december 2022 KPA CTP of the Month
Emilea Byrum, KPA CTP, is a registered veterinary technician with a special interest in behavior. She is particularly interested in service dogs and herding breeds, and in the team approach to a well-cared-for pet.
Emilea’s interest in training extends back to childhood when she led her collie through “agility trials” on the backyard swing set. “I learned early that training dogs was fun!”
A veterinarian in the practice where Emilea worked as a vet tech was excited by Emilea’s interest in behavior. She matched Emilea with a behaviorist veterinarian to shadow. Emilea shares that during that time she was allowed “to grow my knowledge by observing, and then taking on, all of our behavioral cases.” When she thought that Emilea was ready, the vet suggested that she investigate Karen Pryor Academy (KPA). Just over two years ago, Emilea completed the KPA Dog Trainer Professional (DTP) program in Lafayette, Indiana, with Laura VanArendonk Baugh.
While Emilea was completing the KPA DTP program, she “had a lot of dog issues!” Emilea recounts the saga: “The dog I was working with originally developed resource-guarding issues. Then my replacement dog passed away suddenly. I had to interact with the third dog online due to COVID—and he was dog-aggressive! I worked with a classmate's dog for the final class.” Emilea acknowledges that COVID and virtual training/classes were challenges to start, but the issues with her dogs made the DTP program that much harder. “I was so thankful that KPA was willing to work with me through all of my issues.”
Since earning her KPA CTP status, Emilea reports that she has found significantly more clients. There is still a lot of aversive training in the central Indianapolis area where Emilea works. She, of course, uses clicker training with all of her clients. “It is always wonderful to hear from clients how easy and comfortable I make training for them, in terms of positive reinforcement and the introduction to the clicker.”
Emilea is a service-dog handler, having completed apprenticeships and classes and practiced with her own dogs on different skills. Currently, she trains mobility, psychiatric, PTSD, and autism service dogs. “I will help train any breed, but I guide people toward Labs and collies. Both are in the ‘Fab 4’ for service-dog work.” (For the curious, the other 2 breeds within the “Fab 4” are golden retrievers and standard poodles!)
As Emilea’s training business is strong and growing, that is where her focus is now. “Although I am no longer working as a fulltime veterinary technician, I still speak with veterinary hospitals and do ‘lunch and learns’ geared to whatever behavioral issues that clinic is seeing.” Emilea helps the vet practices manage their clients’ behavior issues; she also takes referrals if the clients wish to work with her.
Her KPA training has helped Emilea with interactions in her personal life, too. “KPA has taught me that you can use positive reinforcement in other areas of life.” A single mom to a six-year-old son, Emilea also cares for her disabled mother. “I am raising my son using positive reinforcement and our relationship has blossomed because of it. Don't tell my mom, but I use KPA methods to change some of her behaviors, too!”
Complementing her KPA CTP credentials, Emilea is Fear Free Certified at the Elite Level and Low Stress Handling Certified at the Silver Level. A frequent ClickerExpo attendee, Emilea has completed the KPA Dog Trainer Foundations program, as well as the Puppy Start Right for Instructors and Better Veterinary Visits courses. Emilea is considering adding board-and-train services to her business “when I have a little more space.” Another possibility is her own breeding program! “I would absolutely love to start puppies down a path of positive reinforcement training and teach my new puppy parents what that truly means. Then they can help spread the word!”