TRAINING THE DOG TRAINER
(Part 1 = Courses available in Australia)
By Mary McVarish, Accredited Delta Canine Good Citizen Instructor
(This two part article first appeared in the bi-monthly newsletter of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Australia and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author)
Like many positive trainers, I am forever on the lookout for the latest thoughts and research on dog training and behaviour. For me, it all began when my dog Banjo (now 8 1/2) developed some early issues with other dogs despite everything I had done to try to “get it rig ht.” In the process of searching for answers, I became something of a course junkie. Initially overseas correspondence courses were all I could squeeze into my working life. A desire for a recognized Australian qualification eventually led me to the Delta Society. In the interests of others who may also be thinking about study, I decided to research study options for Australian dog trainers. This article is not comprehensive, but may be a starting point for those seeking further education.
Many APDT members will have heard at least something about the Delta Society’s Canine Good Citizen ™ Behavioural Dog Training Course. The Delta course is designed for the person who would like to become a professional pet dog trainer with a commitment to positive reinforcement training and it leads to a Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services. Subjects include theory and practice of dog training, professional practices, health and husbandry of dogs, class management, occupational health and safety, and conducting private consultations in training and behaviour. As Delta training is competency based, students must successfully complete all units and actually demonstrate the required practical skills. While studies are primarily through distance education, the course includes 2 five day residential sessions of intense practical training at Dookie College in North Eastern Victoria. To obtain additional practical training experience, students observe and assist at classes for puppies and for adult pet dogs, and then instruct 2 complete puppy and adult dog programs. A detailed diary is kept of all practical work and is submitted several times throughout the course for evaluation.
Delta does not specify prerequisites in terms of previous education, but reasonable reading and writing skills plus computer literacy are necessary. Students have resource to an on line discussion group moderated by their tutor. Many of the assignments require fairly short written answers to a series of questions, but much research is often necessary to arrive at the answers! Students are also required to submit several video assignments. Videos include parts of 2 actual classes (one puppy class and one adult pet dog manners class), which must demonstrate the trainee’s ability to instruct using the principles of reward based training and show good class management skills. Detailed lesson plans for the whole series of classes must be submitted along with the videos. Another video assignment demonstrates the student’s ability to train their own dog to perform a new complex behaviour using a bridge and target.
The tuition fee includes a large course manual and accommodation and meals at the intensives. Students must also budget for the cost of two trips to Victoria, a few required texts, and possibly the cost of buying or hiring a video camera.
For success in the Delta course, it is a huge advantage if you are already involved with an organization dedicated to positive pet dog training. If not, trying to forge a relationship with one or more such organizations as soon as you contemplate studying with Delta would be advisable. I recently achieved certification after completing the 2006-07 course while working full time at a demanding job in an unrelated field. I was fortunate in being able to observe and assist at classes based solely on positive reinforcement training for pet dogs, but I instructed and completed the video assignments at my dog training club where there was less control over factors such as class size, curriculum, and equipment of choice than there would be in private training or in an organization totally focused on pet dog training. With determination, it was definitely possible, but meeting Delta requirements under these circumstances turned out to be far more challenging than I had anticipated. Distance learning requires time, good organization, and self discipline and quite a few people discover along the way that it is not for them. Another consideration if contemplating the Delta course is the extent to which your own area is already served by positive trainers – finding trainers willing to allow observers and assistants in areas already saturated with trainers who may not be overjoyed at possible future competitors or in areas where there are few if any positive trainers to observe can also prove challenging.
After successfully completing the course, students may be offered Delta accreditation, with the benefit of a listing on the Delta web site. The Certificate IV course also includes training in conducting the Canine Good Citizen™ test. One considerable benefit of studying with Delta is that the organization provides ongoing resources and support to accredited trainers through the online list.
ANIMAL INDUSTRIES RESOURCE CENTRE
The Animal Industries Resource Centre (AIRC) in Queensland was originally established to train veterinary nurses. AIRC has recently begun offering part time, correspondence based courses leading to a Certificate IV in companion animal services aimed at other sections of the animal care industry including dog trainers. The aim is to gain strong and effective workplace skills through quality, industry specific training. Units of competency sound similar to other certificate IV courses above. For example, Core units include OHS, working effectively in the animal care industry, monitoring and maintaining health of companion animals, and managing compliance. Students also choose other subjects from a list which includes developing enrichment strategies for companion animals, providing training advice to companion animal owners, conducting companion animal training classes, identifying and responding to animal behaviour. A third list from which subjects must be chosen includes promoting the business, monitoring and managing business operations, and training small groups, all of which could be helpful for a dog training professional. Prerequisites for the Certificate IV course include completing at least year 10 or being a mature age student. For additional requirements, contact the AIRC. I have not had the opportunity to speak with any AIRC students but the Certificate IV course sounds well worth investigating, especially for Queensland trainers.
Animal Industries Resource Centre
Samford QLD 4520
Cengage Education (Formerly Thomson Education Direct) offers a Pet Obedience Trainer course. The course is conducted by correspondence and no previous experience is needed for enrolment. Content includes Introduction to the dog training profession, sensory abilities of the dog, how dogs learn, social behaviour and communication, conditioning, house training and crate training, testing and selection of dogs and dog breeders. A textbook, 2 videos, and a clicker are included in the course fee. Many of the assignments consist of multiple choice questions. This course is much less costly than most other options and it would not take as much time to complete as the certificate III and IV courses. The Cengage Pet Obedience Trainer course could be a good choice for a student who is already involved with a positive training group providing ample opportunity for practical hands –on experience. A course advisor with whom I corresponded wrote that the course gives a basic understanding of dog training said she was not sure whether the course would be of much benefit to someone already very knowledgeable about dog training. I have spoken to a few people who have had direct experience with this course and heard very positive feedback. Students have found the course useful and Cengage to be very efficient, returning completed assignments promptly. Although students are allowed 18 months to complete the course, one person I spoke to had finished in 5 months. A personal reservation I would have is that I believe the course manuals contain some material on dominance and drives which is not compatible with the most up to date research on dog behaviour.
Ph: 1300 853 033
I would like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who helped me with information for this article including Jackie Webb, Oliver Beverly from C.L.E.A.R. Dog Training, Grant Daley, Jenny Daniel and Tim Boyce from People Pet Partnership, Carole Bryant, Yvonne Hasler.
TRAIN the DOG TRAINERPart 2 = A LOOK at OVERSEAS COURSES)
By Mary McVarish
While many courses for dog trainers are available right here in Australia, a tantalizing array of overseas institutions also welcome Australian applicants. Many of these overseas courses are taught by the world’s most renowned authorities on positive motivational training. While some courses may be out of reach for most due to distance, cost, or length of commitment required, other courses, including the telecourses, can be accessed right from home for a very reasonable price. Again this is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is my hope that this article may whet the appetite of Association of Pet Dog Trainers Australia’s members wishing to continue their education.
ANIMAL BEHAVIOR ASSOCIATES – TELECOURSES
Dr Suzanne Hetts (author of Pet Behavior Protocols), Dr Dan Estep, and others from Animal Behaviour Associates in Colorado are making great use of the opportunities of modern technology by running courses for both “pet parents” and animal professionals via telecourses and webcasts. Telecourses are actually conference calls. While participation with the use of a low cost calling card or Skype may be a possibility for Australians with broadband, making use of the webcast format would probably be more practical. On the Animal Behaviour Associates website, a recorded FAQ webcast is available to learn more about the way the telecourses are set up and to “test drive” the technology. I discovered that it worked very well on my wireless broadband.
The website also includes a list of courses on offer, some of which would probably be very interesting to many APDT members. When students enrol in a course they receive confirmation by email, and later a reminder email with course notes 3 or 4 days prior to the actual course. Students may ask questions during the webcast by typing their queries into a question box on the webcast page. Courses are recorded and may be replayed as often as desired up until 3 or 4 days after the course ends, to increase understanding and retention.
Animal Behaviour Associates also sell audio CDs of many of their courses.
For information about telecourses and products, it is possible to subscribe to a monthly e-zine through the website. Another offering worth investigating is a new website BehaviorEducationNetwork.com, which will provide information and resources including distance learning opportunities on companion animal behaviour for pet professionals. There is also a new website targeted at “dog parents” HelpingFido.com.
