about sidekick dog training
approach to training
My approach to training can be summed up in one phrase (motto, tagline, or mission - whatever you want to call it):
Better training through better relationships.
That's the short version, anyway. The long version? My approach to training keeps the following four principles in mind - whether I'm working with my own SideKick, I'm working with your SideKick, or I'm helping you work with your SideKick!
Living and Learning with Animals: Animal Behavior Seminar, November 8th – 9th
Susan Friedman’s seminar focused on the principles of learning and behavior in animals and applied behavior analysis, a tool designed to assist in behavior change. The guiding principle of this approach is a hierarchy of teaching interventions that start with the most positive, least intrusive, effective behavior solutions.
The Play Way: Using Play to Chase the Boogeyman Away, May 21st – 22nd
Dr. Amy Cook’s seminar explored how to use play in a therapeutic manner for stressed, fearful and reactive dogs and teaching these dogs how to remain comfortable, confident, and focused in novel and challenging environments.
ClickerExpo, March 18th – 20th
- Animals in Control: The Choice is Theirs (Eva Bertilsson, Peggy Hogan, and Emelie Johnson-Vegh): introducing various techniques designed to help open the conversation with learners, teaching animals a way to ‘give permission’ to proceed or indicate they are ‘ready’ to ensure an animal is prepared or committed to the activity.
Full House? Working & Living with Multiple Animals (Ken Ramirez): using concepts such as stationing, fairness, clicker use, and new animal introductions to train and work with multiple animals at the same time.
You’re in Great Shape: Understanding & Applying Shaping (Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh): delving into the benefits of the process of shaping behavior by reinforcing small steps toward future goals – one of the core processes of clicker training.
Ready… or Not? Working with Reactive Dogs (Emma Parsons): learning how to determine if a trainer should work with reactive dogs and in what capacity; and exploring the skills needed, the expectations the trainer should have, and the planning and infrastructure necessary to make decisions about readiness and willingness to work with reactive dogs.
Line in the Sand: How to Stay Below Threshold (Emma Parsons): exploring an exact definition of ‘threshold,’ why working within its boundaries is important, and how to help students stay within those boundaries.
The Rat is Never Wrong: Understanding Errorless Learning (Susan Friedman): exploring a teaching approach that limits incorrect responses, designing an errorless learning environment, and learning from errors to improve a training plan.
Training Thoughtfully Milwaukee 2017, October 20th - 22nd
This three-day seminar explored the question of what training thoughtfully is and why it matters to both the learner and the trainer.
Fearful dogs and horses: Using "asking loops" and barometer behaviors to modify fear (Jen Digate): Learning how to choose and establish an anchor behavior as a foundation for creating a clean loop. Learner-friendly set-ups giving the learner reason to stay and learn.
Developing young learners for a life of learning (Kay Laurence): Nature equips all young animals with a great appetite for learning. This appetite can be shaped towards a future that is rich with experiences and emotions that fill a repository for life. Developing super learners is a shared journey that benefits the teacher as much as the learner.
Letting go (Natalie Zielinski): Through video and photos attending explored the initial warning signs of frustration or confusion and how to flex a training plan to expand learning and to rebuild behaviors previously felt unsafe or trite.
The ultimate learner-centric activity (Laura Holder): this presentation introduced attendees to the nose work activity to allow our dogs to “Be More Dog.” Nose work activities allow dogs to exercise their nose, which builds confidence, independence, and problem solving skills.
Negative motivation is incompatible with positive results (Holly Lewis): We often need to review our motivation for training when we speed our energy (mis)focused on behaviors we want to eliminate. Remove barriers to success and pursue common goals can turn around the most difficult challenges.
Faithfully true or adapted training protocols (Kay Laurence): Some of our familiar and favorite protocols originated in conditions that have little in common with our real-life situations today. Protocols need to be understood in depth to be able to be employed as an integral part of our relationships.
Optimism is good, preparation is better (Natalie Zielinski): This presentation focused on preparing your animal for life’s twists and turns - rather than hoping to repair the damage.
Lure, shape, and target (Kay Laurence): This presentation proposed broadening our skills to enhance the learner’s experience. Expanding our skills introduces more creativity and we can weave together the most effective approach for this learner at this time.
Advanced Training Concepts, August 12th -13th
Ken Ramirez presented a 2-day seminar dedicated to the exploration and discussion of reinforcement strategies, several complex training tools available to trainers, strategies for working with groups of animals, and aggression reduction strategies.
