One Step Closer to the Stars

I wasn’t sure what to write about for today’s blog post. I’ve got so many dog-related topics at the forefront of my brain, each one seemingly just as important to write about as the next.  Even though I just about had my mind made up for what today’s post was going to be, I changed my mind last minute to take advantage of the raw emotion I’m feeling right now, and to give you guys a[nother] blog post from the heart.

This afternoon I opened up an email saying that I passed my certification exam for the Karen Pryor Academy (KPA).  Over the weekend, Paco and I were tested on everything we have worked on for the past seven months. I know in the grand scheme of learning about dogs and dog training and dog behavior, seven months is only a blip of time – but the past seven months have been what feels like nothing but intense training and hours of studying. I’ve learned so much about dogs, but also about myself.

I know graduation from KPA did not make me a dog trainer overnight. Dog behavior is complex and takes years of experience, in my opinion, before you can truly get a grasp on what is going on in the brains of our four-legged companions.  But KPA gave me skills and much of the knowledge needed to tackle every day behavioral issues in a way that works with how dogs learn and, better yet, how we can build trust in the human-canine bond.  It fueled the already strong passion I have to go out and show the world that you can train dogs without using an ounce of fear, pain, dominance, force, strength, whatever; and that a relationship built in positive reinforcement and mutual respect is really beautiful.


I can’t imagine bringing any dog through the course other than Paco.  That pup has such a love for life and any progress I made as a trainer would show through tenfold in his abilities because it meant we were communicating that much better. He was such a star! On the last day of workshops we were goofing off together and I taught him how to bow and then how to target a yogurt lid on the wall from a distance – both using maybe five minutes of shaping. I would squeal because he’d get it right and he’d get all excited and wiggly and I would start laughing at him and soon we’d cause a whole scene of happiness and I’d stop for a second and almost start to cry because once upon a time this was a dog who didn’t even really want to make eye contact with me, let alone work with me. Clicker training goes a long way, folks – even for pit bulls and other “strong” breeds (whatever the heck that means). Towards the end of our time working together all I needed to do was tap into Paco’s love for playing tug and he would perform behavior chains for me for however long I wanted. His tail would wag and his whole butt would shake and he’d keep coming back for more, waiting for his next cue. He loved working. He loved it. I also forget until looking at two photos like this that he has literally grown up with me. From a gangly young puppy to a handsome adult, Paco took every step of this journey right along beside me.


Graduating from KPA was a huge accomplishment for me. It means I’ve got some fancy letters at the end of my name now: KPA CTP, which stand for Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner. Because dog training is a completely unrelated industry, no two certification programs are the same (unfortunately – hopefully one day that will change). Your average dog owner might not know what exactly KPA CTP means, but if they looked up the school they’d see that KPA’s program is built around the science of learning and force-free training principles, and that they believe strongly in continuing education – a standard that is important in dog training. Moving forward, I will work towards my Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) certification; one that is a bit more broad, but doesn’t necessarily have the same education behind it. The whole industry is very complicated!

This was a huge stepping stone for my ultimate career goals (too many to write) and overall life goals (helping more dogs). While I’m relieved it’s over, I know it also means many more opportunities – and much more work – from here on out, and I can’t wait!


23 thoughts on “One Step Closer to the Stars

  1. fredrieka

    the difference in his eyes from the picture of 2013 and 2014 his eyes are showing in 2014 more self confidence and less sadness.
    ‘I have a picture like that of me.. happy tails and wags.

  2. So excited for you! You are so amazing with dogs and I know you will be an amazing dog trainer. We may have to hire you for little Barkley, who’s still a bit of a sassy little pup (though I hear a lot of it is part of the terrier breed…maybe that’s another “strong” breed, haha). You and Paco are adorable together! :)

  3. Niki & Zeus

    Congrats!! Thanks for sharing all of this with us. Paco has certainly grown to be a handsome boy and it sounds like he was a great partner for you to have.

  4. Colleen Houlihan

    Hi we have adopted a nine year old pit bull and have hardly any background with him so most experiences are see how it goes! He loves us totally but has a edgy side when it comes to other dogs( although we guard his meetings with them cause we r not sure) he has a few issues with wheelchairs and some males! Anyway lately he has been running at our fences where other dogs are and getting very excited and out of
    Control, he will not listen when called unless we ask him to go for a walk! I was interested in click training! Any suggestions on anything? Thanks love your posts:)

  5. Lynn

    Congratulations Juliana! I never doubted for a minute. You are the kind of person who will succeed at whatever you put your mind to. So proud of you.

  6. Brittany

    Hooray! Congratulations! I love the pictures of Paco. He looks so concerned in the first one but in the second picture he’s like, “I’ve TOTALLY got this. No worries.”

  7. Roni

    I am so happy for you! This has been a long walk and you gave been a star from the beginning. I look forward to seeing your progress in the future and your influence in our dog training successes. Hugs to you and Paco.

    Roni, Igor and Frannie

    Sent from my iPhone


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