Joel Silverman is a world-renowned animal trainer with over 30 years in the animal business.

Joel Silverman is a world-renowned animal trainer with over 30 years in the animal business. He turned a childhood dream into a lifelong career of training and performing with the animals he loves so much. From his early days in the 70s and 80s, Joel found himself working in nearly every theme park in Southern California.

Whether he was training killer whales at Sea World, dolphins at Knott's Berry Farm and Magic Mountain, or birds, dogs, and cats at Universal Studios, Joel adapted the techniques he developed to launch a successful career in training animals to star in live shows, Hollywood films, television programs and commercials.

He is currently touring the country with his new book, What Color is Your Dog. We had the opportunity to ask Joel about his book, how families can train their dogs, and which dog is the right dog for your family.

Q: What are the steps that a family must take to not only pick the right pet, but also prepare for a pet?
Realize that with this decision comes a 15-year commitment to love and care for this pet. Really ask yourself if your family is ready. If you have two children in diapers and both parents are working, now may not be the time for a new addition. Wait a few years. The chemistry between the family and the pet is very important. Spend some time interacting with the animal and determine if it is going to fit in with your family.
Q: Is there a dog breed that is best for a family pet?
I think a good family pet is a mutt, I really do.


Q: What can parents do to engage children in training the pet?
The first step to training any animal is trust. Before you can train an animal you must develop a relationship with it built on trust. Once an animal trusts you, then it will be eager to please you and much easier to train. The children also must form a bond with the new animal. When the bond is in place, they can assist in training the dog. Children are great watchers and will learn some training techniques by watching your training interactions with the pet.

Q: What are some of the benefits of kids having pets?
It is absolutely essential for a child to grow up with a pet. It gives children the opportunity to care for something. All the responsibility of feeding, walking and loving a pet translates into children being caring with other children. It also teaches them to treat the animal how they want to be treated. Put the kids in the place of the animal. Ask them how they feel when they are loved; how they feel when they are pushed at school. Your dog feels all these things too. This becomes a very real way of teaching children the golden rule.

Q: What do you say to parents who don't want a pet because of the mess and responsibility?
Parents who are not interested in a pet need to put the child ahead of themselves. There is so much a child can gain from the experience of having a pet. Yes it will be time-consuming and yes it may be messy. But what kind of impact will missing out on this experience have on your child?


Alexis Perrone Dicken is the marketing coordinator for Columbus Parent Magazine . Read her blog, Newly Wed .