As Sam completed the DTP course, Guide Dogs UK was working to standardize the organization’s training program with clicker training. “Fortunately, I was able to apply my knowledge straight away.” Since then, Sam has used clicker training daily across the full range of guiding tasks that she teaches, as well as in basic cooperative care. “For general grooming and physical health check-ups, a dog that can use a platform as a station makes tasks easier.” Sam explains that, in the past, dogs were withdrawn from the guide program when they could not be examined by a vet. Now, with clicker training, those dogs are able to complete the vet step and go on to be successful guides.
As another example, Sam describes how guide dogs can be clicker trained to offer a start/stop button behavior that allows a person who is visually impaired to know where in space s/he is. “The person being guided can communicate with the dog, although s/he cannot observe the dog’s body language.”
In her Mobility Specialist role, Sam not only works with trainee guide dogs, but also with the dog and the guide-dog owner as a team, helping them develop a working partnership. “TAGteach has really changed my approach to teaching and problem-solving with clients. I break down tasks into very small steps to ensure success and build confidence.” The basic principles of TAGteach are always in play when Sam works with the team. “I love how clients and dogs can succeed from the start.”
Sam’s previous career in human psychology had prepared her to work with others in ways that are positive, yet her KPA experience expanded those approaches. Sam now uses markers with her children for medical care. “When I completed the KPA course, my baby, who was less than a year old, would become distressed during medical exams. I used the TAGteach approach to help her become more comfortable in that environment.” Both of Sam’s young children have benefitted significantly from careful preparation for medical care, particularly during the pandemic when Sam “needed a two-year-old and a four-year old to cooperate for nasal swabs!” Sam reports that she also used TAGteach to help her teach handwriting skills “when I suddenly found myself home-schooling.”
Sam is certified in Level 1 TAGteach and has completed the course for TAGteach Level 2. She has completed the KPA Puppy Start Right for Instructors course as well. “Since I don’t work much with young puppies, this course helped fill in my knowledge about this part of a dog’s life.” Sam has attended the ClickerExpo Luminos conferences in the UK, “a great way to stretch my brain muscles,” and shares that she particularly loves listening to Michele Pouliot. A seminar with Linda Ryan and Laura Monaco Torelli helped Sam absorb more knowledge about cooperative care. Acknowledging her own involvement with babies/toddlers and dogs, Sam hopes to become a Family Paws Educator. She also plans to extend her PGCert in Clinical Animal Behaviour, “when I have a bit more time!”