For the last two workshops, Stephanie had to juggle behavior modification as well as operant training. She watched out for Marmalade, “adapting and overcoming as needed.” Stephanie credits “long walks, play breaks, and frozen Kongs” for her dog’s eventual success in the workshop environment.
Even the DTP final assessment, completing a ten-part behavior chain for evaluation, presented challenges for her noise-phobic dog. Stephanie relates the story:
“Marmalade and I awoke to stormy skies. My stomach sank, and my heart flew into my throat. Marmalade was hypervigilant, wouldn’t take food, trembled, panted, and left sweaty paw prints on the floor. I knew I had to remain calm and positive. I suited up Marm in her sweater, cranked up Through a Dog’s Ear in the car, and took her on a walk in the drizzly weather. I put on a brave face, but deep down I was not hopeful. Nevertheless, I let Marm sniff around the empty room while I set up a white noise machine, warmed her up with a few hand targets, and took a deep breath.
Despite Marmalade’s delicate constitution that day, she showed only initial hesitation and then flew right through her behavior chain. All of our teamwork and preparation prevailed, and she absolutely rocked it! At the conclusion of the chain, Marmalade heard that beautiful click and bacon rained from the sky.”
In her varied professional and volunteer work, Stephanie encounters all types of animals and people: puppies, adult dogs, rescue dogs, dogs with reactivity and other behavioral challenges, service dogs in training, and therapy dogs; children, adults, family groups, rescue organizations, and dog-handler teams in the PAWS training program at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. She offers coaching and day-training options that include Behavior Solutions; Basic, Intermediate, and Continuing Skills; Plucky Parents training packages for expecting and new parents; and Family Training packages for families with older children who can participate in the training process. Stephanie emphasizes the relationship basis of successful training, “strengthening and celebrating the bond between pet guardians and their dogs.” As a KPA graduate and clicker trainer, her progressive methods are always based in behavior science and emphasize safety.
In addition to offering a range of training and behavior services for dogs, Stephanie also provides humane education “for children of all ages.” Marmalade is her frequent companion in this work, as the Plucky Paws Therapy Dog. Stephanie’s background in learning theory and child development combined with more than 15 years working with kids in a variety of contexts, is a remarkable asset that can be applied readily to “educating and enriching our canine friends.” She puts this proficiency with children and dogs “to perfect use when I work with pet guardians who are busy raising children and dogs in the same household.” Stephanie is proud and pleased to be a Certified Humane Education Specialist, as there are not many trainers with this qualification in the country!
Stephanie believes that Plucky Paws would not be able to offer its extensive range of services if she had not graduated from Karen Pryor Academy. She has no doubt that her KPA education has also enabled her to “provide clients with detailed and individualized guidance.” Clients that in the past have worked with “unqualified trainers who used intimidation or coercion without their [owners’] consent or recommended that they harm or frighten their own dogs in the name of training” are relieved and excited to meet Stephanie. “These clients are enthusiastic about the wonderful world of positive reinforcement and cross over to more humane and effective methods. They are relieved to know that a simple click paired with a tasty treat can vastly improve a dog’s behavior.”