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.
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.
Sandi Thompson is the owner of Bravo Pup in California and is recognized 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 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 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.
Applying to and earning a scholarship, getting accepted into and graduating from The Academy was absolutely life changing for me. I had been volunteering for a many years with local dog rescues but my husband and I had adopted a very fearful dog, which was the impetus for wanting to learn more and to be able to help more dogs like her. Little did I know then, how completely life changing The Academy would be. It was by far the most challenging, and rewarding, education experience I’ve had, far surpassing my undergraduate degree experience but this program is so much more. The friendships I’ve made and support system that is in place, both personally and professionally, continues post-graduation. After graduation, not only was I impeccably prepared to begin my professional career but knew I had the support to weather difficult days or a confidential platform to discuss cases.
Coming from a rescue background, I knew I wanted to help dogs in need. In just over a year post-graduation, I was able to leave my full-time corporate job and transition to full-time dog training with a shelter position and my private clients. Shelter work can be hard on some days but it’s always rewarding, knowing I’m helping to change the lives of hundreds of dogs every year through training, behavior modification, enrichment, better handling practices and improved volunteer and staff education. I’m also helping ensure good adoption matches by transferring training and behavior information to adopters so there are clear expectations and so both the people and the dog are set up for success. Without my Academy education, this would never have been possible.
I applied to the academy because of its stellar academic reputation and commitment to ensuring an evidence-based curriculum, which it certainly delivered. What I hadn’t anticipated finding was such a supportive, inclusive community culture. This aspect has been of tremendous value to me, both personally and professionally. The high-caliber group discussions on all of the topics relevant to our field, the exciting intermittent gatherings of Academy colleagues all over the globe, and post-grad case study groups and collaborative initiatives have nurtured strong friendships and provided a secure base to ensure career longevity. I’m forever grateful for such a life-changing educational experience.
I had been training 7 years and attended another program early on in my career. Still, an ongoing and nagging feeling was ever present: I had deficits in my knowledge.
Here’s the problem: There’s so much information of every variety out there on training and behavior, it can be hard to sort through what’s legit and best practice vs. outdated or patently false. It also makes it difficult to troubleshoot your own deficits. It feels like you’re doing it all by the books, and you can easily find resources that agree but are wrong, so incorrect assumptions are easily validated. The Academy gave me the gift of a critical eye and the discipline to follow ABA standards in application. I can spot opinion quickly and find my way to valid methodologies with ease now. I’ve cleaned up all areas of practical application in training and behavior modification and the program groomed my client counseling skills beautifully. No matter how much you know, if you can’t communicate it effectively to the client, dogs lose. This element of the program sets it miles apart from others out there. If you really want to help dogs and their families, this education will lay the foundation for you to make a big impact.
In the course, Jean discusses shallow knowledge in our industry. Initially I thought it was a bit of an elitist take on the field! For real. Only post-graduation did I have an understanding of how true that is. We as an industry have good intentions. Instructors abound with opinions on everything. But highly educated, talented practitioners who follow the laws of learning, current technology and have client counseling skills are much harder to come by. The Academy offers the whole package.
What I’d say to those interested in the course: It’s humbling, and it’s tough. It’s also really fun. Jean’s humor shines throughout the course, keeping it engaging and leaves you wanting more. It’s also the best in the business. The faculty is supportive, and at completion, in addition to all those assets I mentioned above, you have an army of colleagues to support you, much like a family. I’m proud of my education. I’m grateful for the clarity and confidence it’s afforded me. It has impacted all aspects of my life (not just my business) in a positive way.
Last to note, price. I had been mulling over the price pre-enrollment for three years.Three years! Another graduate finally convinced me to make the leap and one week into the Academy, I felt I’d earned back my investment. True story. The remaining year and a half were icing on the cake. It’s actually a steal, but it’s hard to appreciate that before enrollment. Ask any Academy grad and they’ll express the same sentiment.
The Academy was the greatest thing that I could have done for my dog training career.
After having spent a lot of time, energy and money doing apprenticeships in my hometown, I was beginning to think that dog training wasn’t for me. The classes I had done insisted that you could be a dog trainer in just a few weeks and were credited for CEUs! Once these classes were complete, I felt at a total loss. I didn’t know how to make training plans (I didn’t even know what a plan was!), I wasn’t equipped to counsel clients and I had no idea where to start. I actually almost changed career entirely.
Within the first semester of studying at The Academy I felt infinitely more confident, and with reason, the material is fantastic! Within those first few months, I had learned more than my other courses combined. The course is designed in a very straightforward manner, the content is clear, easy to understand and navigate.
The coaching was invaluable, it really helped me improve my mechanics. The client counselling was a god-send; counseling is just as important as the training itself, and I was now equipped with scripts, examples and a family behind me who could help me brainstorm whenever I needed!
Graduating has really opened up my business, I’m now fully booked every week. I’m confident, I know what I’m doing and I get results!
When I enrolled into the Academy, I was already a professional dog trainer, mired deep in the startup phase of my new business. Although I was proud of my education and skills to date – including a college degree in behavior – I felt there was something missing. And I was right! This course deepened my understanding of animal learning, taught me to rapidly build new behaviors through efficient training plans, and provided the standard operating procedures I needed to effectively handle any type of behavior case. I remain impressed by the depth of knowledge and “from the trenches” practical experience in the Academy webinars. Along with giving me the tools and confidence I needed to be an effective dog trainer, the community support from the Academy has been priceless; I can still run plans by the instructors and ask for advice on tough cases. I can guarantee that the quality instruction from the Academy played a huge role in my business reaching six figures in revenue by its third year, and I can’t recommend the Academy highly enough.
For some time I had been training dogs for fun and helping out in classes with the aim of one day becoming a full time trainer, but I could not find an education course in the UK that met my requirements for providing in-depth knowledge, practical skills and most importantly, I needed a course where I could study alongside my job as a Firefighter. Then one day I happened to be helping out at a dog training seminar and got chatting to the presenter, during our conversation they mentioned Jean Donaldson’s Academy of Dog Trainers and the rest as they say, is history.
I loved being a student in the Academy, the support from the staff, students and graduates was fabulous. I have to say though the course is no ‘gimme’ and requires plenty of commitment and dedication to successfully complete.
For me, one of the best parts of being a student is that once you graduate, you are not cast adrift to fend for yourself but remain part of a wonderful a supportive community with ongoing educational opportunities.
Since graduating the Academy, my dog training and behaviour counselling business has gained even more strength and is now my full-time employment. The Academy gave me the belief, confidence, skills and knowledge to build a successful business.
I would recommend the Academy as it has something for everybody, from those starting out, to those who have been training for a number of years. Having completed a number of courses both before and after graduating and I have found nothing yet that comes close in both depth and breadth. It truly is the Harvard of Dog Training.