Bridget’s interest in canine behavior started at a young age. She began working dogs in 4H with her Rhodesian Ridgeback and as a puppy raiser for The Seeing Eye. Through these experiences she learned about puppy development and learning curves.
Throughout college she worked at a local animal shelter as a trainer and behavior evaluator. She worked with the shelter dogs teaching obedience, loose leash walking, and kennel manners. She also worked with staff and volunteers teaching positive training methods and canine behavior and body language. This helped the shelter team facilitate better matches with potential owners which led to more successful adoptions.
Bridget attended Delaware Vally University and graduated with a Small Animal Science degree with a focus in animal behavior. The school provided a hands on learning program and she was able to successfully train a variety of animals from chickens to horses.
After graduating, she began interning at the Working Dog Center where she learned about drive, scent work, and the training of working dogs. Now as one of our full time trainers Bridget says she is continues to learn and improve her skills every day and that she “absolutely loves her job!”]]>
Danielle has been involved in the animal sciences and animal rescue world since she was a child. She worked part time as a domestic animal and wildlife veterinary technician while raising her two sons in South Jersey. Her dog training career began when her brother, a medic with US Army, and his unit rescued a puppy from the streets of Iraq in late 2007. She has since graduated with honors from the Animal Behavior College Dog Training Program, completed an intern/externship with the behavior team at Pennsylvania SPCA, trained in and taught advanced off leash obedience in group classes, assisted in training service dogs for veterans with PTSD, and owned and operated her own dog training business.
Danielle began as a WDC volunteer in the Spring of 2014 and quickly realized that she was extremely interested in the practices, research, and scent detection training here at Working Dog Center. She became involved in all aspects of training, behavior, and research and participated in a 5 day Wilderness Search and Rescue seminar with WDC K9 Logan (donated by Watcher Engle Kennels) and worked part-time as a research technician during the summer of 2014. She joined our training team as a full time trainer in May 2015 and enjoys being a back- up foster for our WDC dogs.
When not at the WDC, Danielle can be found enjoying activities involving the great outdoors with her family, her own pet dogs as well as our WDC pups.]]>
German Shepherd Dog
Handler: Jennifer Kandlik
On April 25-26, 2015, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center hosted a Tricks Workshop taught by Kyra Sundance. Kyra is a well-known training expert and has written several books on trick training including the popular 101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog.
Forty handler/dog teams attended the event which was held at Y2K9s Dog Sports Club in Willow Grove. I was fortunate to attend the event as a volunteer and the weekend’s photographer. Although I was not an official participant, I learned a few things from observing Kyra and the workshop attendees.
Here are my top 5 take-aways:
1. Many tricks can be taught as variations of target training.
Kyra uses variations of target training to teach almost everything. Target training is the method of teaching a dog to touch a given body part (e.g., paws, nose, chin) to a specific target. The target can be anything: a pad, a bell, a Frisbee, or even your hand. The target can be placed wherever you need it. It can be set on the floor (to teach a “dig”) or be taped to a wall (to teach “turn on the lights”). This method, like many others, is best done using a clicker or marker word to clearly shape the behavior.
2. Foot signals.
Before this workshop, I had never heard of using foot signals. Kyra uses foot signals as opposed to hand signals for tricks, such as the “crawl” or “curtsy”, that require the dog’s head or body to be close to the ground. This eliminates the need for the handler to bend over and helps keep the dog’s focus low.
3. A “pedestal” is the key to working with multiple dogs.
Working with two (or more) dogs at the same time can be problematic. Both dogs will want to work, but you may want to ask them to do different things. Kyra recommends having one dog stay on a “pedestal”, or some type of elevated platform, while working with the other. Staying on the “pedestal” will give the dog something to do and will help limit their movement.
4. Duct tape and hair scrunchies are useful training tools.
Kyra uses a wide variety of household objects to elicit specific behaviors. For example, a piece of duct tape gently stuck on the dog’s face will usually cause them to paw at it and allows the trainer to capture that behavior for a trick called “cover your eyes”. Also, a hair scrunchie placed around a dog’s leg feels unfamiliar to the dog allowing the handler to capture the “limp” behavior. Very clever!
5. Be creative!
Last but definitely not least is perhaps the most important thing I learned from Kyra, be creative! Don’t be afraid to branch out in your training and find what works for your dog. There are many potential paths to teach the same trick. Some dogs aren’t bothered by duct tape on their face, so they must be taught to “cover their eyes” by a different method.
The opportunity to learn from an expert such as Kyra Sundance was a valuable experience. I look forward to attending more seminars and workshops hosted by the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and continuing to learn and grow as a dog trainer.
Photos by Devin Christopher