Why a 20-week instead of a 6-week program?
The 5-month term translates to approximately 7 hours of classes and about 8 hours of combined study and practice time per week. This allows you to work during the program.
The course length also means that you have time to process and absorb the material as you go along, which makes for an easier transition when going out on your own once the course is finished than after an intensive, accelerated, immersion-style course.
Are there prerequisites? Who is qualified to attend?
Since you work independently with your project dogs (meeting for coaching once a week), you do need basic wrangling skills with unfamiliar dogs. Basic experience with dog walking, pet sitting, shelter volunteering, class assisting or rescue fostering satisfies this qualification.
Preference is given to applicants with some background in the theory and science underlying dog training, whether it comes from academic coursework, reading, or seminars. DTIA students are curious and devoted to the process of learning about how dogs learn.
I’m enrolled in another online program — does DTIA offer a “hands-on”only component?
Currently, no. A critical factor in the success we see with students is due to the theory and practice complimenting one another. The program was carefully arranged so that students get the most out of the specific combination of hands-on and live lecture/discussion in addition to reading and study.
Where are the DTIA sessions held?
- Anywhere you have Internet access and a computer (smartphones only allow call-in access). The lecture/discussions are conducted via GoToMeeting, which allows for video conferencing and screen sharing.
- The hands-on dog training coaching takes place once-a-week as a 2-hour session at a training facility.
- The consultation coaching observation occurs once-per-month in-person on Wednesdays and is dependent upon the client’s location.
- Alternate Wednesday consult coaching sessions are conducted online via GoToMeeting.
Do all students attend sessions at the same time?
Yes. All students are online at the same time during lecture and discussion periods. The curriculum is organized around your questions and concerns regarding your project dogs and the work with clients.
Coaching sessions include everyone in once-per-week sessions. You each bring your project dog to the training facility and are coached while the others observe, work their own dogs, and suggest strategies. (There’s as much to be learned by watching others being coached as by being coached yourself.)
What does the class meeting schedule look like?
In San Francisco:
GoToMeeting lecture/discussion with visuals (slides, documents and videos)
Alternate WEDNESDAYS 6–8PM
Students observe and debrief a real consultation in a client’s home in San Francisco once-per-month. Alternate Wednesday meetings take place online via GoToMeeting
Students bring project dogs to the training center in San Francisco at SmartyPup! training facility for coaching
Where do project and behavior modification dogs come from?
You are responsible for supplying your own project dogs. These can be friends’ or family members’ or clients’ dogs (if you are already working as a dog walker, trainer, or sitter). You start with a new dog about once per month, and either take the dog into your own home as a foster (simulating a board & train case) for the training period or go to the dog’s home to train 5 or 6 times per week (simulating a day training case). Occasionally, your instructors may suggest potential project dogs from among their own dog walking or training class clients. You will receive detailed information at the beginning of the course and support in identifying appropriate project dogs.
This brings the training process as close as possible to a real, professional training situation with real clients. We also provide suggestions and contact information for rescue groups and shelters that you can approach to find project dogs.
Note: It is possible to use your own dog as project dog, but we strongly recommend you limit this to only 1 of your 3 project dogs. Training your own dog is a profoundly different experience from training a client’s dog.
What is GoToMeeting and will I know how to use it?
GoToMeeting is an online meeting tool that lets you conference with people anywhere in the world using the Internet. It’s easy to use, free for you, and the only equipment you need is a computer–with an Internet connection and an audio connection (through your computer).
What behaviors do students learn to train their project dogs to perform?
We use the DTIA handbook as the basis for the project dog plans, including recalls, positions and stays, impulse control such as waits and leave its, loose-leash walking, go to mats, a dead retrieve project, and forming pleasant associations with husbandry tasks and muzzle wearing (3 dogs).
In addition, you will complete classical conditioning projects with behavior modification cases that help prevent and treat common fear and aggression issues, such as resource guarding and reactivity (2 dogs).
You will work with each dog for about a month (5 dogs in all) to allow you enough time to proof and generalize behaviors.
Will the content be the same as the San Francisco SPCA Academy version?
The material covered is substantially the same, but not necessarily presented in the same order. The topics covered are Dog Behavior, Animal Learning, Behavior Issues, Cue Training, and Client Consultation Techniques, Ethics, and Business Basics.
The goal of the DTIA is to provide you with the skills, knowledge, and practical experience to take on clients on your own at the end of the course. For that reason, the order of study topics is driven by what comes up for you and other students as you work through the cases and project dog assignments. Discussing the relevant theory, concepts, and principles as they come up in a real-life context is much more effective than front-loading the material.
What do I receive from DTIA?
Upon enrollment, you receive a copy of How 2 Train A _______ and a bait bag and clicker. During the course of the class, you will receive:
- Slide notes to support lectures and discussions
- The DTIA Handbook
- 2-4 hours of real-time lecture and discussion per week
- Access to client cases consisting of live and video consults, participation in mock consults, plus briefing and debriefing discussions
- 2 hours of training coaching per cohort per week
What do I need to prepare for the course?
You will need a computer and webcam along with high speed internet connection for Webinar access. You will work with 3 project dogs and will need safe transportation for your dogs to the weekly coaching session as well as appropriate bait that balances motivational needs of dogs with health or other owner concerns. The 2 dogs you will work with who are appropriate for behavior modification cases and the 1 client consultation case can be worked in their homes or neighborhoods depending on the behavior issue you are there to address.
How many hours should I plan to devote to my education each week?
Students should plan to devote about 15 hours to lecture/discussion, observation, study, and practice. Allow for additional travel time to and from class and when working with project dogs.
- Attend and participate in 2 hours of online lecture and discussion per week
- Attend and participate in 2 hours of behavioral consult coaching every other week
- Attend and participate in 2 hours of training coaching per week
- Put in a minimum of 5 hours of training time per week with project dog
- Put in a minimum of 3 hours of additional reading and study time per week