THE San Francisco SPCA ACADEMY for DOG TRAINERS
Among the most respected US training centres is the San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers, founded by Jean Donaldson. Four times per year the academy runs a full time, intense, 6 week course in dog training and behaviour counselling. The philosophy is strongly aversive-free; positive reinforcement, negative punishment (reward removal) and other non aversive techniques are promoted.
The academy has three full time instructors (Jean Donaldson, Janis Bradley, and John Buginas) and one part time instructor for only 10 students each session. Lectures, classes and one-on-one coaching are provided. Students have access to SF/SPCA shelter resources including shelter dogs. Each student is assigned an untrained shelter dog every two weeks to train in basic obedience and “their” dog accompanies them to training classes taught by their peers. They are also assigned a shelter dog with a behaviour problem and must design a training plan to address the problem. As well as courses on dog training and behaviour, the certificate includes courses on interview skills and people training, career planning, and issues in dog training. Prerequisites include fluent English, the physical ability leash handle all sizes of dog including untrained dogs, sufficient dog handling experience (most students are not long-time professionals), and having read 3 specified books on positive training.
A Yahoo group provides communication throughout the course and afterwards.
The information on the academy’s web site is excellent, providing course descriptions, a sample course schedule, a suggested reading list, frequently asked questions, faculty biographies, etc, and even a quiz to determine whether pet dog training is the career for you.
The SF/SPCA Academy also runs short courses and seminars during the year which sound fantastic for any APDT members who may be spending a few days in San Francisco on a trip overseas.
The San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers
2500 16th Street.
PEACEABLE PAWS DOG & PUPPY TRAINING
Peaceable Paws is Pat Miller’s training school in Hagerstown, Maryland, USA. Pat Miller should need no introduction to APDT members, as she is one of our recent conference speakers and author of several books including “Positive Perspectives – Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog.” As well as offering training classes, camps, and private training for people and their dogs, Peaceable Paws has an Intern Academy program for dog training professionals and hobbyists which is definitely worth considering for APDT Australia members visiting the USA. Each course takes place over 6 days (45 hours), and includes hands-on positive training, lectures and discussions on the principles of learning and behaviour, and assessment by written and practical tests. There is a Peaceable Paws Yahoo Group list which is open to anyone interested in positive training and also a list which is only open to academy grads and those registered to attend.
Level 1 Intern - Canine behaviour and training. Maximum 8 students.
Level 2 Intern - Behaviour modification. Maximum 6 students
Level 2 Intern - Instructors Course. Maximum 6 students.
The prerequisite for the level 2 courses is successful completion of level one, or equivalent. The level 2 courses may be taken in any order. Courses fill quickly, so if you are interested, it would be best to be thinking about 2009. The academy has had students from Canada, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates, but not as yet from Australia.
Students who successfully complete the Intern courses can be listed on the Peaceable Paws web site, along with other positive trainers who meet the criteria for inclusion.
Legacy is Terry Ryan’s training centre in Sequim, Washington, USA. Terry Ryan is one of the pioneers of positive training – Legacy was founded in 1975. Legacy’s instructors utilise operant conditioning, classical conditioning, and relationship education. All techniques that cause pain or fear for dogs are prohibited.
The centre offers on -site training for dogs and people, and also classes and workshops for instructors. These include the Bob Bailey chicken courses - an excellent way to learn the principles of training, and also Terry Ryan’s Coaching People to Train their Dogs courses which include information on learning theory, training techniques, people skills, business tips, behaviour, and equipment.
One of the big draws of Legacy is that they will create customized workshops, seminars, camps, and tours for a group. This could work well for a group of Australian trainers – if 5 or more people register from the same group, the leader comes for free! Special requests for topics or activities can be accommodated. Visits can be arranged to observe venues such as a prison where service dog training takes place, a nearby wolf haven, or a canine hydrotherapy facility. Chicken training can be arranged. Terry Ryan has a list of appropriate dogs belonging to past and present students that can be brought in for overseas students to work with.
LEARNING ABOUT DOGS
“Learning About Dogs” at Wag More Barn in the Cotswolds, UK, is the training centre of Kay Laurence. Kay Laurence is known for top level obedience work, sheep herding, agility, heelwork to music, search and rescue, and pet dog training and is also one of the UK’s leading clicker trainers. She was one of the very first trainers in the UK to introduce behavioural training through positive reinforcement. She is also a dedicated educator and a committed supporter of people who wish to develop professionally as trainers. The centre attracts many international students for its seminars and workshops. Learning About Dogs offers a variety of courses but those of most interest to APDT members would probably be the Clicker Trainer’s Competency Assessment Program (CAP) and the teaching courses including the Learning About Dogs Teaching Course, Teaching Puppy Education Course, Teaching Junior Life skills Course, Teaching Senior Life skills Course, and Teaching Foundation Clicker Course. All of these onsite teaching courses take place over 5 days and after assessment; a Learning About Dogs Teaching Certificate or Diploma may be granted. Course fees do not include accommodation, but there are some nearby options including bed and breakfast, hotels, and campsites.
The CAP program may be undertaken by Australian trainers by posting a video of their assessments to the UK for feedback and evaluation. Criteria may be found at http://www.learningaboutdogs.com/cap.htm. The fee for this assessment is £14. I spoke to a trainer experienced with CAP who reports that while the CAP program does not include information on learning theory as such, it is a well constructed structured approach to clicker training from the basics up to really advanced cutting edge technique. The training is very thorough and really helps you to learn to read dogs and encourages independent thinking.
KAREN PRYOR ACADEMY for ANIMAL TRAINING & BEHAVIOR
The Karen Pryor Academy, founded in 2007, is designed to educate both experienced and aspiring instructors. The curriculum is collaboration between the academy and many accomplished trainers who share a commitment to force-free training. The faculty consists of respected trainers including Emma Parsons, Terry Ryan, and Steve White
The academy has training centres at 9 locations in North America, and there is also an International Program which may be of interest to some APDT Australia members. This course, open to experienced dog trainers who live outside the US and Canada, is an innovative program which combines on-line and face to face tuition. The next starting date is Jan 5, 2009. Students complete the base program on-line; a demonstration of the on-line tuition is available on the Academy web site. After completing the base program students travel to Legacy Training in Sequim, Washington State in the US for 10 days of training and assessment with Terry Ryan. Dogs are provided for students to work with. Currently, the academy has students from Finland, Israel, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Sweden, and Japan.
To complete the on-line portion of the course, students need high speed internet access. It is also necessary to have access to a dog and occasional access to an animal of another species or a second dog.
Application deadline for the 2009 course is December 1, 2008.
COMPANION ANIMAL SCIENCES INSTITUTE (CASI)
The Companion Animal Sciences Institute was founded by James O’Heare, author of many publications including of “Aggressive Behaviour in Dogs.” CASI offers online certificate courses and diploma programmes providing preparation as well as ongoing professional development for professional dog training, behaviour consulting, dog day care operation, and shelter work. Courses in canine nutrition and fitness are also available. The most notable way in which CASI differs from many other institutions in the depth of the courses on offer. Studies are advanced, science based, and academic. That said, CASI maintains a very encouraging and supportive atmosphere. The institute actively endorses positive reinforcement based methods for training and behaviour change and does not condone the use of aversive tools and methods. CASI is totally distance oriented (no on-site training or workshops), and is therefore a very realistic option for overseas students, in fact a number of Australian students are currently enrolled.
As a current CASI student, I have found studies with CASI to be challenging but most definitely rewarding. For each course students are given extensive notes, mostly written by James O’Heare, and a list of assignments. Each course also has one or more required texts for reading and reference. Assignments consist of a series of essays and some, particularly the training assignments, include hands-on which can be done, for example, by tracking response rates when carrying out specific tasks. One feature that sets CASI apart is that some of the diploma programs (advanced canine behaviour sciences and advanced companion animal behaviour) begin with a course in critical thinking. This is excellent training for almost anyone, especially people like me who (not uncommonly among animal lovers) have to guard against a tendency to base opinions and important decisions on emotion rather than logic.
