What trainers initially study to become trainers doesn’t cover every topic or keep us up-to-date on the newest techniques for training and latest scientific discoveries about dogs (did you know that they laugh?). For that we need continuing education, which we can get by attending conferences, taking courses, or participating in webinars.
Like other professionals, dog trainers and behavior consultants can choose to attend a wide variety of conferences in our field. Both the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and Karen Pryor Training Academy (as Clicker Expo), for example, host yearly conferences that feature presenters from around the world. There, trainers can forge relationships and build their networks as they learn about developments in the science and practice of dog training and behavior consulting.
More specialized is the Aggression in Dogs Conference. As its title suggests, this conference, founded by Michael Shikashio, focuses on topics related to aggression in dogs and offers attendees opportunities to learn from people who specialize in aggression and related topics.
For trainers looking for a deeper dive into different topics, online and in-person courses are a great place to start. While there are many possibilities, for this post I'll focus on just a few.
The Aggression in Dogs Master Course was designed, developed, and is largely taught by trainer and behavior consultant Michael Shikashio. It is an online course that students take at their own pace, covering a wide range of topics from types of aggression to ethology to medication. Graduates are invited to attend bi-weekly Zoom meetings with Michael to discuss cases, ask questions, and go over case studies. I completed this course in 2022 and found it extremely valuable.
In July I introduced Kim Brophey’s L.E.G.S.® system for understanding dog behavior that focuses on learning, environment, genetics, and the dog’s individual self. In her course on Applied Ethology, Brophey takes students through the different aspects of her system, helping trainers learn more about why dogs behave as they do rather than focusing solely on how to change a dog’s behavior.
I have written a lot about enrichment and how important I believe it is for dogs. The authors of my favorite training book, Canine Enrichment for the Real World, also believe in the power and importance of enrichment, and they have designed a course for trainers, PETPro: The Practice of Enrichment and Training for Professionals. In this course students learn to design the most effective enrichment strategies for individual dogs. Mentors help guide students through the course and provide an invaluable resource for building their confidence as trainers.
Last year I participated in the Ranch Experience course at the Karen Pryor Clicker Academy. It was a five-day, intensive program that balanced classroom study with hands-on learning--I got to train a goat and a mini donkey! The Ranch offers several other in-person courses, both five-day and weekend, covering a wide range of topics. Most of the courses are taught by trainer extraordinaire Ken Ramirez with others featuring amazing guest teachers.
For people who want to learn but don’t want to commit to a full course, there are hundreds of webinars available either for free or for purchase. Organizations like IAABC (International Association of Animal Behaviorists) have webinars available for members. E-Training for Dogs offers individual webinars and full classes. And Behavior Vets, a group of veterinary behaviorists, also offers webinars for people interested in learning more about dog training and behavior.