After moving out of the culinary field, Jay looked for training facilities where she could work. She worked at one organization briefly, leaving when one of the trainers cursed at a dog. “My instincts told me that using aversives (positive punishment) with animals was not right. I did not know much about canine body languages or emotional signals at that time, but I clearly remember that the dog just wanted to play tug and was not ignoring the trainer.”
Jay began to study on her own, working as a part-timer at a veterinary clinic on weekends and offering free seminars for dogs’ families. She continued to research alternatives to traditional training methods. Jay’s only knowledge came from materials imported from Japan and translated. “Those materials were really outdated!” However, she was able to pass the CPDT-KA exam in 2012. “While I was gaining confidence knowledge-wise, my training skills were lacking,” remembers Jay.
Two KPA courses changed that!
One day, Jay came across a blog article about clicker training written by the first KPA CTP in South Korea. She contacted that trainer, who recommended KPA. Fluent in English, Jay enrolled in the KPA Dog Trainer Foundation (DTF) program, earning that certificate in 2013. Jay remembers that the DTF program was “an eye-opening experience that made me fall deeply in love with this positive-reinforcement method!”
The Dog Trainer Professional (DTP) program was recommended next; Jay saved her money so that she could support herself and complete the program. “My training skills were still poor at that point, but the DTF exercises improved my skills so much that I knew the Professional program would advance me even more.” Jay enrolled in the DTP World program in 2015, completing it in January 2016. Her instructor was Terry Ryan, and her hands-on workshop was held in Hawaii.
Jay says that the material and exercises from the KPA DTP program were her foundation training skills, skills that she continues to use. She quotes a Ken Ramirez statement from a ClickerExpo conference, “Advanced training is just the basics well done.” Exercises related to shaping skills were the most useful to Jay. “The better observer I was, the more I could break down skills, made the training more fun for me, Hailey (my first companion dog!), and my clients.”
TAGteach was also something special for Jay when she was first introduced to it. “I was a slow learner and struggled as a student in middle and high school, so shaping and TAGteach sounded magical to me!” When she works with clients, Jay tries to remember that she has been training for 10 years now. “Things that are natural for me may not yet be natural for others.” She says that KPA taught her that “teaching should be structured from the point of view of learners, not of teachers or coaches.”
A corollary to that statement is something that Terry Ryan passed on to Jay: “The most important thing is the animal itself, not the training or our goals.” Jay keeps that philosophy in mind when she consults with zookeepers. “Some zookeepers wonder why they have to put time into training when their hands are full and human resources are scarce.” Jay counsels them to spend quality time with the animals, just a couple of minutes every day. “Even that makes the animals' lives richer than before.” Jay reports that zookeepers who question training are often motivated to resume training after reflecting on her explanations and on how well they know the animals in their care.
One zookeeper experience involves a baby penguin that did not know how to eat under the water. The baby's mom and dad were not trying to teach the baby and the zookeeper was totally lost. Jay suggested that the keeper start feeding the baby penguin in the bathtub with the water level just enough to cover the baby's feet, then slowly increase the water level. Jay reports that “Two weeks later, that baby penguin had no problem eating under the water and even dived into the water to compete with adult penguins!” The zookeepers were not used to the concept of shaping, “but after this experience, they were eager to apply this skill within their management and training plans.”
Jay is even more creative when she selects reinforcers for dogs. One client’s dog was dog reactive and then became dog-aggressive after attacks from off-leashed or unattended dogs. This dog was not really interested in food treats early in Jay’s training but became more willing later. “We also let her jump into shallow water (she loves swimming) or catch blown bubbles immediately after she spots a dog. Smart reinforcers have no limits!”
Admitting that she used to be a very hot-headed person (“sometimes still am, especially when I drive”), Jay credits KPA programs for positively impacting her life. Instead of yelling at students when accidents occur, as when a student’s dog got loose in an outdoor training class when the leash was unclipped inadvertently, “I talk to students in a very calm voice in a safe spot, explaining what happened and how to prevent accidents from happening in the future.” Jay’s goal is not to discourage her students. Jay believes this goal, and the calm attitude, exemplify the thinking of good clicker trainers. She tries to extend that philosophy to herself when things go wrong at home. “Before I learned and used the positive-reinforcement training method, I used to focus on negative things and blame myself. Now, I know how to switch that thought.”
Jay is a recurring student when it comes to KPA courses. She has completed the Shelter Training and Enrichment, Puppy Start Right for Instructors, and Better Veterinary Visits courses. Jay attended ClickerExpo in 2017, 2018, and 2020 and Terry Ryan's gamification workshop and Chicken Camp. She is also the first Level 1 TAGteach-certified instructor in South Korea. “To develop and improve my English skills, I was internationally certified as a Grade-1 business translator in English/Korean in June 2022.”
Jay notes the growing interest from pet parents, animal-related professionals, businesses, and schools in clicker training in South Korea over the past decade. “When I graduated from the DTP program, I felt sorry for people who could not study this life-changing course because of the language difference. Now KPA courses will be offered in Korean, beginning with the Korean version of the Dog Trainer Foundation course that launched in March 2021.” Jay’s goal is to integrate clicker training in new programming and ensure that positive reinforcement training becomes a nationwide standard for everyone who works with animals in South Korea. Jay’s personal belief is that a true clicker trainer has great training skills but also has compassion for animals and people. “Training should not be a way of justifying aversives with animals. Training should be used to minimize animals’ stress and, of course, to create fun events and enrichment opportunities in people’s and animals’ lives.”