Meridith’s course instructor was Emma Parsons who, in a happy coincidence, was the instructor of the very first dog training seminar Meridith attended! Emma was a huge support to Meridith in the Dog Trainer Professional program. “Emma was so patient. At first, I would write my papers as if I were a practitioner and not a student. She would make me return to the paper, stretch it out, and approach it as if I were brand-new in the field and as if she were new, too! I loved that!” Meridith recalls the “Macy's box” assignment as one of the most difficult. “I have a Leonberger (giant dog) and finding a box big enough was a challenge! We used a laundry basket in the end.”
Most useful to Meridith during the Dog Trainer Professional program were the workshops. She benefitted from the hands-on experiences with fellow students. “Together we tried different solutions, problem-solving with each others’ dogs.” The overall themes of teamwork and positivity were the most helpful, though!
According to Meridith, the KPA Dog Trainer Professional program drew together in a cohesive manner all of the “hats” she had been wearing and wanting to wear. With the skills and credentials she gained through the program, Meridith found it easier to present herself, her strengths and skills, and her own courses. She found it easier to implement her own instinctive practices with the specific tools gained from the program. “The classroom curriculum skills that KPA was teaching made perfect sense to me. It was how I was used to teaching all ages and abilities in a home school setting; it is how I have coached people to treat their dogs.”
Meridith’s TAGteach certification has also made a huge difference as she works with clients in training classes. In many classes she now has simple ways of supporting owners as they learn to teach their own dogs. “I tell them to take a breath. I remind them that if they already knew what I was teaching, they wouldn't need me there! That puts them at ease.” In class, Meridith drills down to TAGteach basics and simple tag points. “Somewhere in the curriculum there is a great slide that has always stuck with me. It says, ‘If it is a nag point make it a tag point.’”
Focusing on the “kid” component of a dog’s family has been a particular pleasure for Meridith. Adding to what she has learned from her KPA studies and her own experiences, Meridith has found her association with Doggone Safe and Family Paws Parent Education to be helpful and supportive. “These two organizations are doing amazing things in the world of children and dogs,” she says.
Now that Meridith has completed the Dog Trainer Professional course, she laughs and says that she finally realizes that “…we shape behavior not just in animals but we are also actively training ourselves.” Meridith carries that viewpoint into every interaction she has. For example, if she has a huge project to complete, she tells herself what she tells every client: take small steps and build on them.
Since completing the Dog Trainer Professional program, Meridith has completed the KPA Shelter Training & Enrichment course—as one of the course’s first students! She has also attended APDT and ClickerExpo, the first Family Paws Parent Education Conference, and many other seminars. Her plans this year include a June seminar with Michele Pouliot and a three-day TAGteach seminar in October.
Meridith’s success with KPA and with her clients since completing her KPA courses has given her the confidence to take on a new project with the Worcester Animal Rescue League. Executive Director Allie Tellier and Meridith are putting together new programs for volunteers and staff. This work is still in its infancy but is growing all the time. Meridith has been able to rely on her new skills and further increase her confidence enough to speak with groups of trainers and shelter staff, continuing to impact the lives of animals, parents, and children. Meridith believes that the KPA Shelter course has made a remarkable impact on her new project. “With this project our goal is to increase the overall adoptability chances of the dogs, which will free up resources to help even more animals! Long-term, we don’t just want to be a great shelter to adopt from, but we want to be an outstanding organization that the community relies on. The KPA Shelter program is a great place to start!”
Feeling like she is just “scratching the surface,” Meridith has many other ideas for her future. One of her goals is to broaden her speaking role, focusing on helping shelter staff members employ the tools she has learned from KPA.