The Good Enough Dog: Helping and Teaching our Clients to Live Happily with the Imperfect Dog, Webinar
Nancy Tucker presented a webinar that explored the idea of accepting the imperfect pet dog. However, the webinar explored how to be more creative in problem-solving, how to hone listening and observation skills, emphasizing the bond between clients and their dogs, and recognizing and accepting client (human and dog) limitations (and working within those parameters).
Dog Emotion and Cognition by Duke University, February 12th - April 3rd
This 8-week course (offered through Coursera) introduces students to the exciting new study of dog psychology, what the latest discoveries tell us about how dogs think and feel about us, and how we can use this new knowledge to further strengthen our relationship with our best friends.
ClickerExpo, March 31st - April 2nd
- Building Behavior: Shape the Future (Laura VanArendonk Baugh): splitting a behavior into many tiny steps to progress smoothly through a training plan to a goal behavior; in this method, animals learn creativity, power, and a desire to work with the trainer.
Fail-Safe: Cracking the Code for Ultra-Dependability (Hannah Branigan): exploring the process for building robust, reliable behaviors through understanding, clear communication, and core skills - beyond simple distraction-proofing.
Effective Affection: How to Get it Right (Jesus Rosales-Ruiz): for a dog that craves attention, affection can be a powerful reinforcer; instead of demanding the attention and petting, they can be taught to request and receive affection by offering behaviors we like to see.
The Fab Five: Concepts that Will Make Your Training Rock! (Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh): discussing five core concepts to elevate training for dog sports or pet dogs to new heights.
Control is an Illusion: Stimulus Control without Frustration (Sarah Owings): the frustration and confusion of extinction is not necessary when an animal can be taught, instead, precisely when reinforcement is available.
Phobia in Dogs - Real Life Case Study Analysis, Webinar
Claudia Estanislau presented, in a case study format, discussion on how to help dogs overcome fear-based behaviors and how to observe the symptoms caused by fear. This seminar specifically discussed fear associated with people, other animals, and other environmental factors. This webinar explained how to help owners aid their dogs in coping with fear in their daily lives.
Became a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA)
The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) is the leading independent certifying organization for the dog training profession. A trainer demonstrates mastery of humane, science-based dog training practices with a certification through the CCPDT by meeting the following criteria:
Collecting a minimum of 300 hours of handling/training experience over a three year period
Passing a rigorous exam, spanning the topics of ethology, learning theory, dog training technique, animal husbandry, and instruction
Agreeing to and signing the CCPDT's Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics
Agreeing to the Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) Effective Behavior Intervention policy
S.A.N.E. Solutions for Working with Shy, Fearful, or Anxious Dogs, Webinar
Kathy Cascade presented this webinar about effective, creative strategies for dealing with behavior issues associated with shy, fearful, or anxious dogs. “S.A.N.E. Solutions” (sensible and non-threatening education) is a collection of tools designed to help dogs reduce tension and arousal while building confidence and coping skills.
First Impressions: Successful "Introductions" for Cats and Dogs, Webinar
Lennea Bower reviewed strategies in this webinar for successfully integrating a new dog into a household with a resident cat and vice versa, which is a process that starts prior to the animals' first meeting and may continue for quite some time after before stabilizing. Additionally, the webinar covered pain points and possible solutions for building a successful relationship between pet cats and dogs.
Do you Understand the Concept of Empowerment Training?, Webinar
Niki Tudge presented this webinar about the concept of empowerment training; she defined the training, as well as the potential fallout of dis-empowerment in training. Additionally, Niki discussed training tactics and strategies to implement for including empowerment training.
Chirag Patel 3-Day Workshop: Rethinking Dog Training, May 11th - 13th
- Day 1: Rethinking Puppy Class - geared toward both professional trainers and puppy owners, foster parents, and anyone looking to provide essential support during this crucial development time, this day of the seminar focused on socialization, as well as modifications that can be made to puppy class structure.
Day 2: Understanding, Managing, & Modifying Problem Behavior - this day focused on simple, yet ethical and effective, ways to work on various behavior management and change exercises.
Day 3: Force-Free Training Tool Kit - this day of the seminar had attendees participating in hands-on sessions to put into practice some of the concepts discussed the prior two days of the seminar.
ClickerExpo, March 15th - 18th
Say What? The Terminology Challenge (Ken Ramirez): This session discussed how, at times, scientific vocabulary isn't suited to conversations with clients and the general public’s understanding or use of a term may not match the way it is used in the scientific community.
