Congratulations to Kim Lyddon, Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) Certified Training Partner (CTP), and her red tricolored border collie Tyler, for their recent success in the UK Kennel Club’s annual Cruftscompetition—the world’s largest dog show! Kim and Tyler have performed in the final and been chosen as the runners-up in the Freestyle category for the last three years (2015-2017). The pair has already qualified for the 2018 Crufts Freestyle semifinal, ensuring their place at the very first qualifier round of the year. Kim and Tyler have been selected to represent Great Britain in the Freestyle competition at the Open European Championshipsin Belgium in August 2017.
A longtime dog-sport competitor and dog trainer in the United Kingdom, Kim Lyddon offers Canine Freestyle and basic clicker training classes and workshops through her now six-year-old business Paw Performance. Paw Performance also provides individualized training sessions as requested, and staff members can be booked as Guest Trainer at outside facilities. In addition to her role as an instructor/business owner, Kim is a Heelwork to Music (HTM)/Canine Freestyle competitor and judge. Starting off in obedience, Kim and her dogs now compete at the highest levels in HTM Freestyle contests. Kim estimates that 60% of her time is spent teaching Canine Freestyle and clicker lessons, with 40% of her time devoted to a combination of training for competition and competing.
Before taking on dog training professionally, Kim headed a successful leadership and business-training company for more than 20 years—and took dog training classes as a hobby. When she made the decision in 2015 to turn the hobby into a business, Kim opted to focus and specialize on Canine Freestyle, an area she really loved. Now that she is a KPA CTP, Kim not only leads classes, workshops, and “1-2-1s” (individualized training) on dog tricks for fun or competition, but she provides that training, and other clicker training, with added confidence. “Attending the DTP program has let me offer so much more in all of my classes. I train in a way that inspires others to use clicker principles training their own dogs.”
Kim first learned of the Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) Dog Trainer Professional (DTP) program browsing the KPA website. The course piqued her interest, but she was not sure of the course’s value to her. “I had been using the clicker for many years, and I thought I was quite good at it. Therefore, I was unsure what more there was to learn!” admits Kim. When she attended ClickerExpo in the UK in 2015, Kim was amazed by the opportunity to connect and share ideas with likeminded people. “I listened to and learned from some of the most inspirational and knowledgeable people in the world of animal and dog behaviour.” ClickerExpo made Kim realize that there was much more to learn. She enrolled in the KPA DTP program and declares, “It has been well worth the investment. “Under the instruction of Linda Ryan in Leeds, UK, Kim completed the program between December 2015 and October 2016.
Kim’s report of her experience in the Dog Trainer Professional program is full of illuminating moments. “The most impactful experience was learning to get the basics right, honing my clicker mechanics in order to become a more effective clicker trainer,” according to Kim. Shaping work was “another wonderful insight.” Kim always enjoyed shaping, but she believed it took longer to get a behavior than luring. She says now, “My experience with the Dog trainer Professional course changed that thinking. I came to really understand shaping and how to do it well. Shaping can be an efficient and fun way to get behaviours.”
A deeper understanding of back-chaining was another important gain for Kim. “Back-chaining is particularly valuable in my sport, as we look to put sequences of moves together for a routine.” Of course there were some challenges along the way. “TAGteach was a little tricky for me. In my many years of experience as a corporate/leadership trainer, as well as a dog instructor, I developed a style that had become a habit.” The new TAGteach approach had to become a new habit, but it has made Kim a better teacher. “I’m much more conscious about not overloading students with too much information. And, TAGteach principles set up both dog and handler for success; they are always moving forward without the frustration of trying to get the complete behavior at once.”
Kim’s lessons from KPA have provided a language and skill set that she feels have taken the teaching of her own students to another level. "It is wonderful to see how much more my students are achieving with their own dogs.” Most of the progress is reflected in both the dogs’ and the owners’ confidence. Kim recalls working with an owner who had never had formal training classes with her dog Izzy. “Pat was frightened to train off the lead, because Izzy could react when other dogs came too near and Pat did not trust that Izzy would stay with her.” After only a few weeks of class, Pat and Izzy developed a good variety of moves. More importantly, Izzy was more focused and less concerned with other dogs. As a result, both Pat and Izzy were confident and relaxed.”
When Kim’s friend Catherine wanted to ask students questions about their class experiences (for a course for her masters in animal behavior), Pat offered to participate. Catherine asked her to describe Izzy before Kim’s classes and how she is now, and Pat answered:
“Before she didn’t really pay attention to me, and when she was around other dogs she would be uncomfortable. Now, Izzy wants to be with me, and even sit with me at home. I can walk her off the lead without worrying that she is going to run off. We have a great relationship now.”
To Kim, “that describes what effective clicker training can do for a human/dog partnership!” She loves teaching clicker and Canine Freestyle because “whether you compete or not, it’s a fun way of learning to communicate with your dog and strengthening the relationship.”
KPA lessons that Kim implements when she creates HTM Freestyle routines for herself or others include the ability to build strong and reliable behaviors and the ability to create and time cues more appropriately. “In the past I have been guilty of combining too many criteria in one training session. I would try to get duration and precision at the same time, rather than focusing on getting precision first. Since I now plan my sessions to focus on one element at a time, I end up with stronger and more reliable moves.” With less frustration for her dog Tyler as he tries to understand what Kim wants, training sessions are “much more fun for both of us,” Kim reports.
As she added more moves to her freestyle routines with Tyler, Kim noticed that she lost reliability because her cues were not clear enough. “Tyler became confused and I lost confidence that we could complete the move in competition.” Learning more about cues and cueing has led Kim to brainstorm in these situations. “What does Tyler see as the cue? What should the cue actually be? How can I make the cue distinctive from any other cue I am using?” Kim is more conscious about getting cueing right for Tyler now, including timing cues for back-chained behaviors. “Sequences run more smoothly now, with no re-cues and less chain-breaking.” Since the KPA course, Kim has changed her training language. “Instead of trying to figure out why something has gone wrong, instead I ask myself how I can communicate with Tyler successfully, in a way that he can understand what I’m looking for.”
Since the DTP program, Kim has been busy reinforcing and continuing her positive education. “Currently, I am enrolled in the KPA Smart Reinforcement program and I have reserved a spot for a Ken Ramirez seminar when he comes to the UK in June 2017.” Kim plans to attend a workshop with Kathy Sdao before the year is out, and she is looking forward to ClickerExpo 2018 in the UK. “I will definitely be attending again!”
Kim sees clicker training playing a vital role as she works with her new puppy Rio, building his confidence and skills. “While I have focused on freestyle with Tyler, I would like to compete in obedience with Rio. Clicker training will help me teach him the required behaviours.” Of course, Kim and Tyler would love to win first place at Crufts, so they will be using clicker principles to build new moves and strengthen their current moves. Good luck, Kim and Tyler!
Finally, as a leader rather than a student, Kim is working with her KPA instructor Linda Ryan on a fundraising effort on behalf of the Heelwork to Music Team in Great Britain. They are planning a Canine Freestyle workshop for KPA students in the UK in July of 2017!