About Jan Dawson & North Star Dog Training

Jan Dawson, North Star owner, trainer, walker

Jan believes in providing the best care and results to her clients. That’s why she’s committed to continuing professional education. Jan’s dog training and walking credentials include:

Animal Behaviour College Graduate

As a graduate of this comprehensive school for professional dog trainers, Jan is well-versed in learning theory (how dogs think and learn), the most up-to-date positive reinforcement training techniques, canine aggression, and safe, effective methods for behavioral modification.

Be A Tree program Doggone Safe Presenter

Specializing in working with fearful or newly adopted dogs, Jan is deeply invested in teaching dogs appropriate behavior around children, to help dogs and children enjoy each other’s company safely. As a Be A Tree presenter, Jan is also skilled in working with children to help them better understand dog behavior and to learn their side of safe interactions with dogs. She welcomes children to attend training sessions whenever the opportunity arises.

dogbiz U Dog Walking Academy Certified Dog Walker

Jan is a graduate of the first and most widely respected school for dog walkers. This intensive program covers canine learning theory, body language, walk management, leash handling skills, safety and emergency protocols, and ethical business practices.

Canine First Aid & CPR Certified

As part of her Dog Walking Academy experience Jan completed a certificate in canine first aid and CPR.

Co-founder & Humane Educator, Mary Ellen Humane Education Society

Jan co-founded and taught in the Mary Ellen Humane Education Society, a registered charitable organization which worked with traumatized youth and young adults to build valuable life and occupational skills working with neglected dogs.

Relationship-based Training

Relationship-based training is a lifestyle — a constant dialog with your pets, rather than a one-way issuing of commands that only occurs in structured training sessions It is important to understand that every interaction is a learning experience, so every time you interact with your pets you are training them, whether or not you intend to. So instead of waiting for the occasional chance to work on modifying the animal’s behavior, it’s better to be aware of every opportunity to arrange your pet’s environment to reinforce the behaviors you want.

By reinforcing behaviors you like and want to continue seeing, you set the animal up for success. Regardless of an animal’s age and past experiences, such ethical training methods give the animal the best chance for living happily and comfortably in our hectic human world.

Our training approach

The field of dog training has advanced significantly over the last two decades, turning the way we trained dogs in our youth on its head. We now know from extensive research that we can attain all the same training results without the use of the force, fear, or the punishment techniques that we grew up relying on.

Given the compelling research about the side effects of attaining training results this way (including increased fear and aggression in many dogs), the professional training industry has steadily moved toward force-free, positive reinforcement-based training protocols. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) all advocate the use of force-free, positive training.

We use only positive training at North Star. Our goals are:

1. To provide you with effective dog training results that last, without potential behavioral side effects.

2. To make sure that you and your dog fully enjoy the training process, whether we guide you in the training of your dog, or do the training for you.

My Training Philosophy

The North Star– aka Polaris – is famous for holding nearly still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. The North star is a symbol of stability, leadership and guardianship. Indeed, the Skidi people considered the North Star to be the Great Chief in the sky, and they looked to own leaders to be like the celestial prototype and to guide them in smooth, consistent and repetitive paths.

In our work with training dogs, we are at our best when we can be a  steadfast presence in our dog’s  life..guiding them in a ‘smooth, consistent and repetitive’ way…we want to be the calm center for our dogs as they navigate their way through the complex world of human expectations!

While this is true in working with all dogs, it is particularly important in training fearful or newly adopted dogs. Above all they need our patience. It is perhaps helpful to turn the expression “Godspeed’ around to read ”Dogspeed”. We need to respect the pace at which our dogs are able to learn.

Jan’s pet portraiture

Jan expresses her love of dogs through humane training, but also by capturing their individual essence and personality through painting. A painter since childhood, it’s been a love of portraiture—particularly animal portraits—that’s always been her mainstay. Agreeing with Nora Ephron that “An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language,” Jan delights in the moment she finds her subject’s eyes.

Jan is available for commissioned paintings of your beloved four-legged family members. Call or email to inquire.


This is VIP, one of Jan’s all-time favorite subjects. VIP was a dog with an outsized heart and a deep bond with his human. Among the many things they shared in common was the use of wheel chairs, and VIP maneuvered his like a pro.

Jan's dogs

Jaxi is what dog trainers often call a “project dog.” (That’s euphemistic code for a dog with behaviors issues!) Jaxi suffers from severe fear. He’s also testament to what positive training can achieve. Though still an anxious dog, he’s come a long, long way from the early days when even the sound of snow crunching beneath feet would set him trembling. These days, this handsome Shepherd cross enjoys the company of dog friends (especially the females who flirt with him), loves walks, and thinks squeaky toys are a blast. He’s also content to relax with a good bone or spend time on his own with his Snuffle Ball or Snuffle Mat. And of course there’s also great fun to be had with his younger “brother” Joey.

A typical Labradoodle, Joey is a confident, playful fellow full of love for life, the world, and everyone in it. He’s particularly joyful about playing in the water and exploring the forest, and happy to settle down afterward with a good food puzzle. He’s an excellent learner, and a good teacher, too—he’s joined Jan in training big “brother” Jaxi that strangers are actually pretty cool.