Kristi Benson switched from a career in archaeology and anthropology to run her own training business in Manitoba, Canada. She’s an enthusiastic dog musher and has a sled dog rescue. She graduated the Academy in 2015.
“I get a real kick from seeing the relief my clients feel
when we talk about how to solve their problems.”
I was both pushed and pulled to join the Academy. I was a recreational dog musher at the time, not a professional dog trainer and my partner and I had a small sled dog rescue. Our dogs were great sled dogs and we got a lot of joy from working with them, but their behavior! We did our best to ignore and manage the digging, squabbling, and general pandemonium, but it was reaching a breaking point. Things needed to change.
At the same time, after about two decades working as an anthropologist and archaeologist, I was ready to bring something new into my work life. I’d entertained the idea of working professionally as a dog trainer, but put it on the back burner as I started the program. If it worked out, I’d give it a shot. If not, my skills would make things better for our own dogs and those in our rescue.
Once I finished the program I felt confident enough – and supported enough, through the Academy’s ongoing graduate support network – to tackle any case that came my way. I live in an area with no other training options for dog owners, so I’m proud to be able to offer training to dogs and owners who are struggling. In many cases, my clients are hearing about applied behavior techniques for the first time, and I get a real kick from seeing the relief they feel when we talk about how to solve their problems. They feel safe to ask whatever they want, because I’ve learned how to be a supportive and effective counsellor.
If you are driven, fascinated by living creatures (including humans), enjoy picking apart how things work, and love a challenge, the Academy is perfect for you. The breadth and depth of instruction is simply unparalleled.
Change your life and your direction
Malena De Martini is an internationally renowned expert in treating canine separation anxiety disorder. She is the author of Treating Separation Anxiety for Dogs and lectures on the subject, as well a running a specialist practice and certification program for trainers wanting to work with this daunting and difficult disorder. She graduated the Academy in 1999.
"If you want to be the best at what you do,
you have found a new home in the Academy.”
I came into the Academy with a different background to many – I didn’t have much experience training dogs and didn’t at that point know I wanted to make it a career. The Academy gave me a clear focus. I knew what I wanted. I love dogs, but I have an equal affection for people and I saw a different way to help and connect with them. I’m proud of being able to train other trainers to work with a disorder many find daunting, but I’m proud, too of the many hundreds of dogs and guardians I’ve helped live a normal life again.
I can hardly believe how my business has grown since those early days. Initially, after graduating, I had to supplement my income, but I soon moved to training full time. When I decided to specialise in separation anxiety, my client base was still comparatively small, but word quickly spread. It’s been an incredible journey and it all started with the Academy.
The Academy gave me an outstanding education in dog behavior and learning. But two components of the course really allowed me to thrive: one was the skill of critical thinking, the other the ability to communicate positively, effectively and with empathy.
To anyone thinking of applying to the programme, I’d say that this will challenge you in ways you can’t imagine, potentially changing your life and your direction. If you’re looking for a weekend warrior course, you’re in the wrong place. But if you want to be the best at what you do, if you want to be mentored by those who strive for higher standards for themselves and the industry, if you want to be surrounded by colleagues who are kind-hearted with each other and passionate about the welfare and positive training of animals, you have just found a new home.
Leading the field
Sandi Thomson is the owner of Bravo Pup in California and is recognised as one of the very best class trainers. Her brilliantly entertaining, engaging and insightful classes have won Bravo Pup the award of Best Pet Training in the Bay Area for six years in a row and given thousands of dogs and their families a great foundation for a lifetime of joy together. She joined the Academy in 2000.
"I’m teaching 1500 dog lovers a year to be the best dog
parents they can be, helping people to discover ways to
understand, communicate with and appreciate their dogs for a lifetime.”
I joined the Academy when it was the first and only school for dog trainers that taught the real science behind training and reward based techniques. I wanted to be a leader in my field and didn’t want to just keep doing what I was doing. That wasn’t an option for me.
When I started Bravo Pup in 2008, I had a dream, a little office in my attic and a single location for a few group classes. Today, we’ve got 10 trainers (most of whom are Academy graduates) and eight locations. We run 27 classes a week and we’re still growing.
What really gives me the most pride is knowing I’m teaching more than 1500 dog lovers a year to be the very best dog parents they can be and making training not a chore, but a delight.
For people thinking about joining the Academy, I’d just say this: Sometimes the most challenging journeys are the most rewarding. When I took the original San Francisco SPCA program, I had doubts and fears, but it was absolutely the finest education I could ever have hoped for – and the current program is even better. The support from other students, alumni and staff is nothing short of amazing.