Owners love to see their dogs smile.
Jim’s first experience with the clicker was with Cooper, a flat-coated retriever; Cooper was Jim’s KPA dog. Cooper was not easy to train. After a few weeks Jim did not think he would change any of his unwanted behaviors—as Jim remembers, all of Cooper’s behaviors were unwanted! Although Jim and Julie Shaw talked about changing dogs for the course, Jim thought, “If I can’t be successful with Cooper, how could I feel confident with a client’s dog?” With the encouragement of his class, Jim decided to keep Cooper, and Cooper did change. When Jim and Cooper performed the required 10-behavior chain, Cooper received a 99% and a standing ovation.
Professionally, Jim’s first aggressive dog was named Gracie. At Jim’s suggestion, she was evaluated at Purdue Clinic. At the start, Gracie went to the vet medicated and muzzled. Jim began working with Gracie, from a distance and under threshold, walking into her view each time she looked at him. The end result of Jim’s training with Gracie was that after six months Gracie could go to the vet without medication or muzzle. She is handled without fear, and will even express affection. According to Jim, all of this was accomplished with marker training, patience, affirmation, and love.
In addition to his work with aggressive dogs, Jim enjoys working with special needs dogs. Andy was a deaf dog that jumped on people, mouthed people (often breaking the skin), and had no concept of loose-leash walking. Jim used a little key light as a marker. In a few months the jumping had been replaced by a sit behavior and the mouthing was extinct.
In other situations, Jim works with the dogs of people who have special needs. Jim once worked with a woman with dwarfism, named Amy, and her golden retriever, Max. Amy had many physical needs and would require surgery in her future. Building a team, Jim consulted with Max’s vet and physical therapist, Amy’s surgeon, Amy’s physical therapist, and Amy’s family doctor. Jim, Amy, and Max trained in malls, stores, churches, airports, and at the college where Amy had professional commitments. With marker training, Max learned more than 150 behaviors. Max brings Amy her socks, helps her remove her coat, pulls carts, and opens doors—both push buttons and push bars. One time a breeze blew a picture to the floor in Amy’s office. Max picked it up and brought it to Amy. He started out as a mischievous adolescent, and at the end of his training, Max was a professional. When, at the end of their training, Amy said to Jim, “Now I feel normal,” Jim’s eyes filled with tears.
Working with grieving families, so much a part of Jim pastoral, counseling, and law careers, continues to be part of Jim’s life. With other professional therapists, Jim helped form a support group for families grieving animals. The group also served as a teaching tool for graduate students in psychology. Jim is part of burial services for pets, as he was in law enforcement when police dogs and police horses died. Jim believes this kind of work is very important for the ongoing health of those left behind. When Jim goes to be with a family that is putting their pet to sleep (a service for which he does not charge), his hope is not only to help the humans grieve, but also to help other animals in the home face the death.
As a pastor and therapist, Jim believes the KPA way to be consistent with his philosophy of life.