Four Reasons Why Continuing Education Is Important

Four Reasons Why Continuing Education Is Important

What Is Continuing Education?

In a quick, unscientific poll of a small number of colleagues and clients, the overwhelming results were that clients appreciate knowing their trainers are participating in hands-on continuing education. To be among the best of the best in the dog training field, it is important to also be a student.  Some certifications for dog trainers require continuing education to maintain certification; some dog trainers choose to participate in continuing education.

Continuing Education

Continuing education can take on many forms. It can be a book that is read, a dvd that is watched, a seminar that is observed, a local workshop that is hands-on, a national conference that is all of the above with the added bonus of networking with colleagues. While a list of books read and dvds watched can be impressive, spending time and funds on a seminar, workshop, and/or conference shows clients a different level of commitment to continuing education – a level of investment both of time and funds to seek out knowledge and information.

Recommended Reading: Top 10 Dog Training Conferences for 2017

Why Is Continuing Education Important For Dog Trainers?

Accountability – seeking out and participating in continuing education puts a trainer into the position of being a student and demonstrating results.

Commitment – commitment to our profession, commitment to our clients, commitment to our dogs. Attending workshops, seminars, classes, etc. sparks a renewed commitment to spend time doing what we love.

Maintenance of/increasing knowledge and skill – use it or lose it! Teaching helps us to maintain our knowledge and skill but continuing education helps us to increase that knowledge and skill. Learning about new thought processes and methods expands our range of who we can help and how we can help them.

Staying on the cutting edge – there is constantly new science about dogs, about learning, about humans, about the dog/human interaction, etc. Participating in continuing education keeps trainers up to date on the latest and greatest science and how it can be useful in dog training.


Related: Check out our “Mastermind Meetups for Modern Dog Trainers” and request one in your area! 

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My Thoughts About The First PPG Summit

It was an honor to be a part of the historic, first-ever Pet Professional Guild Summit in Tampa, Florida, November 11, 12, and 13, 2015. I attended as a presenter (Training and Maintaining Therapy and Crisis Response Dogs) and as an attendee. The Pet Professional Guild provided me with a one-day registration for presenting and provided a Media Pass for the other two days so that I could share information on the Modern Dog Trainer blog.

World Renowned Presenters at the PPG Summit

Pet Professional Guild assembled an impressive group of knowledgeable and skilled force-free animal trainers to share their expertise with other trainers from around the world – Niki Tudge, Dr. Karen Overall, Chirag Patel, Emily Larlham, Pat Miller, Ken McCort, Jacqueline Munera, Dr. Soraya Juarbe Diaz, Pamela Johnson, Mark Hines, Angleica Steinker, Janis Bradley, Theresa McKeon, Laurie Schlossnagle, Diane Garrod, Lisa Morrissey, Shari Sprague, Diana Pappert, Scott Baggett, Nancy Tucker, Linda Michaels, Debra Milliken, Lara Joseph, Maureen Backman, Dr. Michelle Duda, JJ Bachant Brown, and Emily Cassell.

With so many sessions to choose from, it was difficult to decide what to attend. I finally decided to attend:

  • Dr. Overall’s keynote session with the opening by Niki Tudge
  • Chirag Patel – Shaping the Perfect Patient
  • Janis Bradley – That’s the Lab in Him. Breed Bias, a Distraction from the Dog in Front of You
  • Diane Garrod – Solving the Aggression Puzzle and Multi-Dog Household Aggression,
  • Pamela Johnson – Training Snake Aversion the Force-Free Way,
  • Lara Joseph – Online Behavior and Training Consultations and How They are Successful,
  • Linda Michaels – Understanding Research: Making the Case for Force-Free Training, and
  • Theresa McKeon – TAG Don’t Nag: Techniques to be Force-Free with the Humans in Your Life.

There were also panel discussions on Wednesday and Friday, but I did not attend those (on Wednesday I needed to let my brain rest and on Friday I left to fly home).

For me, two sessions really struck a cord with me – Chirag Patel and Theresa McKeon. In both of those sessions, I learned practical information that I will be integrating into my training, both personally and professionally. They were both excellent, organized, engaging presenters. I will be adding both of them to my list of must-see speakers!

Theresa McKeon’s session was especially wonderful. She created a comfortable atmosphere and allowed personal interactions through which I learned a lot. Overall, the PPG Summit was well organized and the speakers were prepared. Scheduling is a challenge at any conference and can make it difficult to attend every speaker you want to see. The sheer variety of speakers and topics was impressive and valuable.

Most attendees were privileged to session notes before the conference. I missed out on those emails, but Niki Tudge, the Founder of PPG, went above and beyond to make sure I received the notes once I asked about them!

Tampa was a great city to hold the conference. The weather was beautiful and travel was relatively quick and easy. The conference was held in both a hotel and in a convention center which made moving in between sessions time-consuming. Distance played a factor in deciding which sessions I would attend. There were so many interesting speakers and topics to choose from!

Conference Accommodations

The Sheraton Riverwalk Hotel staff had amazing customer service which made my stay very enjoyable. I was able to easily access WiFi in my hotel room and in the conference rooms (at the hotel) which we all know can be difficult to get when traveling!

It looked like there were some very interesting meals to be had in great company, but I was not able to attend them due to a break down in communication. Hotel meals and restaurant meals added up financially, not to mention missing out on stimulating discussions on animal behavior.


In the future, I hope to see more vendors attend the PPG Summit. There are a lot of opportunities to meet reputable people in the industry. The effort and planning that goes into an event, let alone a first-ever event, is enormous! Niki Tudge and her team put together a quality educational event for force-free trainers. Trainers came from all over the world to participate and to learn. The 2016 Summit is already being discussed and trainers are looking forward to attending.

It is often said that if you have two dog trainers the only thing they will agree on is that they disagree. The great thing about a conference of dog trainers is that while we still may disagree, we enjoy learning together and being able to be in the same place at the same time with other like-minded trainers. Thank you Pet Professional Guild for offering us this opportunity!!!

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Day Three Summary At The Pet Professional Guild Summit

The final day at any conference always has a little bit of a different feel to it; people are ready to go home to their families and pets, eager to put into practice all they have learned, but they are sad to be leaving their friends and colleagues. The 2015 Pet Professional Guild Summit was no different!

My day started with Linda Michaels presenting, “Understanding the Research – Making the Case for Force-Free Training.”  She shared what publications are reliable and respected in the field as well as the history of psychology and its importance in animal behavior research.

Linda also shared with us her newly released Hierarchy of Dog Needs™. The new hierarchy is focused on wellness and force-free behavior modification. The complete hierarchy can be found here:

“There is never a justification to use pain, fear, dominance devices

 or training methods with our pet dogs.”

For my late morning/early afternoon sessions, I attended Theresa McKeon’s lecture/lab, “TAG Don’t Nag: Techniques to Be ‘Force-Free’ with the Humans in Your Life.” This was a very interactive lecture/lab and we all had a chance to use TAGteaching to see how well it works in the animal training profession.

Teach without Nagging?
• Arrange goals to be met in steps (shaping)
• Arrange immediate feedback
• Arrange/identify immediate reinforcement

(I spent some time talking with Theresa McKeon after the lecture/lab, saying good-bye to friends, and getting checked out, so I did not attend any other sessions on Day Three.)

Overall, a good three days of continuing education in Tampa, Florida at the first-ever Pet Professional Guild Summit. Thank you to PPG for having me present about Therapy and Crisis Response Dogs and thank you for providing the Media Pass for the other two days at the Summit!!!

See the write ups from day 1 here and day 2 here!

(Coming soon – personal reflections on my experience at the Summit.)

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Day Two Summary At The Pet Professional Guild Summit

With no keynote speaker on Day #2, we were able to listen to our choice of presentations for every session. There were five different choices in every time slot.

I started my day with Janis Bradley and her presentation, “That’s the Lab in Him. Breed Bias, a Distraction from the Dog in Front of Us.” In this presentation, she talked about the part genetics plays in behavior for dogs.

During the second time slot, I presented “Training and Maintaining Therapy and Crisis Response Dogs.” It was a small group, so we were able to have a great discussion and we all shared a great deal of information about liability, what skills and training therapy and crisis response dogs should have, and what kinds of exposure.

After lunch, I attended Diane Garrod’s presentation, “Solving the Aggression Puzzle and Multi-Dog Household Fighting.” Unfortunately, the aggression portion of the presentation took up most of the time and there was not much information shared about multi-dog household fighting. The aggression puzzle information was very visual and contained a lot of information.

For my second afternoon session, I went to learn from Pamela Johnson about “Training Snake Aversion the Force-Free Way.” This session was more general in scope because the skills necessary for training a dog to avoid snakes is many of the same behaviors we train in many dogs – for example, recall, leave-it, safe place, and heeling – just with a different emphasis and a particular focus.

At the end of the day, they offered “bite-size lecture sessions.” These sessions are only 30 minutes long. I attended Lara Joseph’s session “On-line Behavior and Training Consultations and How They Are Successful.” In this virtual, online world, this is a great way for trainers to meet the needs of even more clients.

I’m looking forward to Day #3, but my brain is full and I am ready to go home and start implementing some of the new things I have learned.

See Laurie’s thoughts from day 1 of the Pet Professional Guild Summit here!

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Day One Summary At The Pet Professional Guild Summit

Day One Summary At The Pet Professional Guild Summit

Day one was rich with information!

The Summit opened with PPG President Niki Tudge sharing her vision for the future and thanking those who have helped get both Pet Professional Guild and the Summit itself to this point. “Let the results of force-free training and pet care stand up and be counted.”

Niki Tudge

Pet Professional Guild Summit – Keynote Speaker

The Keynote speaker was Dr. Karen Overall. She spoke for the rest of the morning; her presentation was split intofour sections:

From Leashes to Neurons: Humane Behavioral Care for Dogs
1. The brain in evolution and everyday life
2. Neurobiology of reactivity and stress
3. Assessing behavior: what do tests tell us?
4. No fear – redefining humane behavioral care

“Good relationships are not based on fear and restraint. We now have choices. We can do better and understand more. Forward…..”

Dr. Karen Overall

For the afternoon sessions, I attended the lecture and the lab with Chirag Patel: Shaping the Co-Operative Patient. In an interesting metaphor, he said, “Husbandry is my agility.” His lab gave dog/handler teams the opportunity to try out stationing behaviors and The Bucket Game.

“Inspire. Empower. Change.”

Chirag Patel with Laurie and Ashley

Chirag Patel with Laurie and Ashley

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SPARCS 2015:  The Potential Of Social Learning In Dog-Human Interactions With Dr Márta Gácsi

SPARCS 2015: The Potential Of Social Learning In Dog-Human Interactions With Dr Márta Gácsi

Utilizing Social Learning In Dog Training

imageMost people view their dogs as social partners. Evidence indicates dogs view themselves in this way too.

Attachment is a behavior system. Dogs develop an attachment bond to their owners based on dependency and on functionality. Dogs can establish attachment in three short handling sessions and are able to establish successful, new social bonds (for example — puppies raised as guide dogs — first by puppy raisers and then with their owner). Even puppies spontaneously pay attention to humans communicative actions.

Social learning is an effective way to solve problems. In the Detour Test (toy is in full view, but behind a v-shaped fence that dogs can go around to get the toy), dogs who were shown demonstrations on how to get the toy from both humans and other dogs, did significantly better than dogs who figured it out on their own.

Do As I Do

Imitation of human demonstrated actions on command is known as “do as I do.” Dogs appear to have the ability to learn the rules of imitation in a relatively short time. And the generalization of the rules leads to the ability to imitate novel actions. A study by Fugazza and Miklosi in 2014 suggests that DAID is more effective for teaching complex actions.

Model Rival Training

In this form of social learning, the trainer interacts with a model while the dog watches the interaction. The model is a rival because the model gets the social interaction and the dog watching does not (during the modeling time).

Efficiency Of Social Versus Operant Training

Using puppy pairs (approximately 3-4 months old), two tasks were tested. One group was trained to do the simple tasks with operant training (clickers and treats); the other group used social learning to train the tasks. It was found that more puppies learned the tasks in the social group.

Social And Operant Learning Go Hand In Hand

Dogs needed to be trained for a study where they would be getting an MRI. The dogs needed to lay still for eight minutes without any reward — cannot expect food (no drooling allowed), it would be noisy, and they would not be able to see much. There would essentially be no inherent reward for doing this task.

Using both social and operant learning, dogs were taught this behavior. Prior to being in the MRI scanner, 5 — 20 sessions were used to teach a variety of important behaviors using a variety of reinforcers. Then dogs were trained at the scanner in 7 — 11 sessions. The trainers and owners communicated to the dogs via social reinforcers that being on the scanner bed is fun. Model rival training was used several times during this phase. A side note — no time limits were ever incurred on the dogs — they were always allowed as much time as they needed to be comfortable in performing the task. The trainers/owners handled the dogs in a way that they appreciated (worked for) their praise.

In Conclusion

Social learning occurs spontaneously.

Social learning in connection with operant learning is an effective training model.

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