July 2018 KPA CTP of the Month
Laura Donaldson, KPA CTP, combines her extensive credentials with her experience in dog training and canine behavior (and her participation in dog sports) in her successful business Four Paws, Four Directions Dog Training & Behavior Consulting. Her philosophy emphasizes positive training that creates harmonious canine-human communication and bonds.
Before Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) existed officially, Laura heard about the prospect of KPA programs through acquaintances like Steve Benjamin, who was contributing to the original curriculum (and who continues to lead KPA Dog Trainer Professional and Dog Trainer Foundations courses). She learned that KPA was operational and offering professional certifications at a ClickerExpo conference. Laura says, “It didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted to enroll!”
Laura completed the KPA Dog Trainer Professional (DTP) program with Steve Benjamin in New York. She was enrolled in the second class of KPA CTPs, in 2008, although she completed the program in 2009 due to unexpected illness. Laura found the DTP program to be “very demanding, requiring that one be very organized and consistent in terms of studying and practicing at home.” She notes that KPA students are usually working fulltime outside of the program and juggling personal lives as well. “Learning how to carve out the time the program requires, and use it productively, can be a steep learning curve,” reports Laura. While Laura loved the individual study component of the DTP program, she “found the hands-on weekends the most useful and illuminating.”
Laura has engaged with many animals, including experience with working dogs (sheep-herding with her Border collies and owning a sizable flock of sheep and several llamas!). However, her main interest in animal training is “helping dogs and humans resolve a multitude of behavior issues and achieve peaceful, harmonious partnerships.” Laura describes her fulltime behavior-consulting practice as “about 75% involving dog-dog or dog-human aggressive behavior and the other 25% consisting of separation anxiety, prey-drive, hyperexcitability issues; generalized anxiety disorders; and puppy training.” With this specialized experience, Laura has served as an expert witness/evaluator in court cases involving aggression in dogs.
Although she had studied applied behavior analysis (ABA)—and animal behavior, ethology and companion animal psychopharmacology—at the graduate level prior to joining the KPA DTP program, Laura explains that “the Karen Pryor curriculum and the hands-on weekends gave me intensive experience in, and knowledge about, how to use ABA systematically in real-life situations with actual animals.” Her second training animal during the DTP program was one of her cats, but Laura has also gone on to clicker train her “African gray parrot, Barred Plymouth Rock hens, llamas, and Navajo Churro sheep!”
The Karen Pryor curriculum and the hands-on weekends gave me intensive experience in, and knowledge about, how to use ABA systematically in real-life situations with actual animals.”
In addition to her KPA CTP qualifications, Laura has earned Certified Dog Behavior Consultant status through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). “I also completed the Karen Pryor Academy Puppy Start Right course, which I use for all of my puppy clients.”
Laura considers the KPA experience “of being in a community, however briefly, dedicated to positive reinforcement training with animals” to be extraordinary and powerful. “I am seriously thinking of starting a movement to require all politicians to go through positive reinforcement training using a clicker. This training would totally revolutionize our political discourse and governance!”
Articles authored by Laura have been published in the IAABC Journal as well in the Association of Professional Dog Trainers’ (APDT) Chronicle of the Dog. Her most recent Chronicle of the Dog piece originated in an ongoing research project about the cognitive evolution of dogs. Laura’s interest is in exploring how canine cognition can be applied to the “unpredictable world of everyday dog training in addition to the existing highly controlled scientific contexts.” Specifically, Laura is researching and examining training practices that are “useful with reactive dogs, like counter-conditioning and the Look at That protocol.” She hopes to publish a book on her results and success.
Laura’s focus on balanced and congenial canine-human bonds and communication is expressed through her behavior and training business, her work with rescue organizations like Cayuga Dog Rescue, and her encounters with all people and animals. She is an active participant in many continuing education opportunities, including seminars and webinars, “keeping on the cutting edge of scientific knowledge about canine behavior.” Laura’s life work continues to be concentrated on developing canine—and human—good citizens.