In order to increase the amount of hand-on practical learning available to students, it is possible to add a practicum and/or supervision module to some diploma programs.
An important part of studies with CASI is the online classroom offered through Yahoo groups. Students use the classroom to discuss assignment topics, training and behaviour cases they are currently working on, problems with students’ own dogs, general issues in dog training and behaviour, and career development. I have found the discussion to be at a very high level and both the other students from all over the world and tutors are generous with their insights and their support. CASI also regularly invites respected experts as “guest speakers” for online discussion.
Students receive free membership in IAABC, The International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants, which is a wonderful resource for research and publishes a peer reviewed journal.
Assignments, which are submitted by email, are invariably returned promptly, with helpful comments.
CASI has the approval of the premier international professional associations and certifying bodies including the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. CASI is also approved by the Delta Society. I believe that CASI courses would be suitable for anyone with a desire have a thorough grounding in dog training and behaviour as long as they are prepared for a challenge and that CASI studies would also be a good way to go for the student who has completed a certificate course such as those offered by TAFE or DELTA and desires to continue their studies in more depth.
NORTHERN CENTRE for CANINE BEHAVIOUR
John Rogerson, author of books including “In Tune With Your Dog” and founder and principal lecturer of the Northern Centre for Canine Behaviour in the UK, runs a number of courses in dog training and behaviour. Most of his courses are onsite in London, Windsor, and Darlington, but he also has a correspondence course which sounds well worth investigating by any interested APDT members.
The correspondence course is designed to fit in with the International Kennel Club Accreditation Programme for dog trainers and behaviourists. This is a major selling point for John Rogerson’s course, as many other organizations give accreditation which is only recognized by the organization that conducts the course.
The course is constructed in 20 modules, each with a written exam which sent in for marking and then returned with the next module. Each module includes a list of required reading matter and resources needed. Students must also be able to watch or participate in dog training classes. Many other expeditions are required - to a breed show, to view litter(s) of puppies, to an obedience or agility competition, to a veterinary surgery, to watch a behaviour consultation, etc.
The correspondence course is theory only, so in order to be accepted, students must have extensive practical training and handling experience already; approximately 60% of applicants are turned away.
The course is available by post or by email.
Alpha Education offers several correspondence courses tutored by Sarah Whitehead and colleagues which could be of interest to APDT members: in fact, a couple of Australian students are currently enrolled. Sarah Whitehead is a pet behaviour counsellor in the UK, an international lecturer, and author of many publications on dog training and behaviour.
“Think Dog! ©”, an intermediate course in behaviour and training, was originally written by the late John Fisher. John Fisher was one of my heroes – I chanced upon his book “Dogwise” years ago soon after I had joined a training club where my first dog, a gentle Golden Retriever puppy, was fitted with a check chain on enrolment. After discovering Fisher, I became a “closet” positive trainer. This led to enrolling in Think Dog! © (at that time offered by COAPE). Though initially apprehensive because it was years since I had done any formal study, I found Think Dog! © absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable. The assignments did indeed require original thought rather than simply paraphrasing the ideas of others, and studying turned out to be informative, fun and even creative.
Think Dog! © has been updated by Sarah Whitehead and now makes use of DVD material as well as written material, including DVD behaviour cases to explore. Students receive the course material and resources (DVDs) by post, and assignments may be submitted by email or post. Think Dog! © consists of six units plus a special study which is a research based project of the student’s own choice.
Think Dog! Advanced©, written and tutored by Sarah Whitehead, is for students who have successfully completed Think Dog! © or equivalent and includes some practical observations and research. Like Think Dog! ©, the course includes a special study which is an own choice research project.
Talk Dog! © is a course in canine body language and expression which makes extensive use of DVD footage to analyse.
Alpha Education also offers Think Dog!© Practical, a two day on site all practical canine handling and training course, and Training for the Future,© a puppy class instructor course which includes three units by home study and one practical weekend in Windsor, Berkshire.
