June 2013 KPA CTP of the Month
Tammy Bourgoyne, KPA CTP, has an engineering background and an open heart for dogs: puppies, senior citizens, dogs with special needs, dogs with fears and challenges—all dogs, really! She has combined her interests and education with Karen Pryor Academy programs and curriculum to create and constantly improve her business, The Dog Run Canine Learning Center for Puppy Parenting and Beyond.
In a self-deprecating manner, Tammy refers to herself as “…someone who finds activity requiring any athletic ability beyond hand-eye coordination challenging!”.
Positive training techniques based in science and learning theory resonated with Tammy, and she saw quickly how successful clicker training was in action, producing results from the start.
Although aware of Karen Pryor Clicker Training since the late 1990s, and wistful when she first heard about Karen Pryor Academy offerings, Tammy was a self-taught clicker trainer for years. Geography and her pets’ special needs limited Tammy’s travel. It was not until Debbie Martin led a Dog Trainer Program (DTP) course at Tammy’s own training facility in Louisiana that Tammy realized her dream of participating in the KPA Dog Trainer Program.
Tammy and her miniature poodle, Marty, were eager students. What Tammy found particularly illuminating about the Dog Trainer Program curriculum was what she learned about cues, the power of cues as reinforcers, and the concept of chains. She says, “A better understanding of cues and their practical application as reinforcers has been the single most useful skill that I gained during the course.”
Chain assessments were particularly difficult for Tammy, due to lifelong performance anxiety issues. But, this “handicap” led to more growth than Tammy could have imagined. Tammy discovered that her internal emotional state affected her training partner, Marty. Once she became aware of this impact, Tammy learned to make her internal emotional state one of the distractions to be anticipated when she created a training plan for her 10-part chain. Tammy recalls Debbie Martin’s helpful suggestion for replicating a high distraction level:
Drink a double latte just before a training session!
With the lessons she learned from the KPA Dog Trainer Program, Tammy has a new awareness when she works with her own dogs or with clients and their dogs. She recognizes the impact of emotional state on training and has many adjustments and suggestions that improve the odds of successful training. Persevering through the training challenges she and Marty encountered boosted Tammy’s confidence in her own skills as a trainer. She feels better prepared with tools and insight to help more clients.
Since graduation from the KPA Dog Trainer Program, Tammy has felt warmly welcomed into the KPA community and no longer feels so isolated by geography. In the past, when she was confronted with a difficult situation personally or professionally, Tammy had the impulse to rename her training business “Beacon in the Wilderness,” since positive training techniques seemed to be less common in her area. Now Tammy shares her ideas and seeks suggestions from a reliable and like-minded group of trainers and teachers through the KPA and PSR (Puppy Start Right) Yahoo groups.
Since the KPA DTP, Tammy has revisited her approach to her training business and to its service format. With help from the CTP Resource Center, particularly from the KPA beginner modular curriculum that is supplied, she has changed her pricing structure to a membership format. This new style puts the client in control of the ultimate cost of instruction, and encourages more participation from clients seeking maximum value and scheduling flexibility.
Tammy uses the Puppy Start Right (PSR) curriculum. Like the KPA beginner curriculum, the PSR curriculum is modular, so it fits in with the rest of her modular offerings. Tammy offers PSR to families with puppies (in a group setting) and with slightly older dogs (in a private setting), considering PSR concepts as life skills.
As she continues to share the benefits of clicker training with clients and their dogs, Tammy also shares her expertise with others. She seeks out opportunities to increase awareness among local veterinarians, particularly veterinary students. Tammy knows that “…seeing clicker training in action is entertaining for people. For those with a particular interest in animals or training or behavior, it is also thought-provoking, engaging, and even magical.” Tammy has found that the surest way to engage an audience is to show clicker training in action! It’s the ideal way to open any conversation about training and behavior.
Currently, Tammy is participating in an online TAGteach course—for the second time. Her goals this time are to improve her skills and understanding even further, and to become certified to spread the lessons of another form of positive teaching and learning.
My passion has been to share what I have learned about teaching animals, people, and myself with anyone who cares to listen!