Andrew M. Nelson, BSc
I was five years old when my first dog, a Collie mix named Thunder, came into my life. Although my parents were less than thrilled with his barking at the neighbors and digging up the front lawn, I was fascinated by his puppy antics. Thunder lived sixteen years. And I spent those sixteen years working to understand him and the things he did, not necessarily working to make him understand me. Don’t get me wrong, I did teach him things, lots of things, but turning him into something he wasn’t was never my focus. This emphasis on understanding the natural behavior of the dog has shaped the way I train my own dogs and clients’ dogs.
My fascination with domestic canines quickly grew into a fascination for the entire natural world. During my undergraduate career at West Virginia University, I became increasingly interested in the intricate details and underlying mechanisms of natural, biological, phenomena. The biology and mathematics programs were well suited for supplying me with the tools necessary to investigate questions fueled by my observations of biological systems, specifically domestic canine populations. I am currently interested in using molecular biology and computational biology tools to explore connections between canine genetics, behavior, and health.
Although I am passionate about my academic endeavors, I get the most joy out of interacting with dogs in the “real world.” I have been lucky to have experience working, training, and playing with shelter/rescue, pet, show, and performance dogs of many different breeds and mixes. In addition to meeting and learning from many wonderful dogs, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and learn from many wonderful people—professional dog behaviorists and trainers, hobby trainers, dog sport competitors, conformation handlers, breeders, rescue workers, and veterinarians.
I have a particular fondness for herding breeds; the same skills that once made them invaluable farm dogs make them great performance dogs and companions for those with very active lifestyles in the modern world. My girlfriend and I share our lives with two such dogs—a three-year-old German Shepherd Dog and a four-year-old Rough Collie. These dogs are our hiking and jogging partners, as well as our house dogs. We also play in competitive obedience, agility, tracking, herding, and conformation showing with our multi-talented dogs.
I am a member of the Collie Club of Western Pennsylvania and an officer of the Collie Club of Western Pennsylvania Collie Rescue Organization. I also volunteer weekly at the Mon County Canine Adoption Center where I help exercise, groom, and train dogs that have either been surrendered by their former owners or picked up as strays. These endearing “pound pups” have taught me a lot about the importance of benevolence and empathy when training all dogs.
I guess one could describe me as a computational biologist, a naturalist, a motivational dog trainer, a dog rescue worker and volunteer, and an animal advocate, but, most importantly, I am a dog lover. I am a dog lover that enjoys connecting, communicating, and bonding with dogs in a way that brings out the best in them and their owners.