Victoria Stilwell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Victoria Stilwell
Victoria Stilwell Headshot.gif
Born (1969-07-20) 20 July 1969 (age 48)
Wimbledon, London, England, UK
Residence Atlanta, Georgia
Notting Hill, London
Nationality British
Occupation Dog trainer, Television presenter, Author, Actress
Years active 1995–present
Employer Animal Planet, Channel 4, CBS
Known for It's Me or the Dog
Greatest American Dog
Height 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Spouse(s) Van Zeiler
Children 1
Website Official Website

Victoria Stilwell (born 20 July 1969 in Wimbledon, London) is an English dog trainer, author and television presenter. Stilwell served as a judge on the CBS show Greatest American Dog and presents the Animal Planet dog training TV show It's Me or the Dog, counselling families with problem pets and solving their dogs' behaviour problems.


Stilwell originally trained as an actress, playing roles in Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1992, ITV1's The Bill in 1994, and onstage in London's West End theatre, as well as several commercials and voiceovers. She received a BA honours degree in Theatre from Middlesex University.[1] In order to supplement her income as an actress, Stilwell's veterinary nurse sister suggested that she start a dog walking agency. Within a month she was walking 20 dogs per day – 10 in the morning, 10 in the afternoon – and immediately recognised the need for qualified professionals to help her clients with the training process. She then expanded her focus to dog training and after moving to the United States with her husband in 1999, Stilwell co-founded several dog training companies up and down the East Coast.

Dog trainer[edit]

Stilwell has become an advocate of science-based dog training. Stilwell rejects dominance-based, traditional training techniques, instead, promoting positive reinforcement techniques.

In 2010, Stilwell created Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training – a global network of positive reinforcement dog trainers dedicated to spreading the word about positive reinforcement techniques and behaviourists.

Stilwell is currently certified by the Animal Behaviour and Training Associates, and is a longtime member of the US Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT).[2]


Stilwell created the Victoria Stilwell Foundation, whose mission is "to provide financial support and canine behaviour expertise to assistance dog organisations and small animal rescue shelters while promoting the concept of reward-based, positive reinforcement dog training philosophies in organisations and households throughout the United States."[3]

With a particular fondness for rescue animals in need of behavior rehabilitation, Stilwell devotes much of her time and energy to a number of animal rescue organizations around the world, serving as a behavior adviser for shelters in Atlanta, New York, the UK and Hong Kong while giving regular seminars on the subject of dog rescue, training and rehabilitation. She has been involved in animal welfare and protection organizations on a national (U.S.) stage, including serving as an Advisory Board Member of RedRover[4] and a National Ambassador for American Humane.[5] She worked as a volunteer adoption counselor for the ASPCA[citation needed].

She has been featured in numerous magazines and journals including The New York Times,[6] USA Today,[7] Cosmopolitan, the Daily Mail,,[8] Psychology Today and The Sun[9]. Stilwell is a regular columnist for The Bark, Dog World, American Dog and Dogs Today magazines, and she has appeared on numerous talk shows, news broadcasts and radio shows in the US, Europe and Asia as a dog training expert.

TV programmes[edit]

It's Me or the Dog[edit]

Since 2005, Stilwell has worked with unruly dogs on her TV show, It's Me or the Dog, which airs in over forty countries. The show features Stilwell as she counsels families with problem pets and uses positive reinforcement training techniques to help them learn how to correct their dogs' behaviour. Originally produced for Channel 4 in the UK, the show premiered in the US on Animal Planet in April 2007, and over 90 episodes have been aired worldwide. A typical episode involves a family struggling to cope with their misbehaving dog(s). Stilwell initially observes the problems in situ, then presents the family with her opinion regarding the causes of the issues. She then works with the family and their dogs to restore balance.

Greatest American Dog[edit]

Stilwell was one of three judges on the CBS show Greatest American Dog, in which 12 dog-owner teams compete for the title 'Greatest American Dog' and a $250,000 prize. The series debuted on CBS 10 July 2008.


