Motivated by her experiences with Belle and Hillary, Tammy works with others to find help for their pets sooner. She says that in caring for fearful dogs or dogs with serious behavior issues “emotional support is often needed just as much as reliable information and expert guidance.” With her own history, Tammy can relate to and connect with these pet parents. Under the supervision of a veterinary behaviorist, and with her KPA CTP certification, Tammy can offer clients reliable information and tools to improve the quality of family life.
Another outgrowth of Tammy’s work with Belle and Hillary is her interest in factors that impact behavior, such as early socialization. Tammy launched a Puppy Start Right curriculum at @thedogrun to provide a high-quality socialization and puppy parenting class.
The skills Tammy took from her KPA course study are not limited to clients and their pets. As part of her effort to lessen and eliminate tension when she was working through the DTP program, Tammy started to use TAGteach techniques herself. “I created a few tag points to say to myself when Marty would alert me that I was getting a bit intense. One was simply, ‘Smile.’ Another was ‘Get a toy.’” When Marty urged Tammy to play a game of tug or chase for a few minutes, she could not resist smiling at his joyful antics. TAGteach-prompted breaks like these helped both Tammy and Marty relax and succeed. Tammy has continued “self-tagging” in her quest to replace unwanted personal habits with more desirable habits. “While I am generally very patient with animals and other people, I tend to be very impatient with myself, and can be very self-critical. Using TAGteach and clicker training principles, I have been interrupting negative thinking and purposefully changing my focus to come up with a positive spin in that moment.”
Tammy also uses clicker training lessons to decrease procrastination when she is overwhelmed. Recalling a piece Karen Pryor wrote about overcoming the difficulty of getting started on a seemingly difficult task (in Karen’s case, attending an evening class after a long day), Tammy tries to emulate Karen’s solution. Karen broke down the task of getting to class into a series of steps, rewarding herself at the end of each step with a piece of chocolate. Now, so does Tammy! “I practice that approach often and have found it very helpful when I am feeling the need to procrastinate. I also share this approach, phrased as a suggestion, with family members when they complain about having to do an unpleasant chore. It has helped them, too.”
Since completing the KPA Dog Trainer Professional program, Tammy has continued her education, learning more about normal canine and feline behavior and development, as well as common behavior disorders and problems such as separation anxiety and reactivity. Most recently Tammy has been taking advantage of technology and connecting with clicker training and behavior experts online via webinars. Tammy has selected live and on-demand webinars offered by organizations that include the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians and TEAM Education in Animal Behavior. She has also benefitted from the KPA webinars available free to her as a CTP. (The recent KPA webinars with Karen Pryor and Ken Ramirez have been particularly helpful to Tammy as she works with clients.)
“I have really enjoyed connecting remotely with the clicker training and behavior science community, as live, in-person learning opportunities in my area are rare. Not only have I learned new aspects of behavior and training, but I have also studied how the information is presented in an effort to improve my own coaching and instructional skills.”
Tammy’s newest goal is to improve animal welfare in her area by promoting continuing education in, and a partnership between, behavior and clicker training. “I was surprised to learn that behavior has not been part of the standard curriculum in many veterinary medicine schools. That is changing, but more can be done.” As the most common reasons people give up a pet are inappropriate elimination issues, aggression, and other unwanted behaviors such as reactivity, it is clear that “behavioral health and the strength of the human-animal bond have a huge impact on animal welfare.”
Tammy is a proponent of the team approach among pet parents and pet care professionals as described in a seminar presented by TEAM Education in Animal Behavior entitled The TEAM Approach: The Behavior of DOGS! and a new textbook entitled Canine and Feline Behavior for Veterinary Technicians and Nurses edited by Julie Shaw and Debbie Martin. She sees pet care professionals, such as qualified behavior experts, veterinarians, trainers, daycare providers, pet sitters, shelter staff, and others, as all on the same team. They strive for a common goal: improving the quality of life for pets and the people who love them. “Each team member brings a unique perspective and skill set. By creating opportunities for continued education and cooperation, the team can help pets and their families connect for life,” says Tammy.
“Clicker training and TAGteach have the power to shape positive emotions as well as more appropriate behavior,” says Tammy. She believes, and demonstrates herself both professionally and personally, that clicker training is “the engine driving successful behavioral treatment and the repair of strained human-animal bonds.” Tammy’s wish is for clicker training to become the conventional wisdom everywhere, used routinely for teaching skills that are necessary to live happily and connect animals with families for life.