I have begun blogging for Dog Latin Dog Training’s website about my KPA experience. My Wednesday blogs here on PLF will be a sort of re-blog from those posts. For some posts it means I’ll touch on things you all probably already know, but for the most part it will probably be new content. Today I am taking a look back on the road to KPA. You’ve heard some of this before, but here it is again, all in one place. Thanks for sticking with me through this journey!
I guess I’ll rewind for this entry, and talk about how and why I ended up in the Karen Pryor Academy. Both of those – the how and the why – have a bit to do with a wonderful woman named Beth Mullen, the mastermind behind Dog Latin Dog Training.
Beth and I worked together at the shelter for about two years – she with the animals, me in the development department. As I started fostering shelter dogs, our paths began to cross more often. I needed help here and there on behavior issues, and Beth was always so gracious with giving advice. I subsequently started to really see the positive work she was doing with our shelter dogs, all through creative clicker training – never using force or fear that folks sometimes think you need to turn to in a large kennel setting like a shelter.
While Beth certainly had a positive influence on my journey into force-free training, many other factors went into me choosing it as a new career path. When my interest in training picked up, I began attending workshops at Your Dog’s Friend (they are an insanely good resource for learning to live harmoniously with your dog!). It was a seminar about managing your dog’s behavior where I had a “light bulb moment” about management and reinforcing desired behaviors. From there, I went to an internship at Animal Farm Foundation (AFF) and had my first real “hands on” experience with reward-based training, shaping, behavior modification, etc. (I was in between fosters at this point so real life subjects to “practice” on were tough to find – AFF really opened my eyes to the possibilities). I saw first-hand how much you could achieve with this training and officially became hooked.
(This is one of those instances where you guys already know what I’m talking about – bear with me!) Johnnie Cash was the four-legged furball that sealed the deal for me – the dog trainer deal, that is. That foster pup taught me SO much about communicating with dogs. Johnnie had a lot of energy (she sat in the shelter for five months with no interest), and I promise you that if I hadn’t taught her in a way that her good behavior was a product of her own decisions, she would not have become such a great, well-mannered dog… and I would not have become such a believer in clicker training!
Fast forward a few months, and Beth has officially taken me under her wing. I am soaking up every bit of knowledge I can from her – and it is a lot! I learn something new every time I watch her work. She really inspires me to work at becoming the best dog trainer I can be. We both believe strongly in continuing education and not becoming stagnant in what you know. Beth has also taught me enormous amounts about mutual respect when it comes to working with animals, and that’s exactly what clicker training is all about.
KPA will be a difficult course for me, but it will likely be one of my greatest achievements – not only as a trainer, but as a person. I am just trying to come out the other side as a better trainer with the ability to help dogs and their owners live happier lives together. I am so lucky to get this opportunity!
Stay tuned to next week when I talk about how Paco and I are doing together and how we prepared for our first testing weekend.