Stilwell created a podcast called Victoria Stilwell Positively,[10] available on iTunes and other sources.


Stilwell was honoured with the prestigious "Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contributions to the Pet Industry Award" at the 2011 Global Pet Expo[11] and was named 'Dog Trainer of the Year' by DogWorld Magazine at the 55th Annual Purina Pro Plan Show Dogs of the Year Awards Presented By Dogs in Review.[12] She was named among 2009's '100 Best & Brightest' in the dog world in The Bark magazine.[13] Stilwell won a 2009 CableFax award as Best Host in the Animals & Nature category. In 2009, It's Me or the Dog was nominated for a People's Choice Award in the US, and after its first season in the UK, It's Me or the Dog was nominated in the 'Best Factual Entertainment' category in the UK's TV Quick Awards. Her first book, It's Me or the Dog: How to Have the Perfect Pet was voted one of the 50 greatest dog books ever written by Dogs Today magazine.


She advocates animal rescue and supports Paws Atlanta, "Atlanta Pet Rescue", Stray from the Heart (NYC), Hong Kong Dog Rescue and Greyhound Rescue West of England (, Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project, the Waterside Action Group, Deed Not Breed (campaigning to re-write the UK's Dangerous Dogs Act to remove breed-specific legislation) as well as Vets Get Scanning, promoting mandatory pet micro-chipping and scanning by vets.

Stilwell is a critic of fox hunting and was among more than 20 high-profile people who signed a letter to Members of Parliament in 2015 to oppose Conservative prime minister David Cameron's plan to amend the Hunting Act 2004.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Stilwell met her actor husband, Van Zeiler, while starring opposite him in the West End production of Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story. The couple and their daughter live in Atlanta, Georgia.[15]

After many years without a pet dog of her own (due to work commitments), Stilwell adopted a rescued chocolate Labrador named Sadie. In early 2011, Stilwell fostered a Chihuahua/Miniature Pinscher mix named Jasmine and decided to adopt her in late February/early March 2011. Prior to that, she had spent her time since 2000 fostering dogs due to be euthanised by local municipal shelters. Stilwell and her husband then gave the dogs a home while rehabilitating them and eventually finding suitable homes for the animals. She has explained that, until recently, owning a dog would have been irresponsible and not fair to the dog, considering how much the whole family travels. The couple has re-homed over 50 dogs and cats.[16]


  • Train Your Dog Positively: Understand Your Dog and Solve Common Behaviour Problems Including Separation Anxiety, Excessive Barking, Aggression, Housetraining, Leash Pulling, and More! (2013)[17]
  • Fat Dog Slim: How to Have a Healthy, Happy Pet (2007)
  • It's Me or the Dog: How to Have the Perfect Pet (2005)


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Association of Professional Dog Trainers - Victoria Stilwell". Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Victoria Stilwell Foundation Website
  4. ^ "Victoria Joins RedRover". Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "Animal Planet’s ‘It's Me or the Dog’ Star Victoria Stilwell Is Named an American Humane Association National Ambassador". Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Who Invited the Dog – Fashion and Style – New York Times
  7. ^ Chaining Dogs Unleashes Bad Behavior – Lifestyle – USA Today
  8. ^ Who Let the Dogs Pig Out? – Health –
  9. ^ Jail Owners of Killer Dogs – News – The Sun(UK)
  10. ^ "Victoria Stilwell Positively". Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  11. ^ Victoria Stilwell honoured at Global Pet Expo – PR Web
  12. ^ Victoria Stilwell named 2009 Dog Trainer of the Year – PR Newswire
  13. ^ Bark's 100: the Best and Brightest – The Bark
  14. ^ "SNP to vote against Tories on fox hunting ban in England and Wales". STV. 13 July 2015. Archived from the original on 15 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  15. ^ Victoria misses England – Film and tv – Entertainment – Manchester Evening News
  16. ^ It's Me or The Dog – The Victoria Stilwell Interview for K9 Magazine
  17. ^

External links[edit]