Emma Parsons, KPA CTP, APDT, CDBC has been training dogs for more than 20 years, and is currently the Canine Behavior Training Consultant for the VCA Rotherwood Animal Hospital in Newton, MA.
She specializes in managing and rehabilitating the reactive and aggressive dog.
Emma is a faculty member of Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior as well as of the Karen Pryor ClickerExpo conferences.
She gives "Click to Calm" seminars around the world, teaching others how to manage and rehabilitate reactive and aggressive dogs.
Emma holds a BA degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and shares her life with her husband, Greg, and their four clicker-trained dogs—three Goldens, Lizzie-Taylor, Kayden-Blue, Austyn-Roque, and a Papillion, Wylie-Rae.
1) What is the training method used?
a. Clicker training: This is a positive reinforcement training system where a marker signal is used (the click) to tell the dog precisely what it is doing right at that exact moment in time.
2) Why is clicker training preferred?
a. It is preferred because it is very important to have the ability to mark the pieces of the behavior that are desired. The sound of the clicker calms the amygdala of the brain as well as possibly interrupting the impending explosive reaction.
3) Will the over-reactivity/aggression be cured?
a. Although reactivity/aggression can be greatly improved, it is never cured. The dog may choose to not partake in those behaviors again but like all living beings his behavior is never guaranteed.
4) How can the dog progress in his training?
a. The dog progresses by constantly learning new skills and by being exposed to new challenging environments.
5) What are Foundation behaviors and how are they used?
a. Foundation behaviors are those behaviors that will be inserted into the space where the dog formerly lunged and barked. Examples are name recognition, eye contact, heeling, get behind the handler, etc… All will be put on cue before the handler needs to actually use them.
6) Do I have to use a clicker forever?
a. No, just until the behavior becomes a habit in several different environments.
7) What if I don’t want to use food?
a. You need to find out what your dog will happily and willingly work for. Food is popular because it is easy to carry and is a primary reinforcement. Play and petting can also be used very effectively.
8) How long will this take? How many lessons?
a. Impossible to know. The more complicated the behavior issue, the more lessons might be required. Most dogs respond immediately to clicker training while others take a bit longer.
9) What type of equipment should be used?
a. Collar of some kind. Prong and choke collars are not permitted.
i. Preferably buckle, harness (front clip), head collar and/or Martingale
b. Leash: No Flexi’s please!!!!
c. Treat pouch
i. Something as simple as a nail apron from Home Depot will do.
d. Your dog’s favorite treats!
10) What if I still want to use my prong collar?
a. Still make the appointment. No client will be turned away.
11) Can I still walk in the woods or hike with my dog?
a. Initially you will not want to expose your dog to environments where dogs or strangers will come up to your dogs randomly. We are trying to teach the dogs to trust us, and if dogs or strangers are constantly badgering your dog, your dog will never trust you. Your role is to protect.
12) If I want to pursue this type of training, but my family is not on board, can my dog still learn?
a. Your dog can still learn as long as none of the family members will sabotage the effort.
13) Why is positive punishment contraindicated?
a. Positive punishment carries the risk of potentially causing several side effects: hyper-vigilance, irrational fear, impulsive/explosive behavior, hyperactivity, social avoidance, aggression with slight provocation, loss of sensitivity, and depressed mood.
14) Why do you prefer to meet at a training facility the first time?
a. The initial consult is done at SureFire Dogs in Westborough or Masterpeace Dog Training in Franklin, because it is an easier place for the client to focus on the lessons. After the initial consult, it will be determined whether or not it will be helpful to go to the home for the next appointment.
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Trainer Partner (KPA-CTP)
ANIMAL WELFARE ADVANCEMENT AWARD
Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog
Teaching a Reactive Dog Class: The Journey From Reactivity to Reliability
TACT: A Training Program for Dogs that Are Fearful or Reactive Toward People
Creatively Speaking, Animal Talk Radio
Clicker Expo from 2003 to present
Tufts Canine Behavior Symposium
CLICK TO CALM & CONTROL UNLEASHED SEMINARS
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VCA Rotherwood Animal Hospital, Veterinary Technician
Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue, Adoption Intake Coordinator
New England Dog Training Club, Beginner Obedience Instructor
KAREN PRYOR ACADEMY
Courses Starting January 2015 (starting: January, July, & October).
For more details, contact Karen Pryor Academy at karenpryoracademy.com
Teaching Reactive Dog & Control Unleashed Classes at Masterpeace Dog Training in Franklin, MA since 2005
Teaching "Calming Your Canine" & Control Unleashed Classes at the MSPCA in Methuen, MA
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts: Clicker Training Classes for Graduate Students
FORMER BOARD MEMBER
New England Dog Training Club, President, Training Director
American Kennel Club Delegate for NEDTC
Eastern Bayside Cluster Committee Show Trial Chairperson
Massachusetts Federation of Dog Owners, Treasurer
Heritage Trail Keeshond Club, President
Mystic Charmed Lizzie-Taylor, NA, NAJ, OA, OAJ, AX, AXJ, CGC, BN, CD, USDAA Starters
Performance Jumper, CD-C
Golden Retriever Club of America Agility Nationals, First Place Winner Excellent Standard Division, October 2013
Bittersweet Chocolate’s Lickety-Split, NA, NAJ
Darcroft Casey-Lynn, CD, CGC, ThDx
Just in the Nick of Time, CD, CGC
Participated in the Eastern Regional Dog Obedience Championship, July 1999
Zens Austyn This Boy's Got Drive, NA, NAJ, OA, OAJ, AX, AXJ
The “Click to Calm” methodology teaches the handler how to communicate and interact with her dog safely in a formerly challenging environment. In turn, the dog learns how to keep himself safe by maintaining emotional self-control. Instead of the dog reacting at the end of his leash, he remains a thinking dog and gives his attention directly to the handler. Once this happens, the handler can then insert alternate or incompatible behaviors for him to perform. Eventually the cue of the aversive stimulus (commonly strangers and other dogs) becomes the cue, in and of itself, to give the handler voluntary eye contact.