When Toni joined the PetSafe Brand as the Training & Behavior Education Specialist, she was able to complete the KPA Dog Trainer Professional (DTP) program. “I was excited to enroll in the DTP program so that I could fine-tune my clicker training skills and learn how I could be more skilled, efficient, and successful,” explains Toni. She completed the “phenomenal” DTP program in Maryland with Laurie Luck. Toni praises her instructor as “one of the most enthusiastic and supportive people I have ever met!” Similarly positive about her classmates, Toni found that the other students became “family” to her. “We succeeded, fell apart, laughed, and stressed out together. If that doesn't make you a family, I don't know what does!”
Different parts of the Dog Trainer Professional course were highlights for Toni; other segments were more challenging. Strong confidence was an important takeaway. Upon completion of the program Toni says, “I felt like I knew clicker training inside and out, like I could do it in my sleep, with my eyes closed, or in a tornado.” Breaking behavior into pieces was another valuable skill mastered through the DTP. The overall atmosphere of the class was encouraging and fun. Toni remembers thinking to herself, “This is the group I am meant to be with.”
While Toni felt some natural apprehension completing her final test, a behavior chain, what was more difficult turned out to be working with Sadie on a shaping exercise. “Sadie would not get into a box, even just one foot!” Toni discovered that she needed to break down the behavior into even smaller increments for Sadie and change the environment so the box wasn't as intimidating. This struggle helped Toni learn to “look at a challenge from my dog's perspective.”
Toni finds tremendous value in being a KPA CTP. “For clients, my credentials and style establish the type of person and trainer I am. There is an immediate understanding that I will be working at the dog's pace and comfort level, and that I will examine the dog's perspective.” Her training helps Toni engage her human clients as well. “Clients list all the behaviors they don't want (stop chewing! stop jumping! stop pulling!); offering owners new behaviors to teach gives them a place to go. It's a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Explaining to clients that clicker training isn't just about DOG learning makes Toni’s points as well. “It's about all-creature learning. Providing examples of positive training methods working successfully for dolphins, whales, butterflies, children, CEOs, surgeons, cats, and chickens helps Toni convince clients to try out those methods.
In addition to training with private clients and their pets, Toni works in shelter environments. She completed the KPA Shelter Training & Enrichment course and really enjoyed the experience. “In an ideal world, the best training is done with time and consistency. But, in a shelter it's hard to find those two things,” explains Toni. She uses clicker training skills in shelters, especially to train “superstar” behaviors that help hard-to-adopt dogs stand out and get adopted. In her role with PetSafe, Toni travels the country, “offering lectures to shelters and students in university classes and clubs about how to incorporate clicker training and low-cost enrichment programs in a shelter environment.”