Amélie Hupé, KPA CTP, works both in human resources and as a dog trainer. Her business, L’Esprit du Chien (the Spirit of the Dog), offers customized dog-training services in and around Rimouski, Quebec, Canada. Amélie finds that her skill sets from her two professions are complementary, and sometimes interchangeable.
In 2012, Amélie entered the world of dog training when she adopted a “wonderful” Berger Picard puppy, Inuki. “This sweet girl was reactive to strangers, both dog and human,” reports Amélie. In order to help her dog, Amélie researched animal behavior—and discovered Karen Pryor’s book Reaching the Animal Mind. Karen’s explanations of how humans could become better teachers for their animals resonated with Amélie and seemed relevant to her work with Inuki. “The fact that the techniques Karen proposed were science-based, and that she provided real explanations of why the techniques worked, was extremely important to me.”
Encouraged and looking to learn more, Amélie completed the KPA Dog Trainer Foundations course. This “basic training” helped Amélie and Inuki learn to work together more harmoniously. From there, Amélie enrolled in the KPA Dog Trainer Professional (DTP) program, hoping “to continue our education and, eventually, help other human-dog duos to improve their relationships.” As reactivity was a central issue for Amélie and Inuki, Amélie chose to work with Emma Parsons whose book, Click to Calm, had already been helpful. “Having Emma as my instructor was a logical choice,” says Amélie. They completed the KPA DTP program in Franklin, Massachusetts, in 2014.
Amélie was anxious about how things would go with Inuki during the DTP course, beginning with their travel to Massachusetts. It was a long, 12-hour drive for them, and the course came with many new settings and new people. “While I wasn’t sure how Inuki would react, I was reassured through the enrollment process. Turns out that my fellow colleagues were a great help! Inuki is now a proud and certified canine graduate of KPA.”
When she reflects back on her experience in the KPA DTP program, Amélie says that “the most illuminating part of the program was the shift you have to make in your mind from a negative to a positive view. We learned to work toward behaviors we like, and not focus on things we don’t like.” Amélie shares an incident from her program where students were asked to list three things they liked about a colleague’s demonstration. Habitually, Amélie turned the paper over, expecting to see space where she would also write three things she thought were not good about the demo. “But, the other side was blank,” reports Amélie. “My brain was tuned to see errors. I needed to work to make a shift, and that was very important learning for me.” Amélie realized the enormous potential there is to influence the environment positively, “if we only change the way we look at things.” Amélie acknowledges that it takes work to make the shift, “and to be honest I believe the work will never stop,” but then “you see life in a whole new perspective—and it’s much more fun!”
Amélie launched her training business, L’Esprit du Chien, after completing the DTP. Her emphasis is on helping human-dog duos build better relationships through clicker training. Most of her work is in private sessions, but she also offers seminars and puppy board-and-train. “KPA gave me not only the tools, but the confidence, to go out and help others through training. The program inspired me to spread the positive word and, through education, change the way people see dogs, especially dogs labeled reactive.”
In addition to her dog-training work, Amélie is a certified human resources professional who works in business. She consults with and coaches managers to assist with HR challenges and to improve managers’ communication skills. “The DTP at KPA changed my HR career—literally,” asserts Amélie.
As she completed the DTP, Amélie made links between HR and dog training constantly. She noticed that “we often treat our animals better than we do our employees.” Why not take the dog-training approach and use it in HR? “Motivators, reinforcement, learning, building a positive relationship—these are all concepts and terms already part of the HR language,” explains Amélie. She has focused more on organizational behavioural management since her KPA days, incorporating concepts from the DTP program into her HR work. So enthusiastic about positive training after the DTP, Amélie hosted a small conference for HR professionals “to talk about the links I made between the HR field and my experience in the dog-training world.” Amélie also discussed how to use simple concepts to build a better workplace. “Even if there is a lot of work to do, I’m absolutely convinced that using more positive approaches will make our workplaces a lot more fulfilling.” With her two professional worlds intertwined, Amélie uses her HR and human communication skills in dog training and uses her DTP dog-training skills in business management!
Every year, Amélie looks forward to ClickerExpo. “I love this opportunity to meet KPA community members and learn new skills.” Amélie finds the conference and the people accessible and kind. “Expo is a really inclusive community where everybody feels welcome. I’m really proud to be part of that,” she says. Amélie completed Dr. Susan G. Friedman’s Living and Learning with Animals course in 2015. “It was a great complement to the DTP, pushing just a little further my knowledge of operant conditioning and the science around it.” Amélie adds, “Of course now that KPA has The Ranch, I hope to participate in a class there very soon!”
Amélie believes in paying it forward. “I had the chance to explore a valuable KPA education, and now it’s my time to give back.” Continuing her pursuit of teaching and raising awareness about positive training, Amélie hopes that “talking about my experiences with animals, and about the science and the effectiveness of clicker training, can change lives, both animal and human.” KPA tenets and experiences continue to guide Amélie. “I am always keeping an open mind and heart, listening to other trainers, and endeavoring to show the positive impact clicker training can have.”