Dog Trainers Unite at Workshop
Last weekend there was a trick training workshop that I really wanted to attend but was not able too due to some schedule conflicts. Many of my trainer friends and colleagues were going and I was feeling a little blue about not being able to join them. Through out the weekend I kept seeing Facebook posts of all the fun that was occurring and most importantly of the camaraderie that was being shared at a workshop where trainers from all backgrounds were working side by side. It was that aspect, the being able to respect one another and share information, that most appealed to me so I asked one of my friends, Michael Burkey from Michigan Dog Training LLC if he would mind writing up a short review to share with the readers here:
On August 24th and 25th, 2013 fifty dog trainers from around the country traveled to K9 Ponderosa in Delaware, Ohio to attend a Certified Trick Dog Instructor (CTDI) workshop put on by Kyra Sundance of Lancaster, California. She is an international trick dog performer and instructor, author many times over, movie set dog trainer and owner of the very successful dog training company called “Do More With Your Dog! ®” in addition to many other achievements.
“Do More With Your Dog! ®” is more than a training company though. Sundance explains, “… it’s a lifestyle. It is a philosophy which encourages the integration of your dog into your life in a variety of ways—through sport, training, or accompanying you to more places. Dogs have a way of making the activities we share with them more fun, and by giving them training, we allow them to participate in more areas of our life.”
Sundance’s presentation was perfectly structured and polished to a tee. Additionally, she is a very upbeat professional and genuine speaker and instructor. Her enthusiasm and energy is infectious! Behind the scenes was Scottie MacConachie CPT/CTDI, Lead Instructor/Trainer/Owner at K9 Ponderosa who welcomed everyone to the beautiful 20 acre property where the seminar was held. He and his staff ensured everyone’s needs were accommodated beyond their expectations.
Previously, trainers applying to become a CTDI had to submit a video and written application to Sundance. She created the CTDI workshop so that applicants could receive training personally from her and she could in turn evaluate their skills personally.
Sundance centered her CTDI workshop around one of her books, “The Dog Tricks and Training Workbook”, a Step-by-Step Interactive Curriculum to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog. In addition to training participants how to teach numerous dog tricks, it covered topics such as: her positive training philosophy, how to be an effective teacher, timing and proper application of cue/action/reward, how to build on behaviors, reward markers, five ways to elicit a behavior, how to motivate through positive reinforcement, ways to build drive, how to set up training goals, the hierarchy of value of rewards, reading dog language and stress indicators, and the use of chaining in the training process.
The trainers who came to learn from Sundance were from various backgrounds, specialities and philosophies. Their common purpose though matched Sundance’s tagline, “Do More With Your Dog”. They also had the same desire, to build positive relationships with their dogs.
In the dog training world, there is often division among individual trainers.
Unfortunately, the dog training community labels themselves and each other as purely positive trainers, positive reinforcement trainers, balanced trainers, remote trainers (or shock trainers depending upon the background of whom you are speaking with), compulsive trainers, etc. I believe these groups labeling themselves, at first, was well intended to give themselves an identity and to give a description of their methodology to the dog owning public. Unfortunately, later some trainers used these labels to try to discredit the other groups by labeling them as inhumane or ineffective.
Dog owners are not keenly aware of the above labels because knowing a dog trainer’s label isn’t particularly helpful to them and their dog training problems. What they care about is – can the hired trainer?:
Solve their dog’s behavior problems or teach them new tricks and
Do it effectively and humanely
And yet, many dog trainers still place emphasis on the label of training they ascribe to while attempting to discredit the other groups.
It is said that there are two camps of trainers, those who use clickers and treats and those who use compulsion based methods. Unfortunately, many trainers who use remote training collars properly (at a low setting that gets the dog’s attention and acts as a remote communication system but doesn’t hurt the dog) are inaccurately lumped into the category of compulsion based trainers. And, some clicker trainers are branded as not being able to train a dog for reliability.
Sundance’s workshop proved there is a third category of trainers, a “United” category; consisting of trainers who use many different training tools to fit the dog, handler and circumstance. They may not all agree on which tool to use but they were respectful of each other’s right to use different tools and were all committed to using positive training methods to teach dog tricks.
I am a positive based professional dog trainer who uses clickers, treats and remote training collars in my training system. This was the first time that I have attended a positive training workshop in which I felt totally welcomed and respected by those who do not use remote training collars. Many of my remote collar colleagues experienced the same welcoming feeling. And, it feels great to finally be – United; all working for the common good of dogs so they can be more a part of our everyday lives and activities. Sundance says, “trainers should be United in doing the best for our dogs in the best way we know how. This means being United in improving our training systems by listening, teaching, and sharing with each other.”
Kyra Sundance and her CTDI workshop served not only to certify trick dog instructors but also a higher purpose – to unite dog trainers from around the country. This ultimately serves both dogs and their companions so you can Do More With Your Dog. ®
Sundance’s next CTDI Instructor Certification workshop is scheduled for December 7-8, 2013 in Richmond, Virginia.