July 2021 KPA CTP of the Month
Working with Amelia and her many fears, “outside, noises, people, dogs, cars—you name it,” led Reanna to learn more about training and, eventually, to work with fearful dogs that are often misunderstood and require extra time and patience. “She’s definitely the catalyst that propelled me into this career. I figure if she had been the ‘perfect’ dog, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today,” explains Reanna. Amelia is no longer afraid of dogs, cars, or loud noises. While people still scare her, Reanna and Amelia continue to work together. Amelia was Reanna’s partner through the KPA DTP course. “We both grew, me as a trainer and Amelia as a more confident dog. I could not have asked for a better partner and am so glad that she graduated alongside me.”
Reanna thoroughly enjoyed the DTP course content and uses most of the course material when building her programs and curriculms. “The lessons and modules were well-organized and easy to navigate. The assignments helped me with areas of training and running a business that I wouldn’t think of otherwise. It’s not just about training theory and applications, but how to be successful as a trainer and run your own business.”
The assignments helped me with areas of training and running your own business that I wouldn’t think about otherwise
Reanna also valued the in-person assessments that offered constructive feedback to help her hone her skills and provided ideas about alternative training methods. “There are so many ways to train behaviour. Additional perspectives and options are wonderful, as each dog is different. What works for one may not work for another.” In retrospect, Reanna recognizes that it was important to be evaluated, and to train, alongside her peers. “It can be intimidating, but it is tremendous experience and builds confidence.”
Through Dalhousie University’s Positive Animal Training: The Science of Applied Behaviour Analysis course, and then in the KPA DTP program, Reanna learned about clicker training. She first used the clicker training her pet parrot, Zane, to do little tricks and behaviours. Since training anxious Amelia with words was not an option (it seemed to frighten her more), Reanna turned to clicker training, her first efforts with a dog. “Working with the clicker and taking things slow, she began to come around and warm up.” At that point, Reanna realized for the first time how powerful the clicker was. Continuing to work with the clicker with her training clients, Reanna discovered that “there’s definitely a learning curve for clients when they are handed a clicker and treats and need to work with them for the first time.” Reanna’s clients have been excited about clicker training; with simple exercises and warm-ups in the first session, Reanna ensures that everyone is comfortable. After that, clients “see for themselves how effective the clicker is in their training.”
Reanna has found that the clicker is extremely effective working with fearful and reactive dogs. The clicker minimizes talking and distractions and allows the dogs to process the environment. “When the dogs can process their current environment, a click is all that’s needed to reassure them calmly that they’ve done a job well and that a reward is on its way.” Reanna has been able to help many of these dogs, with desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises and using the clicker as a marker tool. For dogs with a noise phobia, muffling the click or using a retractable pen works just as well.
Clicker training is more than just a training strategy for Reanna. “Positive reinforcement is a way of life for me.” Running her own business and working with clients offers Reanna a platform to educate and advocate for kindness, better treatment and training, and the health of the animals. She states that her goals are not about “control, but how can we live in harmony.” Reanna’s training programs continue to evolve, and she reports that she is “loving every minute of it.”
Her own education is a priority, too. “I’m constantly enrolling in courses, programs, webinars, workshops, conferences—you name it and I’m there.” In the spring of 2020, Reanna completed the Fearful Dogs Project master course and is now a Certified Fearful Dog Professional. She recently graduated from the Cooperative Paws Service Dog Coach program and will soon offer coaching for owner-trained service dogs. Reanna is also working through Michael Shikashio’s master course, Aggression in Dogs. A goal for fall 2021: the exam to become a CPDT-KA through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.
Reanna enjoys being part of the KPA training community. “It is so helpful and supportive in terms of training clients or business concerns.” She reports that her entire life “revolves around my training business” and striving to do better, learn more, and “pass on knowledge to clients and anyone who wants to hear!”