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Clicker Training: The Fad that Became a Technology



group discussion

Editor's note: Karen Pryor Academy recently held an inaugural round of onsite workshops, as part of the first semester's curriculum. We asked Academy faculty member Julie Shaw-Lewis to tell us how the weekend went and share her thoughts about the Academy thus far. Julie's enthusiasm, in teaching and in her writing below, is contagious and reflects the varied experience of this well-respected trainer. Julie obtained an associate's degree in veterinary technology from a leading midwest veterinary university and worked in private practice for 16 years, while also training dogs and teaching organized classes. Julie has also trained two service dogs for her physically challenged son. Since 1999, Julie has been involved with a leading midwest veterinary university's Animal Behavior Clinic, teaching, counseling, and consulting for veterinary students and trainers.

Karen Pryor Academy spreads an amazing technology

Shaping foot lift

Clicker training is no longer considered a fad, and has become a technology for solving communication problems between animals and humans. A technology spreads successfully when it is easy to learn, can be taught by others, and has obvious and immediate benefits. Clicker training has clearly met those criteria.

The question is no longer "How long will clicker training be around?" but "Where is it going next?" Karen Pryor answered that question recently by launching Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior. The Academy's Dog Trainer Program combines the convenience of distance learning with the power of hands-on teaching.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to join the faculty of Karen Pryor Academy. Working with the Academy and, specifically, the Dog Trainer Program, has been one of the most rewarding and stimulating experiences of my 25-year career as a veterinary professional and dog trainer.

Only positive

Julie checking homework

The online courses are challenging and fit perfectly with the exercises and hands-on workshops. The workshops are taught in a completely positive learning atmosphere and allow participants to benefit from the peer support of their classmates.

Patty, one of my current students, commented after the first workshop that she'd never experienced two full days of 100% positive feedback. Not one negative comment was uttered during the two days of intense training. Students are told from the moment they arrive that training animals is only part of the process; the goal is to provide a foundation for each other, so that we all become the best teachers we can be.

We left that first workshop exhausted, sweaty, challenged, and dying to start the next module. I've had colleagues ask me if the course had existed 15 years ago, would I have applied to become a student? My answer is, "Heck, yes! It would have propelled my career forward 10 years."

Karen Pryor has raised the bar for us all once again. Academy courses are thought provoking, encouraging participants to stretch themselves and take their training to the next level. Earning Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner status means you have reached a level of animal training and teaching you can be proud of. The title conveys to the pet training community that you have demonstrated the highest level of achievement, expertise, and ethics in the animal training profession.

Thank you, Karen Pryor, for becoming an iconoclast for dog training and for giving us the opportunity to become better communicators, dog trainers, parents, and people.

Second photo by Terri P. Tepper; other two photos by Carolyn Regnier.


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