For me, the biggest thrill of 2010 was the rise of the Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) Certified Training Partner (CTP). A CTP is a dog trainer who has passed our challenging flagship course with high grades. That means he or she truly understands how to use reinforcement technology, at a high level of skill, on any learner—including the human owner.
Our professional flagship training course takes about six months to complete. Part of the course is online and part of it is on the ground, in a series of workshops with a KPA faculty member, at one of 20 locations around the country. An international course is held in the Seattle area, so there are now CTPs in 13 countries in addition to the US and Canada.
They all know this stuff works, in any language, with any behavior.
"We would take each dog's morning kibble and feed
them breakfast using river rocks as our markers to
click. By the 6th day, there much more slack leash
to see. You could see the handlers grow in
confidence with the technique."
-- Lynn Martin, CTP, on clicker training
S&R dogs in Nepal
We were contacted by search and rescue team members from Nepal who were developing dogs to rescue lost hikers and mountain climbers, and to dig people out of avalanches. They wanted to clicker train their dogs. Could we help? I put the question out to the KPA alumni list: Bingo. Lynn Martin, a CTP in the Midwest, decided she could use an adventure, and went to Kathmandu, taking two half-grown German shorthaired pointers with her. Connecting on the Internet, CTP Chris Waggoner in California raised money and gathered training gear and supplies and shipped them out ahead. Lynn developed eight operant S&R teams in the Himalayas, in a foreign language and perilous Himalayan terrain, nipping home just hours ahead of some political mishap that closed the airport.
By the time they graduate, CTPs are comfortable with new species, not just dogs.
One requirement of the course is that you must complete some training exercises with an animal of another species. Students’ practice animals have included cats, birds, chimpanzees, horses, cows, and even fish.
“Too bad you don’t train lambs,” one father said to a recent KPA graduate. His 4-H daughter was at the state fair, hoping to lead her hand-raised lamb into the ring the next day, but the husky young sheep was dragging the girl in all directions. The CTP said she might be able to help and went into the stall with a clicker and treats. She taught the lamb to put its chin in its owner’s hand and keep it there, wherever the girl went. Worked great! Blue ribbon time!
All CTPs have met the same high standards, so they know they can rely on each other.
There are now over 200 CTPs around the US and Canada (and many more coming into the program or in progress.) When we started the program I hadn’t foreseen what a huge relief this would be to trainers whose favorite clients are moving to another state. Laura VanArendonk Baugh, CTP and KPA faculty member, writes:
“Well, this is a bonus! I have a client with a puppy, a FABULOUS team. He's an actor, traveling with a Broadway tour. They're off to a great start, and I've already contacted a KPA CTP at his next tour stop to continue working with him. I've also told him that, in addition to an invitation to contact me if he needs further help, he can locate a trainer with similar techniques as he travels. How cool is that?”
Clicker training requires, and teaches, initiative and creativity.
One of our graduates accepted a position managing a racing stable. She asked the CTP community what the clicker approach to training young race horses would be. What behaviors do they really need that they don’t usually get? One CTP had been a track veterinarian, another had been a breeder. Experienced horse folks who were also KPA graduates became an ad hoc advisory board for this new venture.
CTPs are decision-makers and leaders.
Some CTPs are veterinarians, doctors, teachers, and researchers, bringing clicker training into the lab, the hospital, the school. CTPs are teaching zookeepers to enrich and protect the animals in their care using clicker training. CTPs are partnering with veterinarians to offer training and behavior modification to patients and their owners. CTPs run service dog training programs. They run shelters. They work with children and families.
And everywhere they go, the graduates of KPA are finding new and ingenious ways to use clicker training and TAGteaching, and to pass those new applications on to others. They really are changing the world, one click at a time.
Happy New Year!
Our online course list is growing!
- See a sample of the Dog Training Course at www.karenpryoracademy.com.
- If you want to hone your present clicker skills, sign up for the online Freestyle course, taught by WCFO multi–international champion Michele Pouliot.
- Want more clients? Sell your services through the Social Media online course, coming in February 2011.
- Just getting started? Lay the groundwork for advanced training with the Clicker Basics course, coming in 2011.