I've taught at various writing conferences, lectured, moderated panels, given seminars. In fact, I was the entire Writers' Conference at one large event in Pennsylvania. Yes, you read that correctly. I was surprised to find so many people who wanted to become dog writers and I spent the day telling them how to do it. It was part of GroomExpo and this was one incredibly dedicated group of people. Many wanted to learn how to do newsletters to help promote their business while others dreamed of seeing their byline in a dog magazine.
I lecture and give seminars on a variety of topics. From the mechanics of non-fiction writing to various topics surrounding dogs and, yes, cats.
I wasn't sure I wanted to get involved in a certificate course for would-be dog trainers at a University in another State but the course, "Dog Training and Management Program," at Kutztown University was created by my friend, Susan Bulanda, a canine and feline ethologist, dog trainer, behavior consultant and award-winning author. She is also the person who wrote the books on Search and Rescue. Literally. And she's the person who invented and patented the technique to teach dogs to sniff out "sick" buildings. So, here she was with another of her brainstorms: teaching people to teach dogs and their owners the right way. Frankly, any idiot can hang out a shingle and call themselves a dog trainer. It doesn't mean that they're qualified. This course would teach them everything from the latest training techniques, to working with owners, and the business aspects of running a dog training facility if that's what they had in mind. Various instructors, including some of the University's staff, were on board to teach courses.
Sue came to me for my expertise with very small dogs, wellness, operant conditioning, and large and giant breed dogs. The drawback was the drive from my home in Massachusetts to the University in Pennsylvania. The University was, thankfully, flexible about my schedule.
Because I would be teaching adults on the weekend I could set it up in a way that would work for me. I started out with two trips to Kutztown University, the course split in half. I'm not thrilled about that much driving. I opted to try one exceptionally long day of teaching all four topics. I start at 8:30 a.m. and teach until 4:30 p.m. staying later if students have more questions, although I allow questions at any time during the day.
My classes are interactive. I don't think anyone can fully appreciate how a dog feels unless they try to become one. No, there's no metamorphosis. I teach operant conditioning by playing Karen Pryor's Clicker Game. Each person takes a turn being the dog while the others in their sub-group are the trainers. No words are used. The "dog" must, by process of elimination and thought, decide exactly what the trainers want him or her to do. The click will tell when they have done something right. Breaking through the language barrier for a dog is suddenly perfectly clear to the students. I also make them "feel" what it's like to be a small dog, to understand what the world looks like to a tiny creature. To understand how it feels to be that small in a gigantic world. I run DVDs and Videos, as well as using the ubiquitous Power Point presentation.
I am a Learning Facilitator. That's my title for that weekend each year when I make the trek to teach what I know, to try to help others make life better for dogs and their owners. I can impart my knowledge and help send people out into the world who actually know what they're doing, who are learning the theory as well as the practice, who aren't simply calling themselves something when they're not truly qualified.
I never thought I would enjoy teaching but there's tremendous satisfaction in seeing how exceited the students are when they arrive and, after a long day, how excited they still are when it's time to go home. It certainly makes my time and drive worthwhile.
Causes Darlene Arden Supports
The Marcia Polimer Abrams Fund for Canine Behavior Studies at the AKC Canine Health Foundation