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FUNdamentals and Beyond: An Interview with Hannah Branigan

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We asked Hannah Branigan, KPA CTP, Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) faculty member, and ClickerExpo faculty member, a wide-ranging set of questions that touched on her home life, her work life, her recently released training DVD, and her various roles within Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. Get ready to learn more about this interesting and accomplished trainer—and then, perhaps, meet her in person at ClickerExpo Cincinnati March 18-20! 

Q: What do you like most about instructing classes?

A: My favorite thing about teaching is taking the complex and mysterious and breaking it down to make it accessible for ordinary people. Whether it's loose-leash walking or precision heeling, complex tasks require a lot of skills from both dog and handler. I really enjoy figuring out new ways to split the skills, so that the humans have solutions for different training challenges.

Q: How do you reach the family-pet audience and the competition audience with the same material? Or is it different material? The same material approached differently?

A: I don't teach identical material for every audience, because the goals and objectives for a solid family pet will differ (somewhat) from those of an aspiring performance dog. The contexts in which the needed skills will be performed are also different, and we take that into account.

The basic framework is the same, because the principles of training are the same. And, there is quite a lot of overlap. For both groups, I emphasize handler mechanics, because I know that when we, as handlers, are clear and consistent with our mechanics, the dogs' behavior will tend to fall right in line. It's funny how that works! So giving clear instructions and practical solutions for each aspect of the handler's task, like food delivery, criteria, cues, setting up the environment, etc. are extremely important goals for me when I train people and their dogs. 

Q: Congratulations on the release of your new training DVD FUNdamentals and Beyond. It follows your original DVD, Obedience Fundamentals. How does the sequel differ or expand on the material in your first DVD?

A: After publishing Obedience FUNdamentals, I had several groups reach out to me looking for something more. Clubs where I had taught the original Obedience FUNdamentals workshop in person as well as groups and individuals who had watched the DVD and loved it so much all requested wanted a sequel. Well, if my fans demand it…!

The Beyond FUNdamentals seminar is meant to build on the foundation skills covered in Obedience FUNdamentals. It assumes knowledge of the introductory material, and expands on it. We look at different applications for those skills and the next steps to progress forward, polishing and proofing. The main themes covered in the second DVD/seminar are: 

  • Maintaining criteria: This gets really challenging as the overall complexity of the exercise increases. Really elite trainers have one thing in common: they are all excellent at maintaining criteria.
  • Stimulus Control: What obedience is all about! 
  • Focus and Motivation: Because you can never have too much of either!

Q: With two upcoming DTP workshops, one in North Carolina and the other in Tennessee, how do you prepare for each? Your Nashville course will be conducted in a new format. Would you share some of the specifics about the change?

A: The main difference is that the Nashville class will be in the new “National” format. Instead of 4 hands-on workshops spread out across the calendar, the students will do all of the online work at home and then we will meet once for 5 days of hands-on training at the end. The program in Tennessee in August will be my first time teaching the new format, so it will be an adventure!

Q: ClickerExpo in Cincinnati is approaching quickly (March 18-20, 2016)! What are you looking forward to most at the conference? Will some of the training from your DVDs be included in your Sessions (Click Your Heels! Heeling for Performance, High Precision, High Scores)?

A: At ClickerExpo I'm most looking forward to spending time with the people. I love the energy and excitement from all those clicker trainers invading one hotel for a weekend. In my Sessions, I cover some of the same concepts as in the DVDs, but most of the video examples I use were made specifically for the Expo presentations. I am particularly excited about some of the slow-motion videos I have that let us really put the dog's behavior under a microscope, break down the action, and really geek out about it! 

Rugby is the life of the party at ClickerExpo!

Q: Your canine companion at ClickerExpo is your dog Rugby. What does Rugby make of the conference?

A: Rugby seems to enjoy ClickerExpo conferences. I'm careful to give him lots of breaks and downtime. He's a pro at traveling and staying in hotels. Rugby really enjoys social interaction, and at ClickerExpo he gets lots of that!

Q: Are there any other animals that you train at home or through your business?

A: I have 5 dogs, ranging from 2 year old (Rugby) to 17 years old (my hound mix, Sam). We also have 2 cats, 2 horses, a handful of sheep, and some chickens and guineas. I've played around with training all of them at different points in time, and learned a lot from those experiments. My dogs, horses, and child get most of my time and attention though! My daughter, Harper, is very interested in training, and likes to train all of her stuffed animals. She has her own treat pouch (or “tweet pouch”) that she wears, and sets up obstacle courses for the animals frequently. 


Thank you for sharing snapshots from your busy life, Hannah. We are looking forward to seeing you at ClickerExpo Cincinnati!  

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