her Facebook page, where she’s currently holding a contest for a free signed copy of her book.

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