Choice, Control & Empowerment for Shelter Animals (Lindsay Wood Brown): This session explored how we can support behavioral welfare from shelter admission to exit through the provision of daily choices and attention to responses.
Reactive-Dog Games (Emma Parsons): This session explored several games that have been developed to challenge the most advanced reactive student/dog teams. The goal is to re-create safely some of the situations that pet owners and dog-sport enthusiasts face in ordinary life.
Veterinary Transformation: Fear Free Initiative (Debbie Martin): The Fear Free veterinary initiative is spreading in the veterinary community. The Fear Free mission is to alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets and to educate and inspire the people who care for pets. The program teaches the veterinary team how to attend to not only the physical well-being of pets, but also the emotional well-being.
What a Cue Can Do: Developing Cueing Skills (Kathy Sdao): Effective cueing is essential for achieving reliable responses. The process of adding cues in clicker training is different than in other training methods, though. This session was about choosing and maintaining effective cues, as well as about understanding how cues are integral to more advanced training applications.
The Puzzle Master: Training the Whole Picture in Small Pieces (Michele Pouliot): A challenging part of being an efficient clicker trainer is splitting behaviors into smaller pieces to reach a final goal behavior more effectively. This session discussed the exercise of dividing a complicated behavior into puzzle pieces to create the final masterpiece.
Drama at the Door! (Emma Parsons): This session taught several ways to teach dogs how to greet and relax when new people come to visit. A combination of home management, proper body language, and clicker trained foundation behaviors is what makes these plans viable.
Yes Please: Canine Cooperative Care, Webinar
Deb Jones presented her systematic approach to cooperative care training (husbandry training, which includes grooming care and veterinary procedures). This approach is based on a foundation of free choice along with smart reinforcement strategies, classical conditioning, and impulse control work. These all build a strong basis for specific body work. Deb also discussed general body handling, the introduction of grooming and veterinary tools, and working with specific body parts (eyes, ears, mouth, and feet).
ClickerExpo, March 22nd - 24th
- Reactive to Relaxed: What’s Next in Control Unleashed (Leslie McDevitt): Leslie McDevitt presented the latest evolutions in her popular book and counter-conditioning program, Control Unleashed™ (CU), that has helped working, performance, and pet dogs feel comfortable and safe in any challenging environment.
How to Win Friends & Influence Puppies: Effective Socialization (Laura VanArendonk Baugh): Proper socialization is essential for a healthy, happy family dog. This Session covered the science of socialization and the recommended techniques to use in puppy-socialization programs.
The Power of the Pattern: Counter-Conditioning Games with an Operant Twist (Leslie McDevitt): Pattern Games, a set of exercises designed specifically to empower dogs to initiate their own counter-conditioning procedure, combine the power of operant conditioning with counter-conditioning.
But My Dog Is Not Food-Motivated (Kathy Sdao): This session reviewed several common mistakes and provided alternatives for animals who have been become finicky eaters due to medical conditions or who have been labeled "not food-motivated."
Emotions: Inside Out (Susan G. Friedman, Ph.D.): This session focused on contemporary approaches to understanding emotions, which have upturned the commonly held classical account, and what understanding more about animal emotions means for the animals we care for.
You Talkin’ To Me? The ABC of Communication (Eva Bertilsson & Emelie Johnson Vegh): Behavior is communication, even if we don’t always recognize it or really understand what is being communicated. This session explored how the ABC lens can help trainers tie together behavior with language and communication more powerfully, and how trainers can use training skills to enhance interspecies communication.
All Ears: Protocol for Dogs with Sound Sensitivity (Debbie Martin): This session provided strategies for how to approach and prevent sound sensitivities, including teaching desired coping skills.
Beware of the Dog: Positive Solutions for Dog Aggression, April 6th - 7th
Pat Miller discussed dog aggression (what it is and what it isn't), root causes of dog aggression, management strategies, and a variety of behavior modification programs that are rooted in positive dog training.
The Fenzi Method: Cutting Corners to Loose Leash Walking, Webinar
Denise Fenzi presented her “cutting corners” method of working on leash walking skills, which can work even for dogs where other approaches have failed. It requires no food, no highly controlled environments, and allows for reasonably inexperienced handlers. The method is equally suited to a young puppy on dog directed socialization outings as it is for strong adult dogs with years of practice pulling on walks.
Elevator Behavior: Skills for Existing in Polite Society!, Webinar
Sometimes our dogs are magnetized to people and other dogs when out in public; sometimes they find it difficult to impossible to simply ignore others in the environment. We all want our dogs to be comfortable around other dogs and people and we often work very hard to socialize them. Deb Jones discussed in this webinar her concept of teaching dogs good “elevator behavior” and the importance of a dog who can simply mind his own business in public places.
Chirag Patel 4-Day Dog Training Intensive, November 8th - 11th
- Day 1: Empowering All Learners - Empowering our animal learners by placing an emphasis on choice and active participation in the development of new behaviors, existing husbandry practices, or behavior modification, opening new doors of communication and changing the way we view our relationship with the animals in our lives.
Day 2: Understanding, Managing, and Modifying Problem Behavior in Practice - Practical demonstrations of scientific approaches with the use of four demonstration dogs with real problem behaviors.
Day 3: Details Matter! Nuanced Clinic - Six dog and handler teams (Ruby and I were one of those teams!) rotated working one at a time through specific behavior challenges or goals.
Day 4: Empowering Learners in Practice - Hands-on practice with a volunteer dog and handler, exploring the exercises and techniques covered over the previous 3 days of the intensive.
Completed the Fear Free Animal Trainer Program, March
This certification program allows trainers to work in partnership with veterinary teams to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress and improve an animal’s emotional wellbeing during veterinary care and home care. It is designed to give qualified animal trainers the knowledge and tools required to begin implementing Fear Free techniques with their clients’ pets at the veterinary hospital, through in-clinic training classes for puppies and kittens, and in day-to-day training of animals in the home.
Toddlers & Dogs...The Dynamic Duo, Webinar
The Aggression in Dogs Conference (virtual), October 2nd - 4th
The first annual Aggression in Dogs Conference was all about - you guessed it - aggression! It was a conference designed for pet owners and pet professionals from all parts of the pet industry to add tools to their toolboxes when working with and addressing aggressive behavior in dogs. This conference had presentations and seminars from some of the world’s foremost experts on aggression in the fields of veterinary behavior, forensic science, applied ethology, shelter behavior, neuroscience, dog bite sports, and applied animal behavior.
Noise Sensitivity in Dogs, Webinar
This webinar was presented by Moira Hechenleitner DVM, CSAT. This webinar took a look at what can cause noise sensitivity in dogs, what it can look like, what issues are important to consider to confirm a dog is experiencing noise sensitivity, and how to implement training that can help a dog to overcome noise sensitivity or be better with noises.
Connection: How to build Loose Leash walking in the sport environment or real life, Webinar
Presented by Shade Whitesel, this webinar discussed several steps, skills, and strategies to work on that will make walking much more enjoyable, whether that is from point A to B in the competition venue or outside in the real world.
But is it really Separation Anxiety?, Webinar
Presented by Moira Hechenleitner DVM, CSAT, this short webinar focuses on the distress a dog can display when attempting to adapt to new surroundings (as a newly adopted dog or as a puppy). The webinar stresses the importance of gathering background information and appropriately assessing the dog while alone to rule out the possibility of separation anxiety or other issues.
Conference Unleashed 2020 (virtual), October 30th - November 1st
This three-day virtual conference centered around the pattern games and foundations of of Control Unleashed, which was created by Leslie McDevitt, and how Control Unleashed can help our fearful, aggressive, shy, and anxious animals.
Clinical Boohavioral Medicine Unleashed - Dr. Karen L. Overall, MA, VMD, PhD, DACVB
Look At That Spooky Monster: The Game that Broke the Rules and Changed Everything! - Leslie McDevitt, MLA, CDBC, CPDT-KA, TAGteach Level 2
Spook No More: The Spell of Startbuttons - Eva Bertilsson, Emelie Johnson-Vegh, and Peggy Hogan
Ghosts, Ghouls & Other Specters – Like Control! Reframing Why and How We Teach for Impulse Control - Sarah Owings, KPA CTP, CCUI
Cognition Unleashed: Thinking Dogs & Transforming Behavior the CU Way - Dr. Laura Donaldson, PhD, CDBC, KPA CTP, CCUI
Pumpkin, Vampire, Zombie. Pumpkin, Vampire, Zombie: Patterns Are Powerful! - Leslie McDevitt, MLA, CDBC, CPDT-KA, TAGteach Level 2
Magic Mats: Stations in the Conversation - Julie Daniels, CCUI
Undead and Unhelpful: Human Distractions Don't Have to Be a Nightmare - Hannah Branigan, CCUI
Little Goblins! Puppy Training & CU - Marge Rogers, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, CCUI
Bewitching Your Horse with Pony Pattern Games - Jen Digate CBCC-KA, CCUI, MaryKay Hasseman KPA CTP, CCUI & Leslie McDevitt
Freestyle Unleashed - Nina Haaland, CCUI
Vampire Bats, Black Cats & Helpful RATs: Cooperative Counter Conditioning Putting the Learner in Control - Ameera Skandarani & Angie Madden, CPDT-KA, CCUI
Agility Unleashed: Approaching the Dragon's Lair - Cindy Carter, CCUI & Leslie McDevitt MLA, CDBC, CPDT-KA, TAGteach Level 2
Avoiding a Nightmare on Rally Street: How Pattern Games, Predictability & Preparedness Can Enhance Your Rally Obedience Performance - Laurie C. Williams, BA, CPDT-KA, CDTI
Nosework Unleashed - Megan Wallace, CPDT-KA, CNWI, CCUI & Anette Buind Nordby, CCUI, KPA-CTP
Unleashing Your Fearful Dog - Jeannine Jay, MS, CCUI & Crystal Gerovac, CCUI
Transforming Triggers into Cues, Webinar
In this webinar, Kathy Sdao discusses how dogs usually labeled as "reactive" respond to environmental cues or triggers with emotionally-charged behaviors (e.g., barking or lunging). She discussed the steps necessary to teach your dog to reinterpret upsetting or arousing context changes as good news. After all, your “reactive” dog is already noticing the many sights, sounds and smells around him. Rather than hoping he’ll eventually ignore them, we can opt to use their sensitivity as a key component in the training.
ClickerExpo LIVE, January 29th - 31st
- Step UP to Advanced Platform Training (Michelle Pouliot): Michele spoke about advanced and creative ways of applying the platform tool in training and problem-solving.
Secrets of Successful Medical Training (Ken Ramirez): Ken focused on key tools, such as stationing, targeting, desensitization, gating (kenneling), recalls, and improving general tactile acceptance, as well as specific techniques for training successful blood-taking, injections, medication administration, working around the mouth and head, removal from the environment, and passive restraint.
Alone and All Right: Separation Anxiety’s Myths and Solutions (Terrie Hayward): Separation anxiety is a debilitating condition for dogs and caregivers, often confining both to home for weeks, months, and years. Terrie explored the myths about separation anxiety and jumped into protocols that work.
Working with Shy or Skittish Animals (Ken Ramirez): Ken presented on how trainers can work with and around the dilemma of working with an animal that is uncomfortable around people or reluctant to participate in sessions; he shared his perspective on this topic by looking at various case studies in which he took different approaches, with each unique case in settings as varied as the zoo, the shelter, and The Ranch.
You're Not Alone: Working with Separation Issues in Dogs, Webinar
Sarah Dixon discussed how to identify behavior related to separation distress, ways to work on modifying the behavior (while keeping the dog safe and under threshold), as well as how to implement behavior modification clients can use! Several case studies were presented as examples and demonstration of the various techniques.
"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
- Maya Angelou
I know and believe there is always more to learn in life and in our crafts! Not only is it fun, but learning more and keeping up with the latest research allows me to offer the very best, science-backed training and information to you and your SideKick. Below is a list of the conferences, seminars, and webinars I've attended/completed:
FIND skdt ONLINE!
SIDEKICK DOG TRAINING MENTIONED ON THE WEB
I was interviewed and mentioned in the Fall 2016 edition of FETCH Magazine!
See page 18 for the article ("TO THE RESCUE: Why Do Some Dogs Save Lives & Others Don't?") and my thoughts!
I was chosen as a guest blogger for the Petmasters Blog in May of 2017!
The blog post, "Dog Parks: To Go or Not to Go?," was originally published on the SKDT Blog.
Teacher's Pet Training Academy, LLC wrote a blog post in January 2019 that included Winter safety tips and activities during the bitter cold. In this post, my blog post about Kong stuffing ideas was mentioned for ideas to spice up your Kong recipes!
The blog post, "Peanut Butter: The King of the Kong...or is it?," was originally published to the SKDT Blog in January of 2019.
I'm a member of Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin (FFTW); a group of us from FFTW had the opportunity to talk dogs, training, and force free fun on Fox 6 News in August of 2019!
In one of the segments, included in the article "Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin embrace a paws-off approach to training your dog," I had the opportunity to introduce a couple fun Recall Games! Check it out!