Since her time at KPA, Shelley’s professional work with dogs has continued to grow. She uses her KPA skills and knowledge every day and “couldn’t be as effective without them.” Passionate about force-free training, Shelley utilizes lessons from the DTP program with clients in private instruction through Spry Dog and volunteers as a Puppy Kindergarten teacher at GSLTC. “We get puppy families started with clicker training when their babies are as young as 8 weeks. These pups go on to become some of the club’s best adult pupils.”
With her CGC dogs Kiku and Robby, Shelley also volunteers with the Humane Society of Missouri. “We give clicker and trick demos to hundreds of school kids.” Kiku demonstrates her many skills happily (“thank you, 10-part-chain”), and the team lets kids “experience firsthand the thrill of requesting a behavior and having the dog comply. It’s extremely powerful.” Shelley finds that the children at her demonstrations “often have no knowledge of dogs or, if they do, they may only know about fighting dogs.” With her dogs, Shelley helps the kids “learn that animals have feelings, need our care and compassion, and are very, very smart.” With pride, Shelley shares that Kiku has been named the AKC national ambassador for the Akita breed for her teaching contributions!
Through Midwest Akita Rescue Society and Akita Club of America Rescue, Shelley supplies positive training guidance to adopters of orphaned Akitas. “These are dogs that have been abandoned or neglected and need understanding and kind care.” Shelley believes that “our type of training helps to break the cycle of dominance and aggression against pet animals, and begins the building of empathy.”
For the last three years, Shelley and fellow KPA CTP Hope Edwards have led “Train-a-Shelter-Dog” day-camp classes at HSMO. Shelley estimates that they have taught close to 400 children, from 7 to 13 years of age. “Working in teams, the kids learn the fun of clicker training orphaned dogs, and the dogs learn a few great home skills. The dogs also learn to like kids. All of the dogs in these classes were adopted quickly, because they showed themselves to be child-friendly, and were ‘trained,’” reports Shelley.
Asked about the challenges of teaching children, Shelley replies that “it’s hard to think of any major challenges. In my experience, teaching adults is often harder!” She shares the following observations: