February 2017 KPA CTP of the Month: Kinna Öhman-Leone

Kinna Öhman-Leone, KPA CTP, has always counted animals as her friends, and she has been involved with teaching in some form since she was 16. It took the completion of the Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) Dog Trainer Professional (DTP) program and her certification as a KPA Certified Training Partner (CTP) to pull the two together. Kinna now has the skills and assurance to integrate both passions. “I did not have the confidence to advertise myself as a professional before the program,” Kinna admits. A volunteer (with many programs and assorted animals) until then, Kinna says, “Once I graduated, I put the word out and had four private clients within weeks of graduating.” Kinna and her husband Gene now own and operate Mountain Hooves & Paws Training.

Backing up a bit, Kinna grew up caring both about and for animals. From childhood horseback riding (and full responsibility for her horse’s wellbeing beginning at the age of 12) to training and re-homing high-kill shelter dogs as an adult, Kinna has always searched for ways to understand and work with animals. Her own dogs have journeyed and learned along with Kinna. Together, they have explored search-and-rescue and avalanche work, as well as many outside adventure activities including rafting, camping, and hiking.

When she began her life with Gene in 2011, rescue horses were added to Kinna’s world. She reports, “Rescue horses are often a challenge. They are usually uncomfortable with many of the normal behaviors people ask of them,such as foot-handling or even haltering. We've worked with horses that will rear, bite, or kick if they feel trapped in any way.” According to Kinna, “After working through some difficult issues with these horses, we realized that clicker training (the Karen Pryor approach specifically) is the only way we can imagine helping these horses heal and feel confident about life with humans again.”

It was at this moment that Kinna and Gene began to focus exclusively on clicker training, and to consider careers training animals. As they continued to learn more about clicker training, Kinna was especially influenced by Karen Pryor's book Reaching the Animal Mind. “Once I read this book, I decided I wanted to learn as directly as possible from Karen Pryor. It wasn't hard to be enthused about the DTP course!” Kinna enrolled in the program in late 2014, studying with Emma Parsons in Massachusetts and graduating in July 2015. “I'm so lucky to have studied with Emma!” says Kinna.

The in-person workshops were the highlights of the DTP program for Kinna. “It was invaluable to be with a like-minded group of classmates, to meet and handle other types of dogs and understand their individual learning styles, and to hear awesome feedback from Emma.” Kinna shares examples of what she learned in those workshops with her own clients. “I collected so many stories of how different types of dogs learn, and how we can help them learn clearly.” While Kinna met and worked with dogs that were really quick learners and challenged her to think on her feet, at first she found her own dog slower to pick things up. However, Emma helped Kinna realize her dog was actually very precise; he had problems only when Kinna’s training was sloppy. “When Emma helped me clean up my training, he blossomed!”

Kinna also loved the 10-part behavior-chain challenge that was the course’s final exam, because “this was certainly the most challenging part of the class!” It was something that required a lot of preparation. “I remember practicing parts of the chain on the sidewalk in front of coffee houses, at wilderness hiking trailheads (very challenging with wild smells and critters beckoning), and anywhere else I could think of that would be at a distraction level equal or above that of our classroom.” When Kinna did pass the final assessment, she felt that she had definitely “earned the title of professional!”

Since completing the DTP program, Kinna is confident approaching a client “with Karen Pryor's philosophy of clicker training.” She says, “We are now 1.5 years out from my graduation and still in demand!” Kinna finds it easy to enumerate the advantages the KPA DTP program provides: “In my work, I'm equipped with much better observational skills and understanding of emotional signals. The KPA methodical approach and the program’s foundation skills and behaviors help me know where to start work immediately.” Kinna finds it easier now to assess an animal's strengths and challenges. And, with the wealth of resources, skills, and input available from KPA and her network of fellow CTPs, Kinna has help choosing the next level of training for her human, canine, and equine clients. “The KPA approach is very fluent and adaptable. It’s why we feel so confident and excited to help others with their training challenges!”

Kinna’s husband Gene also completed the KPA DTP program (in May 2016) and together they use clicker training and KPA positive approaches in their work. Their client base is mostly dogs, but they have been excited to apply their enhanced knowledge to training horses. The understanding of emotional signals (again, emphasized in the DTP) has been essential to their equine training program. “When we can see the slightest tension building in the horse (a horse can show tension just by blinking an eye in a certain way), we understand where the work needs to begin.” With this starting point, Kinna is often many steps ahead of where she would be if she were only looking for the obvious displays of stress. She is able to help horses more effectively because the horses are still at a level where they can receive information and learn. Kinna reports that stress is replaced with curiosity and an excitement about training relatively fast. “A wonderful side effect of clicker training is a noticeable increase in a horse’s contentment. Maybe for the first time in the horse's life, a human is finely tuned into his/her feelings and helping him/her feel more confident and happy.”

In addition to private training classes and day training for horses and dogs in the areas of basic manners and behaviors, husbandry, animal sports, and tricks, Mountain Hooves & Paws Training offers outdoor programs for humans and their companion animals. For example, Kinna employs tenets of the KPA DTP program to help dogs learn to be comfortable on canoe trips. Incorporating elements of Emma Parsons’ Click to Calm philosophy to address outdoor stimuli (think loons on a lake), has added to the success of these adventures. Because Kinna and Gene’s own dogs are highly active and stimulated border collies, they’ve developed training programs to make traveling, boating, tent camping, and other outdoor pursuits possible for even these types of individuals!

Kinna uses positive reinforcement techniques working with her human clients, too, and she and Gene use them at home as well! Gene developed a method for rewarding good, thoughtful decisions. They carry and transfer dried beans from one pocket to the other for each good deed. Equating one dried bean to one dollar, they tally regularly in order to purchase something special for themselves or others. Kinna says, “We often encourage each other. You hear ‘you should transfer a bean for that!’ uttered in our household multiple times a day. And, if we feel the other person really went out of his/her way to help, we recommend transferring more than one bean.”

Kina continues to pursue education in the areas of animal behavior and training. She is taking an agility handling course right now and she and Gene often study Emma Parsons’ methods and books to apply solutions to client situations, especially when it comes to reactivity. Hoping and planning to attend ClickerExpo 2018, Kinna and her husband have also enjoyed recent KPA webinars.

It’s easily apparent that Kinna’s life with animals, background in all manners of teaching, and openness to Karen Pryor and positives in every situation make her a unique and special trainer. With the goal of adding more animal types to train at Mountain Hooves & Paws Training (“It's fascinating to understand all the different animal viewpoints of this world”), Kinna, along with partner Gene, continues to spread the success of clicker and positive-reinforcement training.

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