April 2015 KPA CTP of the Month
Stacy Totten, KPA CTP, grew up in what she describes as “a normal, happy, but non-animal family.” While her parents encouraged her to play tennis and golf, Stacy was more interested in horses, animal shelters, and veterinary clinics. When she worked as a kennelmaid at the hunt club where her horse boarded, Stacy became even more interested in dog behavior. She especially enjoyed learning from the dogs’ pack living situation. “It was wonderful to watch their give and take, how they learned from each other. Older hounds helped teach the younger pups. It was amazing how the presence of a steady hound could settle the flightiness of a youngster.”
After selling veterinary pharmaceuticals for eleven years, Stacy opted to stay home on the family farm to raise her two boys. There, she opened a small kennel and began to train dogs professionally at Meadow Run Dog Boarding and Training. From her sales career, Stacy had connections with many “animal” people, people who were familiar with her skills and knowledge—and familiar with her beagle and Labrador as well! Many of them had followed Stacy and her dogs’ success in both the obedience ring and in hunt tests, and ultimately they became clients of her kennel.
While Stella did progress in many areas, Stacy began to see Stella “shrink rather than blossom.” Stacy remembers, “I didn’t like what I was seeing in her eyes; it was almost a wariness.”
A fellow trainer suggested clicker training to Stacy and she started her research right away. As she searched, Karen Pryor’s name kept coming up. Stacy enrolled in the Karen Pryor Academy (KPA)Dog Trainer Foundation course, but still craved more in-depth information at the course’s end. She signed up for the Dog Trainer Professional program and, while she waited for that course to begin, attended a 3-day Chicken Camp with Terry Ryan and completed the Puppy Start Right for Instructors course!
Particularly after attending her first ClickerExpo conference last month in Dearborn, MI, Stacy realizes how complete a KPA education is.
It creates a solid foundation to grow from. There is always more to learn, but that is the fun of training!
Stacy finds it interesting to discover different ways to apply clicker training. “I now have a sheep that hikes with me daily and possesses a rocket recall.” Stacy noticed that one of her horses would internalize stress. Although it did not show itself through the horse’s behavior, Stacy could see it in her eyes. “Clicker training helped her build a confidence that she never had before. Just the simple act of going out to touch a cone made her feel more in control of her surroundings,” Stacy reports.
When Stacy looks back to the time when she was enrolled in the KPA Dog Trainer Professional program, she remembers the education that came from the class dynamic. “My classmates had a variety of backgrounds and goals for themselves.” KPA coursework also provided Stacy a much-needed break from a new reality at home. Her twenty-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after the first workshop. Rather than quit the program, Stacy decided to use the course as a psychological advantage.
It actually gave me a reason to think about something else throughout that difficult time period. The workshops allowed me to decompress in a positive environment.
Even the home study and practice sessions required enough mind engagement that Stacy was able to “lose herself” now and then with clicker training. Happily, Stacy’s son is now playing college lacrosse, requiring only once-a-month chemotherapy and looking forward to being considered cancer-free at a two-year mark.
Stacy thinks that the biggest impact KPA has had on her is that it turned her into an information junkie! “I cannot stop reading, watching videos, and taking online courses involving clicker training. I love to watch other people train so I can pick up new skills I can add to my own toolbox.” The importance and value of self-video is another lesson Stacy attributes to KPA. “Now, I video all my training so that I can see exactly what I am doing and see what my learner is seeing.”
Next up for Stacy is the new KPA course Dog Sports Essentials, beginning April 13, 2015. She is looking to apply lessons from this new opportunity to her “wonder dog, Stella.” Stella and Stacy hope to start competing in rally and obedience, something they could not do without clicker training. Stacy is happy to share that at ClickerExpo in Dearborn, MI, “Many people came up to me at ClickerExpo. Some wanted to compliment me on Stella’s appearance. Others, however, wanted to compliment me on her behavior.” What Stacy knew of Stella’s struggles, and successes through clicker training, was unknown to the Expo folks. “Karen Pryor Academy was life-altering—for me, for Stella, and for anyone else we can reach.”