Off and running
In May we announced the launch of the first educational course of the new Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior. The Academy is set up both to spread the word about clicker training and to teach people to clicker train the way we think it ought to be done.
Best practices (versus worst)
Why are we doing this? One of the things I've learned from five years of ClickerExpo is that there is a "best way" to clicker train. The faculty at ClickerExpo may be involved in many different kinds of applications, from dogs to dolphins to children, but we all agree about the principles we use and the practices we follow. When we say "training," we all mean the same thing.
Many of you have learned those principles and practices and have taken them out into the world as teachers and trainers yourselves. You're proud to call yourselves clicker trainers and happy to be bringing kind and effective training to your communities. But unfortunately, no matter how obvious it is to us, the general public and the media still really don't know the difference between good training and bad. People with harsh and even brutal methods are still finding customers. People who advertise themselves as clicker trainers may be anything but positive; we've heard of instructors with a clicker in one hand and a shock collar remote in the other. Well-meaning people with poor clicker skills are holding "clicker" classes that don't teach a thing.
How do good teachers defend themselves? If you are clicker training and teaching for a living, how can you compete, not just against the serious and dedicated traditional trainer with traditional ways, but against the charlatans pretending to know as much about clicker training as you?
The Academy is our answer. We're opening our professional Dog Trainer Program with a six-month course. The course has both online components and hands-on training with selected faculty, guaranteeing graduates a thorough grounding in clicker principles and best practices and preparing them to be excellent teachers of the general public. Not only will our graduates be good clicker trainers, they'll know how to use similar approaches with pet owners, too, so that classes are fun and reinforcing for people and pets alike.
Benefits for the experienced
What if you are already an experienced clicker training instructor? This program will increase your understanding of current and advanced clicker training methods and skills, and of what we consider to be best practices in teaching clicker training to others. If you teach and train for a business, you already know that it's not always easy to make a decent living doing what you love. Addressing this issue—making a business grow and succeed—takes more know-how than just putting up fliers and designing a letterhead. This course will teach you how to think about your business, your market, and the value you bring to your customers and clients, so that you can plan realistically and do what it takes to make a reasonable profit.
Unique among educational institutions, the Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Program also includes a "first of its kind" benefit: outstanding business support for all graduates. Here's how it works. Graduation from the program is our way of ensuring that everyone using the Karen Pryor name is representing and teaching clicker training to the same high standards. Graduates become Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners. Training Partners participate in a new national marketing program that we fund specifically to reach pet owners, educate them about clicker training, and refer them directly to YOU!
Even more to come
As we open the program nationally, we already have twelve teaching faculty in eight states and in Ottawa, Canada available for the hands-on supervised workshops that are an integral part of the Dog Trainer Program. We are adding more on a regular basis. Applications to the program are flowing in. My dream is that there will be real, skilled, genuine "Karen Pryor-style" clicker teachers all over the US—hey, all over the world—in the years ahead!
As we continue, the Academy will roll out new programs for specialized training, for exotic animals or agility, for example. But most of all, our part of the bargain is to make sure that the word goes out to everyone everywhere: an Academy-trained clicker trainer can give every pet owner the kindest and best training of all.