November 2014 KPA CTP of the Month
Britta Wilson, KPA CTP, has worked with a variety of domestic, herd, and exotic animals as a trainer, educator, guide, counselor, intern, and zookeeper at zoos, sanctuaries, and humane societies both near her home and farther afield. Now as the owner of Britta’s Animal Training and Pet Services, she offers all-positive training and care to pet parents in the Encinitas, California, area. Britta not only understands the philosophy and science of clicker training, but she shares its value (and fun) with the animals, the clients, and the employees in her life.
Britta enrolled in the KPA Dog Trainer Professional program in the spring of 2012 and graduated in January of 2013. She decided to sign up for the KPA course when she realized that to take the next step in her animal care career she needed more training—specifically a deeper understanding of the positive training methods she preferred. When Britta thought about the science and methodology of animal training, Karen Pryor came to mind at once. At the start of her 8-year tenure at the San Diego Zoo, Britta had been required to read Karen’s iconic book, Don’t Shoot the Dog, and knew about Karen’s reputation of excellence in the animal training community. Although Britta had not planned to focus on dogs, her participation in the KPA Dog Trainer Professional program led her to open her own business providing training and services to animal owners in San Diego County. There are not many exotic animals to work with in Britta’s area, but, in addition to dogs, her business welcomes cats; small animals such as rabbits and birds; and herd animals such as horses, sheep, goats, pigs, and cows.
For Britta, the most useful and illuminating part of the KPA Dog Trainer Professional program was the solid understanding of the science and methodology of training that she acquired. The classes, hands-on exercises, and faculty experience gave Britta what she sought—a real understanding of how to train a behavior. Until KPA, the majority of Britta’s training experience came from her observations of other trainers, usually in the zoo field.
I feel like I am a much better trainer now that I have completed the Dog Trainer course. The program really boosted my confidence in my abilities. Now I feel like I can go anywhere and train any animal.
The KPA experience has continued to benefit Britta. Certainly the skills and confidence she gained from the Dog Trainer Professional course helped her launch her successful new business. However, Britta believes that her KPA connection has offered additional opportunities, and has opened doors for her. For example, KPA faculty member Nan Arthur, owner of Whole Dog Training, asked Britta to join her team. Britta says, “This was a great honor, as Nan is very well-known and well-respected in the positive reinforcement dog training community in San Diego. I was thrilled to be asked to work with her.”
Britta was also hired as a contract trainer with Get Pawsitive Dog Training, owned by Sarah Surritt, also an alumna of Karen Academy, and “a fantastic trainer like Nan!”
At Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas, CA, and the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services (all three campuses), Britta teaches volunteers how to use positive reinforcement and an event marker when handling dogs. “Working with the volunteers has been a wonderful opportunity to spread the word about the power of positive reinforcement and clicker training. I would have never have had this chance had I not attended KPA,” says Britta.
Britta’s experiences working with nearly every animal imaginable through the years have taught her an amazing amount about the behavior of animals, and the subtle differences between species.
Working with an antelope is far different than working with a monkey or a cheetah.
Training many different species has improved Britta’s skills and instincts. She must consider if an animal “is ‘flighty’ like an antelope, dangerous like a tiger, or extremely intelligent like a gorilla!” She uses different tools and techniques with each animal. Britta loves that challenge—and loves working with challenging animals.
Britta employs Ida Lonnqvist as an animal caregiver and dog walker at Britta’s Animal Training and Pet Services. When Ida first started working with Britta, Britta suggested that she enroll in the KPA Dog Trainer Foundations course to develop her skills in dog training and in using positive reinforcement in handling animals. Britta says, “I like to work with people who have the same values and beliefs when it comes to handling and training animals. Ida’s completion of the KPA course gives her more knowledge and credibility, which in turn helps my business and reputation.” To read more about Ida’s experience with the Dog Trainer Foundations course, and how it has positively impacted her work and life, click here.
Since graduating from Karen Pryor Academy and launching her business, Britta has done a great deal of reading about dog training and has attended numerous seminars. She hopes to earn her CPDT-KA certification and attend the KPA Puppy Start Right for Instructors course. Looking ahead even further, Britta’s goal is to open a board-and-train facility. “I see a big need for a strictly positive reinforcement facility in North County San Diego,” Brita declares. “Many of the board-and-train facilities in and around San Diego use correction training and aversive methods. I would like to open a facility where pet parents can leave their dogs while they are on vacation and not worry that their pets are treated harshly.”
At a class, a private session, a shelter, a farm, an exotic animal venue, or her dream board-and-train facility, Britta’s interaction with animals and people in her world will continue to be positive.