If people are still not able to gather, how will the Saturday sessions be held?
We have a number of contingency plans in place, but our main priority is to help keep people safe while we learn. Recognizing that some folks are dealing with health concerns even if we are allowed to meet in person, we plan to offer in-person meetings with social distancing for those who want them—if safe to do so-–and the ability to join online meetings for those who do not.
If we meet in-person, will we be able to maintain social distancing?
Yes. We maintained social distancing for both human and dog safety prior to the pandemic and that will continue with the addition of mask wearing. Dogs never come into contact with one another and students are the only people to handle their own project dogs. We maintain more than 6 feet of distance and do not share equipment. All government guidelines/regulations are followed to promote the safety of all participants.
What is the facility like?
Puppy Prep has 5,000 square feet between two floors so there’s plenty of room for social distancing. The top floor, where DTIA classes are held, has open windows in the front of the building and an open window in the rear allowing for cross flow. In addition, fans are run all night long to maximize air circulation.
Is there a possibility of working outside during class or holding class in an outdoor space?
One of the important lessons we have learned over the years is that the use of outdoor space poses many issues that do not support student learning objectives—especially in the cold/dark times of the year! As always, the safety and comfort of the dogs in our care is our top priority (in addition to the safety of students and instructors) and we have found that safe, secure, and quiet indoor spaces lead to happy, relaxed dogs who are ready to learn.
Would I have to physically be in SF to complete/graduate from the course?
Some students may need to self-isolate regardless of whether we are allowed to meet in-person, so students are not required to physically be in San Francisco.
Are there any discounts due to the pandemic?
Yes, the “early bird” tuition rate has been extended for all fall session students in light of the pandemic.
What suggestions do you have for training since clients’ homes may not be available?
When working with clients’ dogs was not possible, some students chose to work with their own dogs, foster dogs in their homes for a local shelter/rescue, or wait until accessing dogs was possible once again.
As students have been able to access clients’ dogs once again, they have worked in a variety of areas such as the client’s yard, garage/driveway, and in their own homes.
If there is a second wave of COVID-19, will classes be pushed to a future date?
We understand that many of our students are depending on receiving a high-quality education in a timely manner. If another shelter-in-place is necessary, classes will continue as scheduled but will be held completely online.
Why a 5-month program?
Effective dog training combines both theory and practice and we believe that the best practice is high-quality practice. We meet every week for real-time coaching for your skill development. That adds up to 32 hours of feedback and guidance in addition to the video feedback you receive throughout the course.
DTIA is synchronous, meaning that you progress through the course alongside your cohort–your future colleagues.
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.
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 SF PuppyPrep.
- Alternate Wednesday consult coaching sessions are conducted online via GoToMeeting.
Do all students attend sessions at the same time?
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?
GoToMeeting lecture/discussion with visuals (slides, documents and videos)
Alternate WEDNESDAYS 6–8PM
Alternate Wednesday meetings take place online via GoToMeeting
Tuesday and Wednesday webinars can be viewed at your convenience if you are unable to attend the live webinars.
Students bring project dogs to the training center for coaching
Students are given the opportunity to observe and debrief a variety of real consultations in a client’s home in San Francisco throughout the course.
Where do project and behavior case dogs come from?
You are responsible for supplying your own project dogs. These can be your dogs, friends’, family members’, or clients’ dogs (if you are already working as a dog walker 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 about 4-5 times per week (simulating a day training case). Your instructors may suggest potential project dogs from among their own 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.
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).
You can learn more and check your computer’s compatibility here: GoToMeeting
What behaviors do students learn to train their dogs to perform?
We use the DTIA handbook as the basis for the project dog plans, including recalls, positions and stays, 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 barking and lunging at dogs/people (2 dogs, one of which can also be one of your project dogs).
You will work with each dog for about a month (4-5 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 is substantially updated. The topics covered are Dog Behavior, Applied Behavior Analysis, Animal Learning, Behavior Issues, Cue Training, 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.
What do I receive from DTIA?
Upon enrollment, you receive your text 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 and access to recordings
- Access to client cases consisting of live and video consults, participation in practice consults, plus briefing and debriefing discussions
- 2 hours of training coaching per cohort per week
- Extensive feedback on your training and behavior plans, training technique, and client communication via video/email/Slack group between meetings.
What do I need to prepare for the course?
You will need a computer 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 (one of which can also be one of your project dogs) you will work with who are appropriate for the behavior cases can be worked in their homes or neighborhoods depending on the behavior issue you are there to address. The 1 client consultation case is a one-hour consult that can be completed online or in the client’s home.
How many hours should I plan to devote to my education each week?
As with any educational program, the more you put into it, the more you will benefit from your experience. You should plan to devote a minimum of 15 hours to lecture/discussion, observation, study, and practice. Allow for additional travel time to and from class and when working with project dogs. Students commit to:
- 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 4-5 hours of training time per week with project dog
- Put in a minimum of 3 hours of additional reading and study time per week