In the quest to ensure that service dogs are well socialized, and not fearful or reactive, Wayne explains, “I do not use a clicker with the puppies, but use verbal markers to train cues such as sit and down, as well as behaviors like loose-leash walking and recall.”He reports that skills from the DTP program have really helped him communicate with the pups and modify training plans to each dog’s needs. Wayne has raised two puppies for GDB; both passed all eight phases of training and are working guides, one in Maryland and the other in Toronto, Canada. “My third GDB puppy is only 9 months old and slept quietly by my side while I completed this interview,” reveals Wayne. Wayne has also trained some basic cues with Casey, his family dog, using positive methods. Casey is deaf, but Wayne says that “training a deaf dog can be challenging, but it is not impossible.”
Working with Dr. Downes at Animal Hospital of Rowlett Veterinary Clinic, Wayne conducts many puppy socialization classes for “long-time pet parents to brand-new ones.” In several cases, “long-time pet parents have been stunned to see how quick and easy it is to implement new concepts and behaviors,” Wayne reports. Wayne has also worked with clinic staff on what he calls “positive distractions” for dogs that might be a little fearful or reactive during procedures. “We are moving forward and implementing the ‘Fear Free’ initiative at the clinic, too.”
When it comes to his human students, Wayne believes that the KPA program showed him how to teach so that a learner can understand what is expected and progress in small steps. That way, there is a greater chance for success. Wayne and his wife have talked about positive training. His wife, a high-school teacher, has applied these techniques with her students with positive results! Per Wayne, “when you set a learning experience up for success it usually happens.”
At the clinic, Wayne is continually learning as he problem-solves scenarios and dilemmas that everyday pet owners face. This hands-on experience is often combined with extra reading and research. “I have explored scent work, incorporating what I learned in the DTP program, but have not progressed far yet.” Wayne sees himself reaching for other KPA-taught skills as he expands his work with guide dogs and therapy dogs, and, hopefully, “with medical-alert dogs in the future.”
Considering a “fun fact” that he shared, Wayne may have opportunity to learn more about how dogs help in the medical arena. “I am the trainer for ‘Shiloh,’ the house therapy dog and ‘Chief Cheer Officer’ for the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas. I volunteer as his trainer and teach his therapy team how to handle him in therapy situations.” Hurray, for Shiloh, and for you, Wayne!