I'm so excited to announce that I passed all my assessments and graduated from the Karen Pryor Academy and now am a KPA CTP (Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner). In this post I want to talk about the process of becoming certified and what I had to do to accomplish this goal. In another post I will talk about why you must look for a certified dog trainer should you ever need professional help with your dog.
There are many ways a person can become certified. The two main routes are a dog training school or credit hours paired with an exam. Both have pros and cons that I wont dive into here.
In 2014 I decided that I would complete 200 credit hours, give three letters recommendations and take a test through the Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers. I floundered with hours because assisting in training classes only counted for 75 hours, it didn't matter how many hours I assisted, I was capped at 75. I wasn't comfortable with being a dog trainer and promoting myself as a dog trainer to acquire the hours needed to be a certified dog trainer through the CCPDT. It seemed backwards to me. After a while of being stagnant I knew this avenue wasn't for me.
Two years into driving the struggle bus I decided to take the expensive plunge and sign up for the KPA. The 6 month program could have me done and certified pretty quick! I liked the structure and outline of the curriculum. My only hesitation was having to be a 'clicker trainer'. I put in an application, had an interview, provided two references and I was accepted! The school requires the student have a dog to train and complete the program with and one other species (non-dog) to train. I chose Tesla over Norma because Tesla is a spring chicken with energy and enthusiasm for days; she was so much fun to train and she obviously enjoys it, too. For my second species I chose a horse because my mom and I are not short on horses and that is the only other species I had regular access to. Most people choose cats or fish.
Another species?! What does that have to do with dog Training? I heard those questions a lot. Training another species is a great way to sharpen observation skills and prove that not only are all animals capable of learning, but they are all trainable through positive reinforcement clicker training. We can teach them to do things we didn't think was possible. The most rewarding part of the training was teaching Sky to put her ears forward! Look at how purposeful she is.
I began my KPA journey in May with a local-ish instructor. I progressed through online chapters, trained the corresponding behaviors and then met together with my fellow students and my instructor for a weekend type workshop where I practiced skills and demonstrated what I had taught Tesla. I was with that group a short time as something came up and I had to defer to another group and start over again, which was a little discouraging and it put my graduation date months behind schedule. I could choose another similar-style group in Washington, and graduate even later, or I could join the 'national' group which was all online with a week long workshop in California, and I chose California. Everything went smoothly for me working online and submitting training videos to my instructor. The hard part was driving to California in January! I had to leave three days sooner than I anticipated to beat a snow storm.
At the workshop I learned a lot about the intricacies of dog behavior and how to help dog owner's with behavior issues. I was also able to sharpen my observation and clicker skills by training the other student's dogs and shelter dogs!
It wasn't easy. Like all learning experiences there were a lot of ups and downs, not just for me but for Tesla as well. Although deferring to another group set back my graduation time it really gave me the time to solidify training concepts such as shaping, which was a point of frustration for Tesla and I at first. I also learned how to be as clear as humanly possible when giving cues and how a lot of confusion can be cleared up by looking at your own behavior as the trainer. I'm thankful for the journey and the outcome and I am excited to see where my first year as a certified dog trainer takes me!
There's one big thing checked off my 2017 goals list! Here's to a wonderful year.