Welcome to Good Dogma!

mauiandlisa Founded by Lisa Ellman and based in San Luis Obispo, California, Good Dogma Obedience Training has been providing human and canine education and behavior modification since 1996.
We are committed to providing resources and force free methods to help people build successful, rewarding relationships with their canine family members. 

     Good Dogma encourages consistent effective canine communication techniques, leading to increased response time. We encourage you to establish and facilitate rules and boundaries for your dog, without punishment, creating a stronger bond of trust and promoting the cessation of destructive, inappropriate behavior. 

     When people don’t make time to train and initiate leadership, dogs can become unruly and, at times, impossible to control. Unwilling or unable to address the situation, the dog is often relegated to the backyard, or surrendered them to the pound. 

     Good Dogma helps owners realize that when human behavior changes, canine behavior changes. Contact us and get started today!

Training the Human

We call ourselves dog trainers, but the real training starts with the human. The time that your dog spends with us, whether a private lesson or group instruction, is relatively insignificant. The time that YOU spend with us is a complete learning period. After a training session with Good Dogma, you will receive individualized homework instructions to implement, reinforcing your lesson with us.

Below is a list for you, the trainer, to think about each day that you live with and train your dog:

Always ensure that your dog’s physical/psychological needs are                        being met: Leadership, exercise, food, shelter, trust, connection.

  • Remain in the “Leadership” zone (calm and assertive) at all times – change the balance/dynamics of the relationship, let the dog know that you, the human, are in charge of the pack.
  • Your dog is always keeping tabs on your “energy” (stressed, calm, excited, nervous, etc.) and reacting to that energy. A calm dog needs a calm owner.
  • A Purebred dog is still a dog. See them as dogs, not as breeds – but do consider the special needs of the breed (eg border collies, Arctic breeds, beagles, etc.).
  • Training is “superficial”,  focus on the “big picture”. The goal is to have your dog respond to you as a leader utilizing your energy, vocalizations and body language Vs. the sound of a “command”.  Alpha dogs “train” their packs this way. It’s about energy and leadership.
  • It’s critically important to understand the way your dog thinks. We recommend books by Dr. Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson and Dr. Bruce Fogle. Pay attention to the dog’s body language to understand and anticipate behaviors so that you can preempt them before the fact. It’s always easier to stop a behavior before it happens than to manage it once it happens.
  • When you say, “We’ve tried everything”, think about this: did you use dog psychology or human psychology? Anger, frustration and punishment are not part of a dog’s psychology. The dog fails when the human fails.
  • Don’t make excuses for your dog’s behavior…train for new, more desirable behaviors.
  • Focus on your goal(s) for the dog, try not to get distracted by the dog’s behavior in the moment. Think long term and be patient with younger dogs.
  • Lack of structure, routine and schedule creates chaos for you, your family and the dog.

Good Dogma's Dogma

     Good Dogma offers sensible solutions to training and behavior issues. Our primary focus is owner education and guidance, offering instruction and tools that facilitate enhanced connection between you and your dog. Utilizing efficient canine communication accelerates your dog’s responses to you. It is essential to understand your dog’s brain and body language to communicate and shape behavior. Inflection of your voice, and your body language, often tells the dog more than words do. Observe behavior patterns and learn to differentiate a dog problem from an owner problem. It is essential to understand whether canine misbehavior arises from nature or nurture. When you learn to recognize the difference, and understand the how and why of your dog’s behavior, training becomes more effective, and even fun! Use everyday as a training opportunity.

     Good Dogma knows that all dogs are unique individuals, and we always take your dog’s temperament and personality into consideration when training.  Timid, shy or subordinate dogs require different approaches than do headstrong, dominant or stubborn types. We recognize that every human and dog learn at their own pace, in their own way, and we work to explore what works best for you and your dog.

    Good Dogma does not utilize or promote negative physical interactions between human and dog. We acknowledge that these interactions do not solve problems and, in fact, may ultimately create bigger ones. “Punishment”, especially at certain stages of canine development, has a good chance of producing trauma, leading to lifelong negative effects on the dog’s behavior.

     Good Dogma’s training philosophy emphasizes structure and consistent, positive, force free learning.  Using distract and redirect techniques, we maintain that teaching the dog what to do, what behavior is desired, and earning praise, contributes to faster conditioning of the desired behavior. 

     We provide private instruction, as well as workshops, seminars, agility and group classes that are relaxed, fun and limited in size so that we can provide every student with as much personalized attention as possible.  

Meet the Trainers!

Lisa Ellman

Founder/Lead Trainer


Certified AKC CGC, Trick  and Community evaluator

Member International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP)

     My first encounter with dog training was at the age of 11. I took first place in a group class with my Doberman, Sidney. I have no idea how, the other students must have slacked off!

Returning to school as an adult, I got a part time job at a busy veterinary practice; starting as a kennel worker, then as an assistant in the treatment room.

Relocating to Texas, working as a veterinary technician, I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a dog trainer. Yes!!

I jumped at the opportunity to learn about the dog’s mind and help people understand their canines. I devoured almost every book on dog training, behavior and dog psychology I could find. In 1996, after requests from several students, I launched Good Dogma Obedience Training

Back in San Luis Obispo, I attended Cal Poly, working for my BA degree. My senior thesis was canine development and communication. I subsequently received a teaching credential from Fresno State.

I’ve been a mentor trainer for Animal Behavior College, done volunteer work with Horseback Riding for the Handicapped, Partners in Equestrian Therapy, the Gibbon Research Center in Valencia, and was a founding member and trainer of the Heeling Touch dog training program at San Luis Obispo Juvenile Service Center. I was also lucky enough to lead Paws For Life, the first dog training program at the California Men’s Colony.

Currently, I write a monthly column on canine behavior/training for The Estero Bay News and volunteer at Novy’s Ark Dog Rescue and Adoption, helping adopters connect to and train their newly rescued canine family members.

     My home is in the charming town of Los Osos California. I live with my four-legged child, Abby.

Vicki Ramos

Vicki Ramos has lived on the Central Coast of California since 1989. She has been passionate about dogs her entire life (since the age of 2!) and has raised many wonderful pets over the years. After graduating in 2009 from the Animal Behavior College in Northridge as a certified trainer, she started co-training obedience classes at Good Dogma.


Vicki retired as a consultant in the community banking industry and now devotes her time to training people and their dogs. She spent 15 years supporting Woods Humane Society as a “master” volunteer, working with dogs to enhance their chance of adoption into good homes. Vicki also volunteered at community outreach events to help raise awareness about the shelter and their adoption program.


She also enjoys gardening and participating in agility classes with her dogs, Zoey and Sophie. Vicki lives in the quaint Village of Arroyo Grande, California with her two dogs and her life partner, Gary.

Good Dogma