CENTRE of APPLIED PET ETHOLOGY (COAPE)
I have a soft spot for COAPE as it was here some years ago that I began my search for information about dog behaviour. Both the tutors and courses have changed since then, so I don’t have any personal experience with the present offerings. COAPE, founded in 1993, offers both correspondence and live residential courses, most of which are accredited by the Open College Network in the UK. COAPE promotes kind, fair, effective methods of training and through their web site, report that they have courses for everyone from foundation courses for beginners to diploma courses for experienced trainers. They also profess their belief in providing up to the minute theories and practical techniques.
Probably the courses which would be most relevant and practical for Australian trainers would be CO2, Introduction to (companion animal) Psychology, written and tutored by Robert Falconer Taylor, and CO4, Canine Behaviour and Training, written and tutored by Val Strong and associates. CO4 includes basic training techniques, motivating owners, puppy classes, special needs dogs and owners, and marketing.
Starting date is either February 1st or September 1st. Course materials are emailed to students, each unit is a separate e-book. Additional course material is available on-line. Students can contact tutors by email when necessary.
ANIMAL CARE COLLEGE
Animal Care College, established in 1980, claims to be the first institution in the world to provide distance learning courses in caring for animals. Over 40 courses are offered, most of which are accredited through the Open College Network in the UK. A diverse range of topics is available including canine psychology, dog training class instruction (theory), pet sitting, pet bereavement counselling, nutrition, and alternative and complementary therapies. All courses are distance learning (correspondence courses). The college estimates that most students need to do about 30 hours of work for level 1 and 2 courses and 60 hours for level 3 courses. No formal qualifications are necessary in order to submit an application to study, but many of the course do require some experience, or for the applicant to be employed in the field of animal care. The college is presently exploring the development of a Diploma in Canine Psychology in association with a university which will be a degree course.
Animal Care College has a policy of enrolling a student in a course only if they believe that the course will be of benefit to the student. This is ascertained by a letter from the prospective student explaining why they would like to take the course and how they hope to use what they have learned.
Each student has a tutor, and there are on-line discussion pages and an internet chat room for students to contact each other and discuss their studies. Students from all over the world, including Australia and New Zealand, are enrolled.
According to David Cavill, author of “Running Your Own Boarding Kennels” and founder of the college, the training philosophy of Animal Care College is positive reinforcement as exemplified by Pryor and others.
Susan Smith, of Raising Canine, offers both on-line courses and telecourses. Currently, two on- line courses are available, with more in the works. The first, Beginning Dog Training, provides a foundation in learning theory and behaviour. The course has homework, and participants are required to submit video. A weekly telephone meeting is optional. The second course, Criteria Setting and Record Keeping, is designed to help increase the efficiency of more experienced trainers. Again homework and video submissions are required.
Most of the telecourses run for about 90 minutes, but some are longer more in-depth courses. A great variety of subjects are offered. Some topics are relevant to those new to the world of canine behaviour and training, and others are quite advanced. Courses on topics such as dog behaviour, curriculum development and classroom management, consulting skills, and business related issues could be of interest to many APDT members. The speakers include many of the big names in dog behaviour such as Jean Donaldson, Terry Ryan, Trish King, and many more. Accessing the telecourses courses by phone may be possible for people with a VOIP phone service, or alternatively, the courses are recorded so that they are available as a download over the internet. Some courses include notes distributed by internet. For those with the technology to access this training, the courses would appear to be an inexpensive and convenient way of learning more about topics of interest.
My aim in writing this article is to draw attention to some of the many institutions providing courses accessible to Australian pet dog trainers. If contemplating enrolment in any course of study whether in Australia or overseas, my advice would be to contact the school or training centre and ask numerous questions to ascertain whether the training would be suitable for you and to include questions about the tutors and their qualifications and the actual training philosophy of the institution. Some schools may even be willing to put a potential applicant in touch with current or former students for feedback. I hope this article raises some interest in further study and proves a useful starting point for APDT members exploring avenues for learning more about dog training and behaviour.
Acknowledgements - many thanks to Oliver Beverly of C.L.E.A.R. Dog Training, Janice Hopper of Tail Waggers Training, and Carole Husein of School for Dogs South Australia, the ideas and information they provided were most helpful!
These articles from the website of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers in America are helpful: