Our Founder Christiana is developing her skills by taking a course in Dog Training at the famous Victoria Stilwell Academy. Victoria is a world-renowned TV dog trainer (Greatest American Dog, It’s Me or the Dog), TV personality, author and speaker, her Academy for Dog Training & Behaviour is the premiere choice in dog trainer education. This week Christiana is attending a week long intensive with Victoria. The training will enable her to offer clients high class dog training which will promote wellbeing combined with existing services. Here she blogs about her first day.
What has been the main focus of the day today?
Each day is split out into the AM and PM in terms of what we are learning. It is a more thorough and in person look at what we have been learning during our online modules over the last 7 weeks.
The morning started with us all getting to know each other through exercises, so that we all felt comfortable and reassured in the learning space. We all had to describe what kind of dog we are most like. As dogs are a shared interest of us all, it was a really clever way to bring us together. We then covered the 4 pillars (principles) of Positive Training:
- No aversive tools/methods are used to cause fear or intimidation (e.g. shock collars, nose tapping, shouting, physical force)
- To understand the world from the dog’s point of view as best as possible
- Training through Positive Reinforcement – our focus is to teach what we want, reinforce (reward) what we like and re-direct what we do not like
- To understand the out-dated theories around pack leaders, wolves and dominance
In the afternoon we focused on Clicker training with some very clever Border Collies. It was the first time I had done clicker training in front of anyone apart from Winnie at home, and I was relieved to get some positive feedback. It is a skill new to me and I have always been a little bit wary of using it in my work with dogs. Across the 6 years that I have so far, I have simply enjoyed learning on the go, seeing what I can naturally communicate with dogs. That has just been a personal preference of mine, and it is interesting to now embark on this technique. I don’t think I will ever be very focused on mechanics when teaching dogs, but I do admire the incredible mix of complexity and simplicity that Clicker Training is.
How will this skill help your clients?
Dogs and humans do not share a language, this is an excellent way to open up communication channels. Clicker Training is a fantastic way to:
- Communicate with your dog
- Play and learn with your dog
- Make your dog smarter
- Be precise when training
What has been the biggest challenge of the day?
After 7 weeks of intense online study at home it was a challenge to start recalling all of the information in a different setting and in front of people. The excellent thing about this learning approach is that you process the information in a different way, and you can take pride in realising how much you have absorbed and understood to date.
The VSA Academy has gone above and beyond in terms of course content and using the latest techniques in Adult Learning.
What have you enjoyed most about today?
Meeting fellow students and some lovely dogs and their owners. It was so kind of the owners to take time out to bring their dogs in so that we could work with them on training techniques.
Have you had any funny highlights of the day?
Yes! Bella the 6-month-old Rottweiler was very relaxed. So relaxed that she insisted on doing her training lying down in front of us, such a clever way to preserve her energy if you think about it.
Have you met interesting people?
Yes, it was great to meet Victoria Stilwell and VSA teachers Jo and Adam – each have been working with dogs for 20+ years so we were all quite in awe.
The students are a wonderful mix from all over, all ages and backgrounds. From Singapore, Slovakia, Edinburgh and Liverpool. The youngest student is 18 years old, which I was impressed with. To have such focus and courage at an early age is inspirational for us more mature students.
Christiana, Founder of Hampstead Hounds, will be sharing her experiences on the blog over the next week or so, so do keep following!
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Image: Jo and Adam from VSA Academy